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JUMP TO LOT
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

A Living Legacy: Irish Art from the Collection of Brian P. Burns

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London

Jack B. Yeats, R.H.A.
1871-1957
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ('JACK B. YEATS') TO JOHN MASEFIELD
acknowledging receipt of Masefield’s article ‘Being Ashore’. Stating “I think it’s as good as Dana”, Yeats notes that he would “like to be at sea when I read it” but suggests that he wouldn’t be “up aloft” (“I who on top of a cathedral stay crouched as close as I can to the spire while the others look over the edge and tell me how they see men like flies walking”). Yeats accompanies this with ink vignettes of horses and carts viewed from above. Discussing the topic of toy ships, Yeats reveals that he has “made a slide for the cannon you gave me” and notes that “it looks rather fine… with the carriage painted the colour of old Blood”. There is an ink sketch showing the cannon (and slide). Yeats also states that he has worked on their model ship named Wonderland and “rigged her uncommon saucey”. An ink and watercolour sketch shows the vessel. Yeats notes that his wife is reading works by Mayne Reid and states “you ought to do a series of articles on Boys Authors and wipe out Henty who I am sure was no good…” Finally Mrs Yeats is revealed to have a bow and arrow and is practising “archery in the orchard”, 2 pages, 4to, Cashlauna Shelmiddy, Strete, 25 March 1906

[together with:] illustrated envelope, addressed to “John Masefield Esq | 1, Diamond Terrace | Greenwich | London” including ink and watercolour drawing sketch of Theodore the Pirate cabin boy sitting on a horse reading a volume entitled The Scalp Hunters. The reverse shows six native Americans with traditional head-dresses, about to attack.


dated March 25, 1906
pen and ink with watercolour
letter: 24 by 18cm., 9½ by 7¼in; envelope: 9 by 11cm., 3½ by 4½in. (framed together)
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Provenance

Hamilton Osborne King, Dublin, 1994

Catalogue Note

The relationship between Jack B. Yeats and the future Poet Laureate, John Masefield (1878-1967) is well-documented and Yeats became a confidant, friend and collaborator for the young writer. There are in excess of 70 letters from Masefield to Yeats (preserved across four research libraries). Masefield, however, disliked the printing of private correspondence (even delivering a curse on those who might be tempted to publish his own letters) and he regularly destroyed correspondence. As a result there are only a handful of extant letters from Jack B. Yeats to Masefield.

The present letter makes reference to Masefield’s article ‘Being Ashore’ (first published in The Manchester Guardian on 20 February 1906 and collected within A Tarpaulin Muster in 1907). Masefield would have been pleased to be compared to R.H. Dana. In 1904 Masefield wrote of Dana that he was “vivid and true” and that Two Years Before the Mast was “full of spirited things”. The references to a cannon and toy ship are related to the fleet of toy boats that Masefield and Yeats sailed down the Gara River in Devon. The fleet and the surrounding tales gave birth to the character of Theodore, who is represented on the envelope. Printed versions of the pirate cabin boy can be seen in A Broadside and Yeats gathered a significant number of Masefield’s Theodore verses and bound them in a single volume (now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford). Slightly over a year later Masefield appears to have taken up Yeats’ suggestion of trying to “wipe out Henty”. In a letter from May 1907 Masefield wrote “Did I tell you that I am writing a boy’s book, for Chatterbox? Well, I am, and it is very good fun… there are to be smuggler’s coves in the cliffs… and there are to be Red Indians later on…" It appears that the present envelope may have been one source of inspiration to Masefield.

A Living Legacy: Irish Art from the Collection of Brian P. Burns

|
London