University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Eleanor and Frederick B. Reid
Papers related to
Jack B. Yeats

1944 - 1957
(bulk dates 1953 - 1957)

Manuscript Collection Number: 310
Accessioned: Purchase, August 1994.
Extent: 39 items (.1 ft.)
Content: Letter, drawings, and clipping.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: February 1995 by Anita A. Wellner

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Irish painter and illustrator Jack B. Yeats was born August 29, 1871, in London, England. He was the son of John Butler Yeats, a successful portrait painter, and the younger brother of the distinguished Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

In 1888 he attended the Westminster School of Art and later developed a career as a successful illustrator. His work appeared in such publications as Boy's Own Paper, Judy, and Vegetarian. He also illustrated a large number of broadsheets, many of which were published by Cuala Press, a small enterprise run by his sisters Elizabeth and Lily Yeats. In 1912 Yeats' drawings and paintings of Life in the West of Ireland were published by Maunsel.

Until about 1910 Yeats worked mainly as an illustrator and with watercolors; then he began to focus on oil painting. In 1913 five of Yeats's oil paintings were shown in the famous Armory exhibition in New York City. Following this showing Yeats concentrated on oil paintings depicting the life and landscapes of Ireland, as well as scenes of Celtic myths. His paintings contributed to the upsurge of nationalist feeling in the arts that followed the winning of Irish independence.

As a writer Jack B. Yeats contributed for many years to the British magazine, Punch, under the pseudonym, "W. Bird." Books written and illustrated by Yeats include A Little Fleet (1909), Sligo (1930), The Amaranthers (1936), and La la Noo (1943).

Prior to his death in 1957, Jack B. Yeats began to be recognized as one of the foremost Irish painters and illustrators in the 20th century.


Chilvers, Ian and Harold Osborne (eds.) The Oxford Dictionary of Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. p.545.

Drabble, Margaret (ed.) The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Fifth edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985. p.1093.

Palmer, Helen M. and E. T. Williams (eds.) The Dictionary of National Biography, 1951-1960, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971. pp.1087-1088.

Scope and Content Note

Thirty-nine letters and cards related to Jack B. Yeats, spanning the dates 1944-1957 (bulk dates 1953-1957), comprise this collection, which was originally gathered by San Franciscans Eleanor and Frederick B. Reid. Twelve letters and five cards were written by Jack B. Yeats to the Reids between 1946 and 1957, with each of the five cards bearing an original ink drawing by Yeats. Another twenty letters were written by Frederick B. Reid to his wife Eleanor, during and following his 1954 trip to Ireland. Finally, the collection includes two letters to a Mr. McLoughlin, one from Jack B. Yeats and the other from Yeats's wife Cottie.

Noted psychologist and accomplished pianist Eleanor de Bretteville Reid began a correspondence with Jack B. Yeats in 1946, requesting information about copies of Cuala Press and Dun Emer books. She purchased her first Yeats painting (Lafitte the Pirate) by accident in 1949. Later, she collected additional paintings, two of which were selected by her husband Frederick during his visit to Ireland.

Businessman and poet Frederick Reid traveled to Ireland in November 1954, specifically to meet Jack B. Yeats and to view his work in several local galleries. His letters, written during his stay in Ireland, describe in vivid detail his visits with Jack B. Yeats, the hospitality and friendship extended to him by the poet Thomas MacGreevy, and physical depictions of the Yeats paintings which he examined. Reid's interviews with Yeats are preserved in these letters, providing details about Yeats's family, stories from his childhood, his current health, his painting and writing, the meaning of roses for him, and thoughts about his father's paintings.

Reid's letters also express his devotion to his wife Eleanor, including his poem, "As They Take on Love's Light," which is dedicated to Eleanor.

Most of the letters from Yeats are addressed to both Eleanor and Frederick and offer a wide variety of information about Yeats, much of which was in answer to questions posed by Eleanor Reid to him. Yeats discusses his health, his enjoyment in meeting her husband during his visit to Ireland, local floods, his desire to be a sailor, ideas on the theater, and creating a bookplate for the Reids. In other letters he mentions Thomas MacGreevy, his appreciation of the work of Bret Harte, his attendance at the opening of a Samuel Beckett play, and roses. His letters always convey thanks to the Reids for some recent kindness or gift and reveal his fondness for the couple.

Each of the five cards sent by Yeats to the Reids convey Christmas or New Year's greetings and bears an original blue or black ink drawing by Yeats. Several of the drawings include horses for which Yeats was well known.

The two letters to Mr. McLoughlin from Yeats and his wife express their appreciation for recent gifts, plus Jack B. Yeats's enjoyment of MacGreevy's newly published book, Jack B. Yeats: an appreciation and interpretation (1945).

Together the letters of Yeats and Reid form an exceptionally rich source of information about Jack B. Yeats in the decade prior to his death.

Related collections:

Ms 99 Jack B. Yeats Letter to Lady Gregory

Ms 99 Jack B. Yeats Letters to Elkin Mathews

Ms 150 Jack B. Yeats Correspondence

Ms 153 Cuala Press Collection

Ms 309 Thomas MacGreevy Letters to Eleanor and Frederick Reid

Ms 313 Proscenium Press Archive

Arrangement Note

The first three folders of these papers contain Jack B. Yeats's letters to Eleanor and Frederick Reid. These letters are arranged in chronological order.

Folder four contains two letters to a Mr. McLoughlin, one from Jack B. Yeats and the other from Cottie Yeats, Jack B. Yeats's wife.

Folders five through seven contains twenty letters written by Frederick B. Reid to his wife Eleanor Reid. These letters are arranged in chronological order.

Contents List

Folder -- Contents

F1   Yeats, Jack B., 1871-1957.
     To Reid, Eleanor de Bretteville
     1946 Dec 30         ALS       2p
     1953 Aug 26         ALS       2p
          Nov 2          ALS       1p
               Note: Includes a rough idea for a bookplate.
          Nov 21         ALS       1p
               Note: No bookplate is present.
     1954 Nov 7          ALS       2p
          Dec 16         ALS       2p

     To Reid, Frederick B.
     1954 Dec 6          ALS       2p 
F2   Yeats, Jack Butler, 1871-1957.
     To Reid, Frederick B.
     1955 Jan 1          ALS       2p

     To Reid, Frederick B. and Eleanor de Bretteville.
     1955 Oct 28         ALS       2p
     1956 Aug 30         ALS       2p
          Dec 11         ALS       1p
     1957 Jan 30         ALS       1p

F3   Yeats, Jack B., 1871-1957.
     To Reid, Frederick B. and Eleanor de Bretteville.
     [n.d.]              ACS       2p
               Note: The cover bears an original blue ink drawing
               by Jack B. Yeats, with a New Year's greeting on
               the inside.
     [n.d.]              AC        1p
               Note: The cover bears an original blue ink drawing
               by Jack B. Yeats and a New Year's greeting. Blank
     [n.d.]              AC        1p
               Note: The cover bears an original blue ink drawing
               by Jack B. Yeats and a New Year's greeting.  Blank
     [n.d.]              AC        2p
               Note: The cover bears an original black ink
               drawing by Jack B. Yeats, with a Christmas
               greeting and a note inside saying: "Oh I am so
               proud and happy with my handsome little horse."
     [n.d.]              AC        1p
               Note: The cover bears an original black ink
               drawing by Jack B. Yeats and a Christmas greeting. 
               Blank inside.

F4   Yeats, Jack Butler, 1871-1957.
     To McLoughlin.
     1945 Aug 4     ALS       2p

     Yeats, Cottie.
     To McLoughlin.
     1944 Sep 8          ALS       1p
               Note: Wife of Jack B. Yeats.
F5   Reid, Frederick B.
-7   To Reid, Eleanor de Bretteville.
     1954 Sep 30-Dec 12       Letters   133p
               Note:  Enclosures include a clipping and a
               typescript poem "As They Take on Love's Light"
               written by Frederick Reid.
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