William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

By Olive Morrin, Special Collections & Archives

Yeats - Land of heart's desire
‘The Land of Heart’s Desire’ by W. B. Yeats

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats on 13th June 1865.  Yeats became one the most prominent figures of 20th Century literature and was the first Irish person to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature although it is generally considered he wrote his best works after he received the prize.

The Library holds copies of much of Yeat’s work and a considerable amount of reviews and criticisms by other writers.  Special Collections & Archives also holds several unique volumes, including:

  •  I am of Ireland: favourite poems by W.B. Yeats with paintings by Yeat’s Irish contemporaries such as Louis Le Brocquy and Harry Clarke.
  • A brief account of the Cuala Press, formerly the Dun Emer Press, founded by Elizabeth Corbet Yeats in 1903
  • Yeats, the tarot, and the Golden Dawn by Kathleen Raine
  • W.B. Yeats and the designing of Ireland’s coinage:  text W. B. Yeats and others, by Brian Cleeve
  • The Yeats family and the Pollexfens of Sligo by William M. Murphy with drawings by John Butler Yeats
  • A tower of polished black stones: early versions of ‘The shadowy waters’ by William Butler Yeats: edited by David Ridgley Clark and George Mayhew with five illustrations by Leonard Baskin and drawings by the poet

The Library also holds a copy of The Dolmen Press Yeats Centenary Papers 1965 which commemorated the centenary of his birth. This bound collection of twelve papers was published separately between March 1965 and April 1968.

Yeat’s died in 1939 in Roquebrune, France.  His body could not be brought home because of the outbreak of World War II.  In 1948 his body was finally brought back to Sligo and he was buried “Under Ben Bulben” in Drumcliffe – as he specified in his Last Poems.

References:

The Dolmen Press Yeats Centenary Papers MCMLXV edited by Liam Miller

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