James Joyce: Notes - Literary Figures [W. B. Yeats]

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Textual History Literary Figures Joyce’s People Sundry Remarks

James Joyce and W. B. Yeats

Note: much of the material given here is mirrored or amplified under entries for W. B. Yeats in Commentary - supra.

See ‘Compare and Contrast - W. B. Yeats and James Joyce’s use of aesthete language’ - as attached.

Meeting Joyce (1a): Various accounts of Joyce’s remarks to Yeats at their meeting in 1902 have been given by George Russell [“AE”], Oliver St. John Gogarty, Padraic Colum, Stanislaus Joyce, Herbert Gorman as well as in critical studies based on these by authors such as Richard Ellmann and Roy Foster.

The famous remark of Joyce’s to Yeats, ‘We have met too late; you are too old to be influenced by me’ was recorded by Padraic Colum (‘With James Joyce in Ireland’, in New York Times, 11 June 1922), and is quoted in Herbert Gorman, James Joyce: The First Forty Years (London: Geoffrey Bles [1924]), p.5; see Commentary, supra.)

Stanislaus Joyce’s Account of the meeting of Joyce and Yeats

‘[...] My brother introduced himself to Yeats, accosting him in the vicinity of the National Library. It is reported that at their first meeting my brother said to Yeats: “I regret that you are too old to be influenced by me”; and it seems that my brother always denied the story. To the best of my recollection, it is at least substantially correct, though perhaps Jim may have phrased it somewhat differently. As it stands, it sounds rather like one of Yeats’s good stories; what is certain is that at that meeting my brother told Yeats how much be admired two stories of his, “The Tables of the Law”, and “The Adoration of the Magi”, and urged him to reprint them. In “The Day of the Rabblement” my brother had already spoken of them as “stories which one of the great Russians might have written”. Yeats did reprint them a couple of years later, and in the few lines of preface to the reprint, he said that he had met a young man in Ireland “the other day”, who admired these stories very much and nothing else that he (Yeats) had written. That young man was my brother, unless some other young man told him exactly the same thing, which is improbable, for in that case there would have been at least two “young men in Ireland” who told him so. The words “and nothing else that he had written”, have been added for dramatic effect. I believe that the other phrase has been similarly edited. I do not think that Yeats ever cared much about pointing a moral, but he undoubtedly liked to adorn a tale.
 Already at that time when Yeats was regarded in Dublin as a minor poet and a poseur, and even his friends, except Moore, treated him as an eccentric, whose poetry was likely to find favour only with literary cliques, my brother had claimed for him that his poetry was of the highest order. He considered him to be the greatest poet Ireland had produced, with only Mangan worthy to be his predecessor, and the greatest of contemporary English poets. I have no doubt that he said so to Yeats. [...]’

My Brother’s Keeper (London: Faber & Faber 1958), p.189; see also Yeats’s letter to Joyce, which Stanislaus Joyce reproduces in full - under Joyce, Commentary > W. B. Yeats - infra.

Note: In a review of Lady Gregory’s Poets and Dreamers, in Daily Express, Dublin (26 March 1903), Joyce wrote incidentally of Yeats: ‘In fine, her book, wherever it treats of the “folk,” sets forth in the fullness of its senility a class of mind which Mr. Yeats has set forth with such delicate scepticism in his happiest book, The Celtic Twilight.’ (Critical Writings, 1966, p.104).

See Joyce’s remarks on Yeats in “The Day of the Rabblement”: ‘It is equally unsafe at present to say of Mr. Yeats that he has or has not genius. In aim and form The Wind among the Reeds is poetry of the highest order, and The Adoration of the Magi (a story which one of the great Russians might have written) shows what Mr. Yeats can do when he breaks with the half-gods. But an esthete has a floating will, and Mr. Yeat’s treacherous instinct of adaptability must be blamed for his recent association with a platform from which even self-respect should have urged him to refrain.’

Note: Warwick Gould remarks that Joyce’s comment on “The Adoration of the Magi” as resembling the Russians 'is probably recalls Tolstoi’s “The Three Mendicants” of 1886 (See Mythologies, 2005, p.420, n.5.; Gould, in Yeats Annual, 18 2013, p.42.)

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Meeting Joyce (1b): Richard Ellmann states that the meeting occurred in late October (James Joyce, 1965, p.107) while Roy Foster thinks they met in November (Yeats: A Life, Vol. 1, 1997, p.276). Similarly, Ellmann holds that Joyce ‘went on to Lady Gregory (who invited him with Yeats and Yeats’s father [John Butler Yeats], to dine with her at the Nassau Hotel on November 4’ (ibid., p.108; [my italics: BS]) - citing Yeats’s note to Joyce relaying this invitation, dated 3 Nov. 1902, in the Slocum Collection, Yale [p.769, n.19] - while Foster states parenthetically that ‘he had already dined at the Nassau Hotel on 4 November with Gregory and JBY [John Butler Yeats]’ prior to the first meeting with WBY. The difference in the accounts is that Ellmann places Yeats at the table with JBY and Lady Gregory, making it Joyce’s second meeting with him. The difference in the accounts apart from dates, is that Ellmann inaccurately places Yeats at the table with JBY and Lady Gregory. [BS]

[Note: John Kelly & Ronald Schuchard place the first meeting with Joyce at 1-2 Nov 1902. (See Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, Vol. II, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1997, pp.242ff.) [Information supplied by Warwick Gould in email 16.04.2015.]

See also full-text versions of the relevant passages in Ellmann and Foster in RICORSO Library, Criticism > Major Authors, via index or individually (Ellmann -as attached; Foster - as attached.)

Prodigals Together - Joyce meets John Butler Yeats
Prodigal Father - Murphy
Prodigal Son - Murphy

from William Martin Murphy, Prodigal Father: The Life of John Butler Yeats (Cornell UP 1978), p.247.


Text: ‘When Yeats returned to Dublin from Coole Park in October the two met. the details of their dialogue [...] are described brilliantly by Richard Ellmann; Joyce’s remark to Yeats, “We have met too late; you are too old for me to have any effect on you,” or some such words, is well known. [...] Lady Gregory, impressed by Joyce’s drive and power, invited JBY and Willie to dine with her and Joyce at the Nassau Hotel on November 4, but if JBY was present he left no account of the meeting.’ (William Martin Murphy, Prodigal Father: The Life of John Butler Yeats, Cornell UP 1978, p.247.)

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And turn no more aside and brood ...’ : Joyce first heard the lines from Yeats’s “Who Goes with Fergus?”, in The Countess Cathleen, at the the première which he attended on 8 May 1899, when he was especially moved by the lyric, sung by Florence Farr. He set them to music and played them to his brother George, at his request, shortly before his (George’s) death and later gave the song to Stephen who has apparently sung it to his dying mother in a similar situation. (See remarks on Joyce’s setting of the lines to music for his dying brother George, in My Brother’s Keeper, London 1958, p.143.)

Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (1959): ‘it’s feverish discontent and promise of carefree exile were to enter his own thought, and not long afterwards he set the poem to music and praised it as the best lyric in the world.’ (Ellmann, James Joyce, 1959, p.69; also Thornton Weldon, Allusions in Ulysses, [1968] 1982, p.16.)

Bibl. - see item in R. F. Foster, W. B. Yeats: A Life, Vol. I (Oxford 1997), p.585, n.89: A Walton Litz, ‘“Love’s Bitter Mystery”: Joyce and Yeats’, in Yeats Annual, 7 (1990), pp.81-89.

[Note: Seamus Heaney referred to his Mercedes Benz, bought on winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, as his “brazen car” after Yeats’s poem.]

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Stephen Hero: ‘He repeated often the story of The Tables of the Law and the story of the Adoration of the Magi. The atmosphere of these stories was heavy with incense and omens and the figures of the errant monks, Aherne and Michael Robartes ( ...; SH, [Cape Edn.] 183) - and quotes: “Why do you fly from our torches which were made out of the wood of the trees under which Christ wept [...]”’. (SH, 184; Grafton edn. p.161.) In this case Joyce/Stephen calls it a ‘beautiful passage’. [See under Quotations, supra - and see the identical originals in W. B. Yeats, Short Fiction, ed. & intro., G. J. Watson, London: Penguin 1995, p.211.)

Note: The sentence - ‘[...] the beautiful arts were sent into the world to overthrow nations, and finally life herself, by sowing everywhere unlimited desires, like torches thrown into a burning city’ from “Tables of the Law” is quoted in Frank Shovlin, Journey Westward: Joyce, “Dubliners” and the Literary Revival (Cambridge UP 2012), p.126 - citing Mythologies, Macmillan 1959, p.294; see Shovlin, op. cit., available online.

Yeats: ‘I do not think I should have reprinted them had I not met a young man in Ireland the other day, who liked them very much and nothing else that I have written.’ (Tables of the Law [...] &c.], London: Elkin Mathews 1904, Introd. p.[4]) - this edition held in Joyce’s Trieste Library. Frank (Shovlin, op. cit., 2012, p.129.) [Also quoted in Critical Writings, Viking 1966, p.71, n1.]

Note that Yeats contemplated writing an account of his meeting with Joyce in Ideas of Good and Evil (1907).

Note: Stephen Daedalus, who makes his friend Lynch ‘awkward’ by reciting the whole with ‘careful animation’ on the public paths of St. Stephen’s Green [SH182].

Note: Stephen also quotes, ‘when the immortals wish to overthrow the things that are today and to bring the things that were yesterday they have no-one to help them except one whom the things that are today have cast out.’ (SH, 172.)

Note: Richard Ellmann remarks upon Joyce’s familiarity with the text of “The Tables of the Law”, ‘whole pages of which [he] knew by heart’ (James Joyce, 1965 Edn, p.85 - citing Stephen Hero (p.184 [as supra]) and Stanislaus Joyce, Recollections of James Joyce, trans. Ellsworth Mason, NY: 1950, p.9 - but see also the account given by Padraic Colum of Joyce’s reciting the story while walking together. [q.source.])

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Joyce discovers Yeats “Tables of the Law” on a Dublin barrow (in the persona of Stephen Daedalus):

‘During his wanderings Stephen came on an old library in the midst of those sluttish streets which are called old Dublin. The library had been founded by Archbishop Marsh and though it was open to the public few people seemed aware of its existence. The librarian, [was] delighted at the prospect of a reader, showed Stephen niches and nooks inhabited by dusty brown volumes. Stephen went there a few times in the week to read old Italian books of the Trecento. He had begun to be interested in Franciscan literature. He appreciated not without pitiful feelings tht legend of the mild heresiarch of Assisi. he knew, by instinct, that S. Francis’ love-chains would not hold him very long but the Italian was very quaint. Elias and Joachim also relieved the naif history. He found on one of the carts of books near the river an {181} unpublished book containing two stories by W. B. Yeats. One of these stories was called The Tables of the Law and in it was mentioned the fabulous preface which Joachim, abbot of Flora, is said to have prefixed to his Eternal Gospel. This discovery, coming so aptly upon his own researches, induced him to follow his Franciscan studies with vigour. He went every Sunday evening to the church of the Capuchins whither he had once carried the disgraceful burden of his sins to be eased of it. He was not offended by the processions of artizans and labourers round the church and the sermons of the priests were grateful to him inasmuch as the speakers did not seem inclined to make much use of their rhetorical and elocutionary training nor anxious to reveal themselves, in theory, at least, men of the world. He thought, in an Assisan mood, that these men might be nearer to his purpose than others: and one evening while talking with a Capuchin, he had over and over to restrain an impulse which urged him to take the priest by the arm, lead him up and down the chapel-yard and deliver himself boldly of the whole story of the Tables of the Law, every word of which he remembered. Considering Stephen’s general attitude towards the Church, there was certainly a profound infection in such an impulse which it needed great efforts of his intelligent partner to correct. He satisfied himself by leading Lynch round the enclosure of Stephen’s Green and making that young man very awkward by reciting Mr. Yeats’s story with careful animation. [159]; Lynch said he didn’t know what the story was about but, afterwards, when safely secluded in a “snug” he said that the recitation had given him immense pleasure.’
 —These monks are worthy men, said Stephen.
 —Full, round men, said Lynch.
 —Worthy men. I went a few days ago to their library. I had great trouble getting in: all the monks came out of different corners to spy at me. Father [Abbot] Guardian asked me what I wanted. Then he brought me in and gave himself a great deal of trouble going over books. Mind you, {182} he was a fat priest and he had just dined so he really was good-natured.
 —Good worthy man.
 —He didn’t know in the least what I wanted or why I wanted it but he went up one page and down the next with his finger looking for the name and puffing and humming to himself ‘Jacopone, Jacopone, Jacopone, Jacopone’. Haven’t I a sense of rhythm, eh?
 —“Stephen was still a lover of the deformations wrought by dusk. Late autumn and winter in Dublin are always seasons of damp gloomy weather. He went through the streets at night intoning phrases to himself. He repeated often the story of The Tables of the Law and the story of the Adoration of the Magi. The atmosphere of these stories was heavy with incense and omens and the figures of the monk-errants, Ahern and Michael Robartes strode through it with great strides. Their speeches were like the enigmas of a disdainful Jesus; their morality was infrahuman or superhuman: the ritual they laid such store by was so incoherent and heterogeneous, so strange a mixture of trivialities and sacred practices that it could be recognised as the ritual of men who had received from the hands of high priests, [who had been] anciently guilty of some arrogance of the spirit, a confused and dehumanised tradition, a mysterious ordination. Civilisation may be said indeed to be the creation of its outlaws but the least protest against the existing order is made by the outlaws whose creed and manner of life is not renewable even so far as to be reactionary. These inhabit a church apart; they lift their thuribles wearily before their deserted altars; they live beyond the region of mortality, having chosen to fulfil the law of their being. A young man like Stephen in such a season of damp and unrest [had] has no pains to believe in the reality of their existence. They lean pitifully [above] towards the earth, like vapours, desirous of sin, remembering the pride of their origin, calling to others to come to them. Stephen was fondest of repeating to himself {183} this beautiful passage from The [160] Tables of the Law: Why do you fly from our torches which were made out of the wood of the trees under which Christ wept in the gardens of Gethsemene. Why do you fly from our torches which were made from the sweet wood after it had vanished from the world and come to us who made it of old tunes with our breath? (Stephen Hero [1944], Grafton Edn. 1977, pp.159-61; Cape Edition, 1956, 1966, &c., pp.181-84.)

[See note on Jacopone da Toda - supra.]

Cf. ‘Monkish learning’ (in A Portrait): ‘It wounded him to think and that the monkish learning, in terms of which he was striving to forge out an esthetic philosophy, was held no higher by the age he lived in than the subtle and curious jargons of heraldry and falconry.’ [AP, 183.]


Joachim de Fiore [Joyce’s Joachim Abbas] - the doctrine of Joachim de Fiore (according to Yeats): ‘[...] Joachim of Flora acknowledged openly the authority of the Church, and even asked that all his published writings, and those to be published by his desire after his death, should be submitted to the censorship of the Pope. He considered that those whose work was to live and not to reveal were children and that the Pope was their father; but he taught in secret that certain others, and in always increasing numbers, were elected, not to live, but to reveal that hidden substance of God which is colour and music and softness and a sweet odour; and that these have no father but the Holy Spirit. Just as poets and painters and musicians labour at their works, building them with lawless and lawful things alike, so long as they embody the beauty that is beyond the grave, these children of the Holy Spirit labour at their moments with eyes upon the shining substance on which Time has heaped the refuse of creation; for the world only exists to be a tale in the ears of coming generations; and terror and content, birth and death, love and hatred, and the fruit of the Tree, are but instruments for that supreme art which is to win us from life and gather us into eternity like doves into their dove-cots.’ (Rep. in George J. Watson, ed., W. B. Yeats: Short Fiction, Penguin 1995, pp.201-11; here p.206.) [For full-text version, see Ricorso Library, “Irish Classics“, via Yeats index , or direct .]

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Imperishable Yeats - ‘new soaring impalpable imperishable being’.?

Joyce took the critical term ‘imperishable’ where he found it in Yeats’s story “Rosa Alchemica” and applied it to Stephen’s aesthetic ideals in A Portrait of the Artist (Chap. IV).

Water Pater: Walter Pater makes considerable use of the word ‘imperishable’ in his writings - viz., “Plato and Platonism”: ‘The Republic [...] is the protest of Plato, in enduring stone, in law and custom more imperishable still, against the principle of flamboyancy or fluidity in things, and in men’s thoughts about them.’ (Collected Works, Cambridge, 1901), p.235 [my italics].

Yeats: ‘I had discovered [...] that they sought to fashion gold out of common metals [...] as part of an universal transmutation of all things into some divine and imperishable substance, and this enabled me to make my little book a fanciful reverie over the transmutation of life into art, and a cry of measureless desire for a world made wholly of essences.’ [italics mine] (See “RA”, W. B. Yeats: Short Fiction, ed. in George J. Watson, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1995, p.180.)

Joyce: Cf., A Portrait of the Artist: ‘a prophecy of the end he had been born [...], a symbol of the artist forging anew in his workshop out of the sluggish matter of the earth a new soaring impalpable imperishable being’. (Jonathan Cape Edn., 1968, p.127), and also: ‘Yes! Yes! Yes! He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable.’ (pp.172-73; my italics, BS.)

Remarks: ‘It is conspicuous here that, just as Joyce is separating himself from the Irish literary revival tradition by means of his bold distinction between classical and romantic tempers, he retains a good deal of the vocabulary and the reflexes of a fin de siècle aesthete whose gaze is fixed on the artifice of eternity and the corresponding idea of pure essences. The fact is that Joyce took time to replace the pharmacopia of the symbolists with his own literary language. I think of this as the “stickiness” of style.’ [BS: lecture at International Yeats Summer School (Sligo), 2002.]

See also George J. Watson’s remark: ‘In fact The Secret Rose was far more than a random collocation of unrelated stories [...] The careful arrangement of the 1897 volume may not prove that Yeats had anticipated Joyce’s Dubliners, but it is useful evidence of his early love of design.’ (W. B. Yeats: Short Fiction, ed. Watson, Penguin 1995, ‘A Textual and Editorial Note’, p.xi.)

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W. B. Yeats on William Blake

Alistair Cormack remarks that Joyce held a copy of the selected poems of William Blake in an edition with a preface by W. B. Yeats in his Trieste Library (viz., Poetical Works of William Blake, London: George Routledge & Sons. Ltd. 1905) - a volume listed by Ellmann in The Consciousness of Joyce (London: Faber & Faber 1977), App., p.102. Several sentences in the Introduction correspond closely to others that Joyce wrote in his lecture on Blake - e.g.,

Yeats: ‘Many of his descriptions of “Vala” and other symbolic women [...] may conceivably owe their inspiration to her [i.e., Polly Woods]. Indubitably a certain type of feminine beauty, at once soft and cruel, emotional and egoistic, filled Blake with a mingled terror and wonder that lasted all his days.’ (Poetical Works of William Blake, 1910; 1967 rep. edn., p.xx.)

Joyce: ‘The girl, who seems to have been rather foolish, was called Polly Woods [...] This girl’s face appears in some drawings from his prophetic book Vala; a sweet, smiling face, symbol of feminine cruelty and sensual deception.’ (Kevin Barry, ed. & intro., Occasional, Critical, and Political Writings of James Joyce, OUP 2000), p.177.)

Bibl. Cormack, Yeats and Joyce: Cyclical History and the Reprobate Tradition (Aldershot: Aldgate Publishing 2008), p.51. Note that Occasional, Critical, and Political Writings cites Edwin Ellis, Yeats’s earlier co-editor of Blake, in The Real Blake [1907] as the source of Joyce’s information about Polly Wood, which is also cited by Richard Ellmann & Ellsworth Mason, in Critical Writings (1958, &c.) - an identification disputed by Cormack (p.51n.)

See also The Poems of William Blake [The Muses’ Library] (London: Lawrence & Bullen 1893) - under Yeats > Works - infra [incl. biblographical note by Gerald E. Bentley and Martin. J. Nurmi, 1964.]

Edwin Ellis: In a lecture called “Realism and Idealism in English Literature” given at the Università Populare in March 1912, Joyce delivered the sentence [here in translation}: ‘He [Blake] refused it, fearing that his art would die of inanition in the artificial environment of the court, but, at the same time, so as not to offend the sovereign, he gave up all his other lower-class students who formed the greater part of his income.’ (See Occasional, Critical and Politica Writings, ed. Kevin Barry, OUP 2000, p.176). Barry identifies this as a near quotation from Edwin Ellis, The Real Blake (1907) - especially where Ellis describes the loss to Blake of his pupils in terms to which Joyce ‘adds little more than the epithet “lower-class”.’ (Barry, op. cit., p.184, and Notes, p.332, n.55. Similarly Joyce’s reference to Blake’s initial support for the French Revolution and his departure from it after the executions of 1792 is ascribed to Ellis’s account (p.332, n.54). Indeed, Ellis’s book was Joyce’s major biographical source for the lecture on Blake as a whole, with citations from pages 164-5, 184, 437, 37-8, 435, 91, and 402-03 cited by Barry (op. cit., 332-36) in notes 55-56, 63, 69, 72 & 77 on the remarks on Blake (Barry, op. cit. 175-82).

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Countess Cathleen: Richard Ellmann remarks that Joyce echoed the following Yeats’s lines from The Countess Cathleen and Various Legends and Lyrics: ‘And of the embattled flaming multitudes / Who rise, wing above wing, flame above flame, / And, like a storm, cry the Ineffable Name ...’ in his own verses from Shine and Dark (unpub.): ‘O Name, / Ineffable, proud name to whom the cries ascend / From lost angelical orders, seraph flame to flame / For this end have I hated him - for this poor end?’ (See Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965 Edn., pp.84-85.) Ellmann also remarks that Joyce’s poem beginning ‘I intone the high anthem, / Partaking of their festival [...]’ describes a witches’ sabbath suggesting the orgiastic dance in Yeats’s story The Tables of the Law. (Ibid., p.85; 1982 Edn., p.81.) The source of poems from that collection is the verso of pages in Stanislaus Joyce’s diary, this being itself written on the verso of discarded pages of Joyce’s compositions [now held in the Cornell Univ. Library James Joyce Collection].

Countess Cathleen (1892): Joyce quotes from the Countess’s death-speech in W. B. Yeats play of that name in his L&H lecture on “Drama and Life”: ‘Do not weep | Too great a while, for there is many a candle / On the High Altar though one fall.’ (See Kevin Barry, ed. Occasional, Critical and Political Writings of James Joyce, OUP 2000), p.292, n.7. This speech is also quoted in Portrait and “The Day of the Rabblement” where the context would suggest that Joyce is ‘deliberately baiting his audience in his lecture with a quotation from a play which they, but not he, had condemned.’ (Barry, idem.)

Cathleen Ni Houlihan (1902) and “The Dead”: Richard Ellmann remarks in a footnote when he quotes Gretta’s answer to Gabriel’s dismissive question, ‘I think he died for me’ in “The Dead” (Dubliners, 1914): ‘Adaline Glasheen has discovered an echo of Yeats’s nationalist play, Cathleen Ni Houlihan, where the old woman who symbolises Ireland sings a song of “yellow-haired Donough that was hanged in Galway.” When she is asked, “What was it brought [248] him to his death?” she replies, “He died for love of me; many a man has died for love of me.” (James Joyce, OUP 1982 [rev. edn.], pp.248-49; an end-note ref. simply says, ‘I am indebted to Mrs. Glasheen for pointing this out to me.’ (p.768, n.20.)

Greek Tragedy: ‘I think that we will learn again how to describe at great length an old man wandering among enchanted islands, his return home at last, his slow-gathering vengeance, a flitting shape of a goddess, and a flight of arrows, and yet to make all of these so different things “take light from mutual reflection, like an actual trail of fire over precious stones”, and become “an entire word”, the signature or symbol of a mood of the divine imagination as imponderable as “the horror of the forest or the silent thunder in the leaves”’. (1898 essay, “The Autumn of the Body”, in Selected Criticism, Pan Macmillan 1976, p.42; quoted in Munira Mutran, ‘Different Appropriations of Greek Tragedy in Contemporary Drama: Irish and Otherwise’, in Ilha do Desterro Florianópolis, No. 58 (Jan./June 2010, pp.413-38; p.414 - available online as pdf; accessed 15.10.2011). Mutran remarks: ‘Although referring to poetry, Yeats was, in a way, foretelling that James Joyce, and many of the modernist writers, would go back to myth in order to define their world.’ (Idem.)

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Rivalling Yeats - Richard Ellmann writes: ‘The principle source of uncertainty as he [Joyce] acknowledged candidly to Stanislaus and to himself, was that he could rival his countryman Yeats, whose volume of lyrics, The Wind Among the Reeds had awakened his intense admiration when it appeared in 1899. About his prose, however, he had no such modesty and was already beginning to feel he might out-do George Moore, Hardy, and Turgenev, if not Tolstoy.’ (James Joyce, 1965 Edn., p.87.)

Yeats on Chamber Music: Yeats asked Arthur Symons to persuade Elkin Mathews to publish Joyce’s poems resulting in their appearance in the on Yeats’s instigation, played down the Irish connection. He applauded Chamber Music as ‘a book which cannot fail to attract notice from everyone capable of knowing poetry when he sees it’ and praised it as being ‘of the most genuine lyric quality of a any new work I have read for many years’, but he made sure to emphasize that, despite receiving support from Yeats, Joyce was ‘not in the Celtic Movement’ (letter from 9 October 1906, quoted in Deming, I, 36).

Yeats’s Vision: Joyce apparently mimicked Yeats’s A Vision (1925; rev. edn. 1937) when he himself was revising “Nightlessons” in 1938 - though probably without knowing that he himself was among the writers treated in the first edition of that book. His familiarity with the book can be traced to the occasion in 1927 when it was read to him in Paris by Eugene Jolas [see under Commentary, supra]. The most pronounced element of parody can be found in connection with Yeats’s astrological charts and intersecting cones which are are rendered as graffiti in that chapter, while Yeats’s necromantic talk of ‘dreaming back’ and ‘telescopes’ —is rehashed in the richly comical context of childish purulence which provides its dominant tone [BS].

Yeats: ‘It is from the Dreaming Back of the dead [...] that we get the imagery of ordinary sleep. [...] If [...] I dream in images [...] I may discover [my father] represented by a stool or the eyepiece of a telescope, but never in his natural shape [...].’ (See longer extract under Yeats, infra.)

Yeats, A Vision, [rev. edn.] (London: Macmillan 1937), p.229.
Joyce: ‘When I’m dreaming back like that I begins to see we’re only all telescopes ... Or the comeallyoum saunds. When I dromed I was in Dairy and was wuckened up with a thump in thudderdown. Rest in peace!’
Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 1939, 295.04-15 [my italics].

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When Yeats read Ulysses he wrote to Olivia Shakespear that ‘[it] has our Irish cruelty and also our kind of strength’ and spoke of Joyce as possessing ‘[a] cruel playful mind like a great soft tiger cat.’ (Letter of 8 March 1922; quoted in Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965 Edn., p.545. Note: In The Identity of Yeats [1954] (London: Macmillan 1964), Ellmann writes that Yeats retained ‘a permanent impression of a brilliant but cruel mind’ from their first meeting. (Ibid., p.86.)

[ See also Yeats’s remarks on Joyce’s Ulysses, &c., under Commentary, supra. ]

Patron for Joyce? - on completion of Thoor Ballylee, Yeats wrote that he saw it ‘as a setting for my old age, a place to influence lawless youth’, going on: ‘If I had this tower when Joyce began I might have been of use, have got him to meet those who might have helped him.’ (23 July [1918]; L, 651 [Wade]; CL [Kelly, Schuchard], InteLex, 3465; quoted in Ronald Schuchard, ‘Yeats’s anti-Modernist Monument’, in The Living Stream: Yeats Annual 18, 2013, p.138 [online].) [See further citations of Yeats on Joyce in Joyce > Commentary > Yeats - supra.

Note: In a footnote, Ellmann also quotes an unreferenced letter to Pound of 11 Feb. 1917 in which Yeats writes, ‘I have almost finished “A Portrait of the Artist” I think it a very great book - I am absorbed in it. / If you have the play, bring it tomorrow night. If it is at all possible the Abbey should face a riot for it. / Yrs s / W. B. Yeats.’ (Ellmann, op. cit., 1982, p.401, n.)

Rejecting of Exiles - Yeats wrote to Joyce: ‘I do not recommend your play to the Irish Theatre because it is a type of work we have never played well. It is too far from folk drama; and just at present we do not even play the folk drama well [...] It is some itme since I read your play and my memory is not very clear - I though it sincere and interesting but I cannot give you the only criticism worth anything, detailed criticism of construction. I could at the time I read it, I have no doubt. I do not think it at all so good as “A Portrait” of the Artist which I read with great excitement and recommended to many people. I think “A Portrait” very new and very powerful. Ezra tells me that you have some new work of the kind on hand and that book I await with impatience.’ (Given in Ellmann, James Joyce [1959], rev. edn. OUP 1982, pp.401-02, citing unpublished letter at Cornell [708, n.33].)

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