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Details & Cataloguing

Yeats: The Family Collection

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London

England
W. B. YEATS WRITING BUREAU
the fall opening to reveal a green baise writing surface, eight pigeonholes, seven small drawers and four concealed compartments arranged around a central cupboard
102 by 93 by 93cm., 40 by 36½ by 36½in.
18th century
Made circa 1770.
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Catalogue Note

THIS BUREAU DESK WAS USED REGULARLY BY YEATS FOR HIS CORRESPONDENCE IN HIS LATER YEARS, and possibly for an extended period after his move back to Ireland during the momentous period of the Irish revolution of 1916-21, when he and his new bride Bertha Georgie Hyde-Lees settled into the old Norman castle at Ballylee, in Gort, Co. Galway, near Coole. In 1922 they were at 82 Merrion Square in Dublin, before moving across town in 1928 to 42 Fitzwilliam Square. In 1932, following the death of Lady Gregory, they moved out to a small country house with a large and charming garden at Riversdale, Rathfarnham, below the Dublin mountains. Throughout this period Yeats not only wrote some of his most memorable verse but was newly engaged in Irish political affairs, campaigning against Catholic social teaching, the prohibition on divorce, and, perhaps most stridently, artistic censorship (the last led to the establishment of his Academy of Letters). A huge amount of correspondence was thus engendered, not only with other writers and artists, his wife and members of his own extended family at home and abroad but also with statesmen, politicians, patrons, and members of the international literary community (particularly after the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923). In addition Yeats maintained correspondence with past lovers such as Olivia Shakespear (see lot 86), whilst sustaining "intense collaborative friendships" (Foster) with many other women, including Margot Ruddock, Ethel Mannin, Dorothy Wellesley, and Edith Shackleton.

"My dear Dobbs: ... A fiery debate in Dail last night about The Army Report. Mulcahy very demonstrative... O’Higgins was not in the house but Macgilligan spoke.  I am well of my cold & audaciously writing this at my desk between a wide open window & a glowing fire, rather like the damned who may be seen in a long cloud between hot & cold, as they hop to & fro.  However I am not sneezing whereas the damned try & sneeze without ceasing.  Gogarty drove me up towards the mountains last night & that renewed the desire I feel so constantly to go with you somewhere into the mountains for a few days away from all our complications & preoccupations.  I must not write any more for it [is] Dail day & I have little time..." (letter to George, 82 Merrion Square, Dublin, ?29 July 1924)

Yeats: The Family Collection

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London