A MAJOR PRESENTATION COPY OF THIS KEY EIGHTEEN-NINETIES ANTHOLOGY, PRESENTED BY YEATS TO LADY GREGORY, WITH WHOM HE HAD THE MOST ENDURING FRIENDSHIP OF HIS LIFE. Yeats met the playwright, folklorist, and literary patron Lady [Isabella] Augusta Gregory (1852-1932) at Edward Martyn's Galway castle in the summer of 1896, when she was 44 and he was 31. She was the youngest daughter of Sir Robert Gregory of the nearby Coole Park, Gort, who died in 1892 leaving her with one son Robert. She immediately invited Yeats to spend time with her at Coole, which would soon become Yeats's second home for the next thirty years. "Their relationship quickly stabilized into mentor and artist...they rapidly became each other's closest friend and confidant, and remained so...until her death nearly forty years later. Over that period, while she sustained him in many ways, he helped her to emerge as one of the most prominent Irish writers of the day. In identifying her so deliberately by her title rather than by her Christian name, he not only defined their relationship, he helped create the image and name by which she would live, write and become famous..." (R.F. Foster, W.B. Yeats: A Life, Vol. 1, p.171).
The "Rhymers' Club" were a semi-bohemian "Celtic" circle of writers who met regularly at the Cheshire Cheese pub off Fleet Street from around January 1890 onwards. Ernest Rhys, Thomas Rolleston and Yeats were the original moving spirits, joined at various times by John Todhunter, Lionel Johnson, Ernest Dowson, Richard Le Gallienne, John Davidson, and others. The Club was partly infused with a strong homoerotic sub-culture: Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon were unofficial patrons, Lionel Johnson read his poems of repressed desire, and Oscar Wilde "looked in and out" (R.F. Foster, op.cit., p.108). Yeats's closest friend from the circle was the symbolist poet Arthur Symons. Ernest Dowson, whom Yeats refers to in his inscription in the present copy, was one of the most bohemian members, and "already celebrated for a youth dominated by hashish, drink and belles de nuit" (op.cit.).
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