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W.B. Yeats collection

Identifier: Manuscript Collection No. 600

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of literary manuscripts, holograph notes in and emendations to published texts, letters, and photographs relating to William Butler Yeats. Materials date from 1875 to 1965, but most come from the period ca. 1890-1939. These items have been grouped together from various sources by virtue of their authorship by William Butler Yeats or their relationship to him.

Among the literary manuscripts are holograph and typescript drafts and fair copies of Yeats's poetry and plays, including numerous corrections, deletions, and additions written or typed in to several published works. Prose includes a corrected typescript of his More Memories, which describes his part in the formation of the Irish Literary Society and the Irish national theater which as to become the Abbey Theatre.

Also included are twenty-nine letters (1887-1938), from Yeats to various of his acquaintances, in which he discusses his poetic and dramatic works, Irish politics, the Abbey Theatre, and his personal life. Many of the letters are addressed to his longtime friend and compatriot Lady Gregory. Another group of letters is addressed to Yeats' publisher T. Werner Laurie and relates to the publication of the 1925 edition of A Vision.

In addition, the collection includes a group of pictures portraying Yeats, his family, and his friends and associates. Among these are several pencil sketches by John B. Yeats, lithographic reproductions of portrait drawings and paintings, as well as some thirty-five snapshots (ca. 1910-1935). Maud Gonne MacBride, Yeats at Rapallo (1929), and "locales" form three distinct subjects among these various photographs. The collection also includes a framed portrait of Yeats taken by A.L. Coburn in Dublin, January 24, 1908.


  • 1875-1965
  • Majority of material found within ( 1890-1939)

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Restrictions on access

Unrestricted access.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Biographical Note

William Butler Yeats, Irish poet, dramatist, and Nobel laureate in literature (1923), was the eldest son of John Butler Yeats and Susan (Pollexfen) Yeats. He was born near Dublin on 13 June 1865, but he spent much of his youth in County Sligo, where most of his relatives lived. Those environs of western Ireland profoundly affected Yeats throughout his life, as did his exposure through schooling to theosophy, mysticism, the occult, and the Irish saga.

Maud Gonne [MacBride] (who appeared in Cathleen ni Houlihan, Yeats' most popular play) and John O'Leary also influenced Yeats. They kindled an enthusiasm for Irish nationalism in him that emphasized Irish culture and civilization particularly but dealt with political issues as well.

Another strong influence in Yeats' life was Lady Augusta Gregory, who also embraced Irish nationalism and the blossoming Irish Renaissance. With Lady Gregory's support and collaboration, Yeats' play The Countess Cathleen was performed in Dublin in 1899. The production marked the foundation of an Irish theatre which became firmly established in 1904 with the opening of the Abbey Theatre.

When Yeats was not involved in theater or foreign travel, he divided his time between Coole Park (Lady Gregory's home) and London. In 1917, after an unrequited proposal to Maud Gonne's daughter Iseult, Yeats married George Hyde-Lees (1893-1968); Ezra Pound was best man. The marriage produced two children, Anne (1919- ) and Michael (1921- ).

In 1922, Yeats accepted nomination to the Senate of the Irish Free State. He participated actively in those proceedings, sometimes contrary to the prevailing Catholic mood, until his term expired in 1928.

With the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, Yeats' international stature grew considerably. In 1925 he published his philosophical work A Vision and in 1928 The Tower, the latter generally thought to represent the peak of his poetic achievement.

In the late twenties, near the end of his senatorial term, illness and fatigue forced Yeats to reduce the activities of his public life, and he spent the first few months of 1928 in Rapallo, Italy, with Ezra Pound. Rapallo agreed with Yeats. His return there in 1929 marked a highly creative period that saw the composition of A Packet for Ezra Pound as well as framework for his new edition of A Vision.

Thereafter, Lady Gregory's increasing infirmity in her old age prompted Yeats to spend lengthier periods of time with her in Coole. After her death in 1932, he made a final lecture tour to the United States (his first had been with John Quinn in 1903-04), traveled frequently to Italy and the Mediterranean, and continued writing and publishing until his death on 28 January 1939. His grave lies at Drumcliffe, County Sligo. Sources consulted in preparing this note include: "Yeats, W. B.," Dictionary of National Biography, 1931-1940 (London, 1949); Joseph Hone, W. B. Yeats, 1865-1939 (London, 1942); J. I. M. Stewart, Eight Modern Writers, (Oxford, 1966); Richard Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks (corrected edition with a new preface, Oxford, 1979).


1.75 linear feet (4 boxes); 1 oversized papers folder (OP); 1 framed item (FR)


Collection of materials grouped together from various sources by virtue of their authorship by William Butler Yeats or their relationship to him including literary manuscripts, holograph notes in and emendations to published texts, letters, and photographs.

Arrangement Note

Organized into three series: (1) Literary manuscripts, (2) Letters, and (3) Photographs and artwork.

Custodial History

Major R. G. Gregory was the grandson of Lady Augusta Gregory.


Purchased via Tom Taylor on behalf Major R. G. Gregory at auction, 1979. Numerous additions were purchased from various rare book and manuscript dealers from 1980-2016.

Appraisal Note

Acquired by Rose Library Director, Linda Matthews, as part of the Rose Library's holdings in Irish Literature.

Publication Note

For a more detailed bibliographic essay about the William Butler Yeats Collection, see Ronald Schuchard, "The Lady Gregory - Yeats Collection at Emory University," Yeats Annual No. 3 (London: Macmillan, 1985), pp. 153-166.


Control level 3


File name: yeats600.doc


Control level 3

File name: yeats600.doc

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W.B. Yeats collection, 1875-1965
Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University
February 11, 2002
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library Repository

540 Asbury Circle
Atlanta Georgia 30322 United States