George [“Æ”] Russell: Notes

Henry Cousins quotes AE in The Hound of Uladh: ‘These myths were born / Out of the spirit of man, and drew their meaning / From that unplumbed profundity. I think / In after ages they will speak to us / With deeper voices and meanings ...’

W. B. Yeats: Yeats’s personal library, now held in the NLI (Dublin) contains a copies of the following texts and papers, each with sheets of notes slipped in: The Candle of Vision (MS 40,568 / 200; O’Shea Cat., 1799: 2 shts being copy of a letter from WBY to Sturge Moore); Collected Poems (MS 40,568 / 201; O’Shea Cat. 1800: 5 shts.) The Earth Breath … (MS 40,568 / 202; O’Shea Cat. 1803 (33 shts.); Songs and its Fountains (MS 40,568 / 203; O’Shea Cat. 1812 (4 shts.)

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James Joyce (1): Joyce visited AE at Garville Rd., Rathgar, on 18 Aug. 1902 and was told by him that he would never be a real poet as he had not enough chaos in him. (For Richard Kain’s account of the oft-narrated meetings with Russell and with Yeats, see Commentary, supra.) Note: Sunday was the evening of Russell’s evenings “at-homes”. For Russell’s words to Stanislaus Joyce about his brother, see under Stanislaus [q.v.].

James Joyce (2): In the “Circe” chapter of Ulysses, Mananaan Mac Lir makes the following entrance speech: ‘I am the light of the homestead, I am the dreamery, creamery butter [...]’ - to which the Gasjet answers, ‘Pooah! Pfuiiiiii!’ causing Zoe to run to the chandelier and, crooking her leg, adjusts the mantle with the remark, ‘ Who has a fag as I’m here?’ [U480].

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Liam O’Flaherty wrote to Russell at the Irish Statesman criticising editorial policy: ‘I don’t for a moment claim that your paper is not doing good work,’ [he] wrote, ‘But I do claim that it is not Irish, that it is not national, and that it is not representative in any respect of the cultural forces, in all spheres, that are trying to find room for birth in this country at present.’ (20 June 1925; cited in S.B. Kennedy, Irish Art & Modernism, 1991.)

Monk Gibbon calls AE [George Russell] ‘one of the loveliest souls that has ever found itself in Ireland’, in The Seals (1935, rep. Dublin: Allen Figgis 1970), p.27.

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Celtic inspiration: In an open letter to editor of Daily Express (10 Sept. 1898) Russell noted that no Irish artist had found inspiration in traditional Celtic sources as had the writers, blaming this lack of ‘national’ art on the absence of great paintings on display in exhibitions. (S.B. Kennedy, Irish Art & Modernism, 1991, pp.5-6.)

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The Lodge: In April 1891, a month before death of Mme. Blavatsky, AE moved into The Lodge, at No. 3 Upper Ely Place, recently purchased and placed at the disposal of the Theosophical Society by Frederick and Annie Dicks; shared the accommodation with Daniel Dunlop, Malcolm Magee (br. of John Eglinton), Arthur Dwyer (with both of whom he shared a room at times), James Noal, Charles Johnston’s sister Georgie, Violet North, and James Pryse. (Summerfield, That Myriad-Minded Man, 1975, p.33.) Note further, The firm Whaley which published his first collection was started by Charles Weekes.

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Joyce Connection: in publishing Joyce’s first three Dubliners stories (‘The Sisters’, ‘Eveline’, and ‘After the Race’) in the Irish Homestead, George Russell became the first publisher of Joyce’s fiction; see Michael Groden, A Textual and Publishing History’, in A Companion ot Joyce Studies, ed. Zack Bowen, and James Carens (1984), p. 78ff. Note also, a restored Ulysses refers to ‘AE, pimander, good shepherd [sic] of men’ (James Joyce, Ulysses, Corrected Edn., ed. Hans Walter Gabler, 1984; Penguin edn., p.36.)

Julian Symons, reviewing Michael North, The Political Aesthetic of Yeats, Eliot and Pound (Camb. UP ?1993), cites North as saying that one historian of Fascism regarded AE’s The National Being as a ‘virtual blueprint for Italian Fascism’.

Graham Greene: a favourite quotation of his was the lines from George Russell, ‘In the lost childhood of Judas/Christ was portrayed.’ (See Augustine Martin, reviewing biography of Green by Norman Sherry, Irish Times, 17 Sept. 1994.)

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Good show!: ‘From August 23rd to September 3rd, 1904, together with Constance Gore-Booth and her Polish husband, Count Casimir Dunin Markievicz, “AE” showed 63 out of the 220 paintings in an exhibition in Dublin entitled Pictures of Two Countries.’ He said: “My exhibition has just opened and my heart is full of woe because I have sold over half of them the first day.”. Further, ‘In a memorial catalogue of John Quinn’s collection issued in 1926, no fewer than 62 paintings by AE were listed.’(Diane Beale, report on new Russell show, The Irish Times, 23 Aug. 2004.)

Un-typical Ulster: Russell is a character in St. John Ervine’s Changing Winds (1917): ‘Was there any one on earth less like the typical Ulsterman than George Russell, who preached mysicism and better business, or Ernest Harper [fict. char.], who took penny tramrides to pay visits to the faries.’ (p.135; cited in Richard Mills, DPhil, UUC 1997.)

Alcohol free at homes chez George and Violet Russell were attended by guests such as Osborn Bergin, Padraic Colum, Susan Mitchell, Sean O’Casey (twice and with bad grace), Frank O’Connor, Sean O’Faolain, Seamus O’Sullivan, James Stephens and Yeats. The last-named held Mondays’ which drew many away. After Violet died in 1932 AE moved to London and later Bournemouth; buried Mt. Jerome, Dublin, with mile-long cortège.

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Last things: signs his Will, 14 June, witnessed by Mrs Sophie Jacobs and Miss Kathlen Goodfellow, bequeathing all to his second son Diarmuid; moves to Havenhurst nursing home, Canford Cliffs, Bournemouth, being taken accompanied by Charles Weekes on the train; undergoes abdominal operation, Stagsden Nursing Home, Bournemouth, 10 July 1935; visited by C. P. Curran, and accepts messages from Dublin friends, 16 July 1935; joined by Oliver St. John Gogarty (by plane), 17 July; receives affectionate message from Yeats, solicited by C. P. Curran and Pamela Travers, removing a cloud from his mind, d. shortly after 11 p.m., 17 July 1935 of rectal cancer [carcinoma], with Curran, Weekes, Gogarty and W. K. Magee [John Eglinton] at his bedside; coffin escorted to Holyhead by James Stephens, Helen Waddell and others; aeroplane escort provided for ship on arrival in Dun Laoghaire; funeral in form of modified Anglican service conducted by Rev. C. C. Duggan; funeral mourners led by his eldest son Brian Hartley Russell, Diarmuid arriving by plane in London afterwards; attended by Eamon de Valera (Pres. of Ireland), W. B. Yeats, R. A. Anderson, Seumas O’Sullivan, Joseph O’Neill, F. R. Higgins, W. T. Cosgrave, Gogarty and James Stephens; oration delivered by Frank O’Connor for Irish Academy of Letters; bur. Mt. Jerome, Co. Dublin, 19 July. (See Alan Denson, Letters from AE, London: Abelard Schuman 1961, Chronological table, p.xl.)

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Cordial quote: It was George Russell, not George Moore as often alleged, who coined the description of a literary movement as ‘five or six people who live in the same town and hate each other cordially.’ (See Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce, Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972, p.75.)

Portrait: Seated portrait in oil by John Butler Yeats, 1903, NGI; See also Hilary Pyle, Estelle Solomons, Patriot Portraits (1966) for portrait. Also, George Russell by Hilda Russell (1929), Ulst. Museum; see Anne Crookshank, Irish Portraits Exhibition, Ulster Mus. 1965. See remarks on Russell in Gogarty’s Memoir of Yeats. Also, an oil portrait by Nigel Newton [NGI].

Kith & Kin: Diarmuid Russell issued The Portable Irish Reader (1946) and Selected Prose of G. B. Shaw (1953), 1004pp.

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