Special Collections Department
William Butler Yeats
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.
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
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 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
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, -1923 14 III. Miscellaneous items related to William Butler Yeats, 1903-190415 Preservation photocopies
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  Jun 6-7 ALS Dublin 2p  Jul 5 ALS Dublin 2p  Jul 31 ALS 2p  Aug ALS 1p  Aug 19 TLS 1p  Aug 31 ALS 1p  Sep 5 ALS 1p  Sep 16 ALS 1p  Oct 5 ALS 1p F3  Feb 21 ALS 1p  Mar 11 ALS 1p  Mar 14 AL 1p  Apr 10 ALS 2p  May 5 ALS 1p  May 12 ALS 2p  May 22 ALS 1p  Aug 22 ALS 1p  Sep 27 ALS 2p  Oct 24 ALS 2p 1933 Nov 24 TLS 1p F4  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  Aug 29 ALS 2p  Oct 5 ALS London 1p F5 [1935 Feb 10] ALS 1p  May 21 ALS 1p 1935 May 21 ALS 1p Note: Yeats's letter to Mrs. Foden.  Jul 11 ALS 1p  Jul 11 ALS 1p  Jul 26 ALS 1p  Aug 11 ALS 1p 1935 Sep  ALS 2p  Oct 13 ALS Withyham, Sussex 1p  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  May 25 ALS 1p w/env 1936 Jul 6 TL 2p Note: Bears note by Yeats on the verso.  Sep 27 ALS 1p  Nov 1 ALS London 2p w/env  Nov 1 ALS London 1p  Dec 21 ALS 2p F7  Jan 17 ALS 1p w/env  Feb [2?] ALS 2p w/env  Mar 12 ALS 1p w/env Note: Yeats's letter to Shree Hamsa.  Mar 21 ALS 4p w/env  Mar 24 ALS 1p w/env  Apr 17 ANS 1p  Apr 27 ALS 1p w/env  May 2 ALS 1p w/env  May 15 ALS 2p w/env F8  Jun 1 ALS 2p w/env  Jul 7 ALS 2p w/env  Jul 7 ALS 1p w/env  Aug 23 ALS 2p w/env  Sep 6 ALS 2p w/env Note: Envelope verso bears an autograph note.  Nov 30 ALS 1p w/env Note: Enclosed is a letter from Richard de la Mare to Yeats.  Dec 27 ALS 2p  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.  Mar 2 ALS 1p  Apr  ALS 2p w/env  Jul 4 ALS 1p w/env  Aug 7 ALS 2p w/env  Oct 3 ALS 2p  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  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.  Jun 11 ALS 2p w/env  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]  Jan 21 ALS 8p F22 Palmer, Herbert E.  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.  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  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, -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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