University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


William Butler Yeats
Collection

1890 - 1940
(bulk dates 1931-1938)

Manuscript Collection Number: 126 SAFE
Accessioned: Purchases, 1980-1987.
Extent: .6 linear ft.
Content: Correspondence, poem, photographs, program, and notes.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: Preliminary processing in 1980, completed June 1999 by Anita A. Wellner.

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Table of Contents


Biographical Note

William Butler Yeats, one of the twentieth century's best known poets, was also an accomplished Irish playwright and co-founder of the Irish Literary Theatre. Born on June 13, 1865, in Sandymount, Ireland, as the eldest child of the renown Irish painter, John Butler Yeats, W. B. Yeats was educated at Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin, from 1884-1886.

The year 1885 was pivotal in Yeats's early life. His first published work, "Mosada: a dramatic poem," appeared in the March issue of the Dublin University Review and Yeats was introduced to John O'Leary, a famous Irish patriot and exponent of Irish nationalism. Through O'Leary's encouragement Yeats began to write poetry based on Irish legends, folklore, ballads, and songs, a practice he was to continue for the remainder of his life.

Yeats's commitment to all things Irish was strengthened by his three-decade-long relationship to Maud Gonne, a prominent and passionate supporter of Irish nationalism. With Gonne's encouragement Yeats produced such nationalistic plays as The Countess Kathleen (1892) and Cathleen ní Houlihan (1902).

Yeats's interest in occultism and spiritualism, also shared by Maud Gonne, began in the 1880s, first with theosophy, and later with the Golden Dawn, a secret society that practiced ritual magic. Yeats was initiated into the Golden Dawn in 1890 and remained an active member for thirty-two years, exploring mystical insights, becoming involved in the group's direction, and in 1914, meeting his future wife, Georgiana Hyde-Lees, who had entered membership. Some of Yeats' poetry - particularly the poems in The Wind among the Reeds - employed spiritualist symbolism.

By the turn of the century Yeats' had become interested in theater. In 1897, Yeats, Lady Augusta Gregory, and Edward Martyn devised plans to promote innovative, native Irish drama. In 1899, they began support of annual productions in Dublin. The success of these productions led to the founding of the Irish National Theatre Society, with Yeats as president, and a renovated Abbey Theatre in Dublin as its home. Yeats was active in management of the Abbey Theatre company through the first fifteen years of the twentieth century.

In December 1922 Yeats accepted a six-year appointment to the Senate of the Irish Free State and assumed permanent residency in Dublin, considering himself a representative of order amid the chaos of civil war. He had also become a world renowned writer, receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

Although Yeats was keenly aware of his own aging and health complications during his last fifteen years, he continued to appreciate life and produce remarkable poetry and plays. He also wrote a variety of fiction, edited volumes of Irish folk tales, wrote several volumes of autobiography, and in the 1930s translated, with Shree Purohit Swami, The Ten Principal Upanishads (1937).

William Butler Yeats died on January 28, 1939, in Roquebrune, France.

Sources:

Draper, James P. and Susan M. Trosky (eds.) Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series, Volume 45. New York: Gale Research, Inc., 1995. pp. 483-491.

Legg, L. G. Wickham (ed.) The Dictionary of National Biography, 1931-1940. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975. pp. 928-932.

Stanford, Donald E. (ed.) Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 19: British Poets, 1880-1914. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1983. pp. 399-452.


Scope and Content Note

The William Butler Yeats Collection, composed of correspondence, one poem, photographs, a program, lectures notes, a quotation, a manuscript fragment, and photocopies, spans the dates 1890 to 1940. The bulk of the collection dating between 1931 and 1938.

The collection is arranged in three series, with the first series, William Butler Yeats correspondence, comprising more than 80 percent of the collection. Series two consists of manuscripts written by Yeats; and the final series includes miscellaneous items related to William Butler Yeats.

Series I has four subseries: 1. Yeats's letters to Shree Purohit Swami, 2. photocopies of Shree Purohit Swami's letters to Yeats, 3. Yeats's letters to other individuals, and 4. one letter written by Georgiana Yeats. The correspondence in these series touches on many aspects of Yeats's life and interest, including his poetry, writing plays, Irish nationalism, and exploration of spiritual matters.

More than sixty-five letters written by Yeats to Shree Purohit Swami are available in this collection, as are photocopies of Shree Purohit Swami's letters to Yeats covering the same time period (1931-1938). Shree Purohit Swami's letters to Yeats were copied from originals in the Yeats Archive in the Frank Melville, Jr., Memorial Library at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, as part of a reciprocal exchange in 1984.

In the 1930s Yeats translated, with Shree Purohit Swami, The Ten Principal Upanishads (1937). Much of the correspondence between Yeats and Shree Purohit Swami regards translation of the Upanishads and Yeats's preface to the volume. However, Yeats also inquires about Shree Purohit Swami's life; remarks on his own on health and travels; mentions Cuala Press, writing projects, and mutual friends; and comments on a controversy between Shree Purohit Swami and Mrs. Foden. The mutual respect and friendship between the two men, as well as their similar devotion to exploring mystical principles is obvious in their letters.

In addition to the correspondence between Yeats and Shree Purohit Swami, the collection includes one or more letters from Yeats to a number of other individuals, including the following: Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper (who share the pseudonym, Michael Field), Lady Gregory, Martin Harvey, John O'Leary, Herbert E. Palmer, Herman T. Radin, Ernest Rhys, Laura Riding, and Mr. Thomson. Yeats's letters reflect many of his interests, such as Irish nationalism, Irish folklore, play writing, and poetry. Highlights include his thoughts on Hamlet, performances of which Yeats refers to as "my supreme religious event" (written to Martin Harvey); his thoughts on poetry as written in response to poetry sent by the young poet, Herbert Palmer; his comments on his methods of writing plays as expressed to Katharine Bradley, Edith Cooper, and Wilfrid Blunt; and his thoughts on Charles Parnell as expressed to the Irish patriot John O'Leary. In his letters to Lady Gregory he comments on the success of the Abbey Players in the United States and discusses a controversy involving Sean O'Casey.

Series II includes three of W. B. Yeats's holograph manuscripts, each of which is a unique item, with no evident connection to the other manuscripts. The two undated items are a poem titled "To an Isle in the Water" and a nine-line fragment which Yeats signed. The final manuscript is a two-line quotation from The Countess Kathleen, copied on a card and signed by Yeats. The card was originally tipped in a copy of Yeats's Autobiographies (Spec PR 5906 .A53).

Four miscellaneous items are arranged in Series III: Yeats's copy of Philips' Handy Classical Atlas (n.d.), four photographs of Yeats taken during his 1903 arrival in New York for his first American lecture tour, and a program for a 1904 lecture. The fourth item, seven pages of notes for a lecture on the power of symbols, which Yeats delivered to The Order of the Golden Dawn, circa 1895, illustrates his interest in mysticism.

Preservation photocopies of the material in this collection (with the exception of Philips' Handy Classical Atlas) are available in Box 2 of the collection. The folders of preservation copies are labeled with folder numbers which parallel the original material.

Related Collections:

Mss 099 William Butler Yeats note to George MacDonald (F325)
Mss 136 Frank J. Hugh O'Donnell Papers

Series Outline

I.   William Butler Yeats correspondence, 1890-1938             8

     1.  Yeats's letters to Shree Purohit Swami, 1931-1938      8

     2.  Photocopies of Shree Purohit Swami's letters to Yeats, 1931-193811
          These letters, copied from originals in the Yeats Archive in the Frank
           Melville, Jr. Memorial Library at the State University of New York
           at Stony Brook, were procured through a reciprocal exchange
           in 1984.

     3.  Yeats's letters to other individuals, 1890-1936       13

     4.  Georgiana Yeats's letter to Miss Hunt, 1935           14

II.  Manuscripts written by William Butler Yeats, [1895]-1923  14

III. Miscellaneous items related to William Butler Yeats, 1903-190415


Preservation photocopies


Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

1         Series I.  William Butler Yeats correspondence, 1890-1938

          Series I.1.  Yeats's letters to Shree Purohit Swami, 1931-1938
               All letters are written by Yeats to Shree Purohit Swami and addressed
               from Yeats's residence--Riversdale, Willbrook, Rathfarnham, Dublin--unless 
               otherwise indicated.  Transcriptions are available for some of the
               letters. 

     F1   1931 Jul 29         Telegram       Dublin    1p
               Note:  From Yeats's secretary.

     F2   1932 Mar 22    Telegram       London    1p
          [1932]    Jun 6-7   ALS            Dublin    2p
          [1932]    Jul 5          ALS            Dublin    2p
          [1932]    Jul 31         ALS                      2p
          [1932]    Aug       ALS                      1p
          [1932]    Aug 19    TLS                      1p
          [1932]    Aug 31    ALS                      1p
          [1932]    Sep 5          ALS                      1p
          [1932]    Sep 16         ALS                      1p
          [1932]    Oct 5          ALS                      1p

     F3   [1933]    Feb 21         ALS                      1p
          [1933] Mar 11  ALS                      1p
          [1933] Mar 14  AL                       1p
          [1933] Apr 10       ALS                      2p
          [1933] May 5        ALS                      1p
          [1933] May 12  ALS                      2p
          [1933] May 22  ALS                      1p
          [1933]    Aug 22    ALS                      1p
          [1933]    Sep 27         ALS                      2p
          [1933] Oct 24       ALS                      2p
          1933 Nov 24    TLS                      1p

     F4   [1934]    Jan 20         ALS                      1p
               Note:  Bears pencilled autograph note on verso.
          1934 Jan 20         TL (copy)                1p
               Note:  Copy of the previous letter; the copy bears an autograph note by
               Yeats.
          1934 Feb 16         TLS                      2p
               Note:  Bears an autograph note by Yeats.
               Apr 27    TLS                      2p
          [1934]    Aug 29    ALS                      2p
          [1934]    Oct 5          ALS            London    1p

     F5   [1935     Feb 10]   ALS                      1p
          [1935]    May 21    ALS                      1p
          1935 May 21    ALS                      1p
               Note:  Yeats's letter to Mrs. Foden.
          [1935]    Jul 11         ALS                      1p
          [1935]    Jul 11         ALS                      1p
          [1935]    Jul 26         ALS                      1p
          [1935]    Aug 11    ALS                      1p
          1935 Sep [20]  ALS                      2p
          [1935]    Oct 13         ALS       Withyham, Sussex    1p
          [1935]    Oct 15         TLS                      1p
               Note:  Bears an autograph note by Yeats.  Although the date typed on the
               letter is "October 15 1937," information in the letter suggests that the date
               is 1935 and that "1937" is a typographical error.
          1935 Oct 20         TLS                      2p

     F6   1936 Jan 29         TLS       Mallorca, Spain     1p
          [1936]    May 25    ALS                      1p   w/env
          1936 Jul 6          TL                       2p
               Note:  Bears note by Yeats on the verso.
          [1936]    Sep 27         ALS                      1p
          [1936]    Nov 1          ALS       London         2p   w/env
          [1936]    Nov 1          ALS       London         1p
          [1936]    Dec 21    ALS                      2p

     F7   [1937]    Jan 17         ALS                      1p   w/env
          [1937]    Feb [2?]  ALS                      2p   w/env
          [1937]    Mar 12    ALS                      1p   w/env
               Note:  Yeats's letter to Shree Hamsa.
          [1937]    Mar 21    ALS                      4p   w/env
          [1937]    Mar 24    ALS                      1p   w/env
          [1937]    Apr 17    ANS                      1p
          [1937]    Apr 27    ALS                      1p   w/env
          [1937]    May 2          ALS                      1p   w/env
          [1937]    May 15    ALS                      2p   w/env
     
     F8   [1937]    Jun 1          ALS                      2p   w/env
          [1937]    Jul 7          ALS                      2p   w/env
          [1937]    Jul 7          ALS                      1p   w/env
          [1937]    Aug 23    ALS                      2p   w/env
          [1937]    Sep 6          ALS                      2p   w/env
               Note:  Envelope verso bears an autograph note.
          [1937]    Nov 30    ALS                      1p   w/env
               Note:  Enclosed is a letter from Richard de la Mare to Yeats.
          [1937]    Dec 27    ALS                      2p
          [1937]    Dec 31    ALS                      1p

     F9   [1938     Jan]      TLS                      2p
               Note:  With enclosed royalty statement from Faber & Faber Ltd. regarding
               The Ten Principal Upanishads (1937 Jun), which bears an autograph note
               on the bottom by Yeats.
          [1938]    Mar 2          ALS                      1p
          [1938]    Apr [17]  ALS                      2p   w/env
          [1938]    Jul 4          ALS                      1p   w/env
          [1938]    Aug 7          ALS                      2p   w/env
          [1938]    Oct 3          ALS                      2p
          [1938]    Dec 22    ALS       France              1p   w/env
          1940 Jul 24         Envelope
               Note:  Addressed to Shree, no stamp, postmarked London; superimposed
               postmark Bombay, 17 Sept. 1940.  Not in Yeats's hand--he died in 1939.


1         Series I.  William Butler Yeats correspondence (cont'd)

          Series I.2  Photocopies of Shree Purohit Swami's letters to Yeats, 1931-1938
               The letters in this series are copies of letters found in the Yeats Archive in
               the Frank Melville, Jr. Memorial Library at the State University of New
               York at Stony Brook.  They were procured through a reciprocal exchange
               in 1984.  All letters are written by Shree Purohit Swami toYeats unless
               otherwise noted.
 
     F10  1931 Jun 9          ALS (x)        2p
               Note:  Letter from Swami to T. Sturge Moore.
          1932 Mar 17    ALS (x)        2p
               Mar 24    ALS (x)        2p
               Mar 31    ALS (x)        2p
               Apr 8          Bill (x)       1p
               Note:  Copy of a bill from the Grosvenor Court Hotel.
               May 26    ALS (x)        2p
               Note:  With copy of an envelope to Yeats.
               Jun 6          ALS (x)        2p
               Jun 19         ALS (x)        5p
               Jul 2          ALS (x)        2p
               Jul 26         ALS (x)        3p
               Jul 27         ALS (x)        1p
               Aug 24    ALS (x)        1p
               Aug 26    ALS (x)        1p
               Note:  With enclosed copies of clippings.
     
     F11  1933 May 19    ALS (x)        2p
          
     F12  1934 Aug 1          ALS (x)        4p
               Sep 19         ALS (x)        1p
               Oct 4          ALS (x)        1p
               Oct 18         ALS (x)        2p
               Dec 20    ALS (x)        2p
               Note:  Letter from Bhagwan Shree Hamsa to Yeats.

     F13  1935 Feb 4          ALS (x)        3p
               Mar 7          ALS (x)        1p
               Note:  Letter from Bhagwan Shree Hamsa to Yeats.
               Mar 12    ALS (x)        3p
               Apr 18    ALS (x)        2p
               Note:  Letter from Bhagwan Shree Hamsa to Yeats.

     F14  1936 May 18    ALS (x)        1p
               Note:  Includes copies of seven clippings.
               Jun 8          TL (x)              1p
               Note:  Mrs. Foden to Yeats.
               Jul 16         ALS (x)        4p
               Aug 17    ALS (x)        2p
               Sept 10   ALS (x)        3p
               Oct 6          ALS (x)        3p
               Nov 2          ALS (x)        2p
               Nov 6          ALS (x)        3p
               Nov 17    ALS (x)        2p
               Nov 22    ALS (x)        1p
               Nov 30    ALS (x)        1p

     F15  1937 Feb 4          ALS (x)        2p
               Note:  Letter from Mrs. Marie Sturge Moore to Mrs. Yeats.
               Feb 6          TL (x)              2p
               Note:  Letter from Mrs. Yeats to Mrs. Moore.
               May 21    ALS (x)        2p
               May 28    ALS (x)        2p
               Sep 8          ALS (x)        2p
               Nov 11    ALS (x)        1p
               Dec 10    ALS (x)        1p
               Dec 26    ALS (x)        1p

     F16  1938 Jan 13         ALS (x)        1p
               Jan 18         ALS (x)        2p
               Jan 25         AL (x)              4p
               Feb 1          ALS (x)        1p
               Apr 8          ALS (x)        2p
               Aug 4          ALS (x)        3p
               Dec 12    ALS (x)        1p 


1         Series I.  William Butler Yeats correspondence (cont'd)

          Series I.3.  Yeats's letters to other individuals, 1890-1936
               Arranged in alphabetical order by the name of the recipient. 
               Transcriptions are available for some of the letters.

     F17  Blunt, Wilfrid Scawen
          [1902]    Jul 4          TLS            2p
          1902 Nov 24    ALS            2p
          [1903     Jun 12]   ALS            1p

          Bradley, Katharine - see Michael Field (pseudonym)
          Cooper, Edith - see Michael Field (pseudonym)
          De la Mare, Richard - see Yeats to Swami letters (F8)

     F18  Field, Michael
          Pseudonym for poets Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper.
          [1903]    Jun 11         ALS            2p   w/env
          [1903]    Jul 27         TLS            1p

          Foden, Mrs. - see Yeats to Swami letters (F5)

     F19  Lady Gregory
          1928 Jun 4          TLS            2p   w/env
          [1932     Mar 29]   ALS            2p   w/env
          [1932     Apr 1]         ALS            1p   w/env

     F20  Harvey, Martin
          1909 Oct. 27   ALS            4p   w/env

     F21  O'Leary, Mr. [John]
          [1891]    Jan 21         ALS            8p

     F22  Palmer, Herbert E.
          [1922]    Aug 9          ALS            4p   w/env
               Note:  The back of the envelope bears an autograph note by Yeats and his
               seal.

     F23  Radin, Herman T.
          [1924]    Feb 12         ALS            2p   w/env
               Note:  Also includes two bookplates (for W. B. and Georgiana Yeats)
               which Yeats had enclosed.  The bookplates were designed by T. Sturge
               Moore.  Radin's article regarding the bookplates is also present.

     F24  Rhys, Ernest
          [1890     Nov 19]   ALS            2p   w/env

     F25  Riding, Laura
          [1936]    May 23    ALS            1p

          Shree Hamsa - see Yeats to Swami letters (F7)

     F26  Thomson, Mr.
          1922 Mar 27    ALS            2p


          Series I.4.  Georgiana Yeats's letter to Miss Hunt, 1935

     F27  Hunt, Miss
          1935 Feb 2          TLS            1p
               Note:  See also F15 for a copy of a letter from Georgiana Yeats to Mrs.
               Moore.


2         Series II.  Manuscripts written by William Butler Yeats, [1895]-1923

     F28  "To an Isle in the Water," [n.d.]
          Autograph poem written by Yeats.

     F29  Untitled fragment, [n.d.]
          Nine-line fragment written and signed by Yeats.

     F30  Quotation from Yeats's The Countess Kathleen, 1923 May 28
          Two-line quotation copied and signed by Yeats on a card.  Originally tipped into a
          copy of Yeats's Autobiographies (Spec PR 5906 .A53).

2         Series III.  Miscellaneous items related to Yeats, 1903-1904

     F31  Notes for a lecture on the power of symbols, [circa 1895]
          Seven pages of autograph notes (in an unidentified hand) for a lecture delivered to The Order of the Golden
          Dawn, the mystical brotherhood in which Yeats was active. 

     F32  Photographs of William Butler Yeats, 1903
          These four photographs of Yeats were taken in 1903, upon his arrival in New
          York for his first American lecture tour.

     F33  "Souvenir of the visit of William Butler Yeats--Leader of the Celtic Revival to
               California, January, 1904," 1904 Jan 27
          Printed program for Yeats's lecture at Alhambra Theater.

     F34  Hughes, William.  Philips' Handy Classical Atlas.  London:  George Philips and
               Son, [n.d.]
          William Butler Yeats's personal copy, acquired as a schoolboy, between the ages
          of 11 and 15.  On the flyleaf, Yeats has inscribed in Greek the phrase: "The poet is
          the fountainhead of wisdom."  He has also written his name and varying addresses
          on the flyleaf and title page.  This item has been removed to be cataloged for the
          printed collection of Special Collections.

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