W. B. YEATS: LETTERS TO KATHERINE TYNAN, edited by Roger McHugh (Clonmore & Reynolds, 18s.),
By Neville Braybrooke LI l'ERAR cspondence has fallen by the wayside. and letter's riling is no longer the art that it was in the 18th century. The telephone has replaced it. Yet, even before the telephone was as general as it now is, the decline had set igh Moreover, unlike some of his modern contemporaries, Yeats did not type, finding at best writing a slow and laborious affair. If he wrote both profusely and at length to his friends, it was also a little dully. His letters over the years to Katherine Tynan. admirably edited
here by Mr. McHugh, tell the story of the rising writer the anxious time of waiting for recognition, delays in author's fees, anxiety about forthcoming reviews, and the desire, without private means, to find in journalism a breadwinner not too exacting. (He believed, however, that articles which are later to be chapters in hooks deserved the greatest se such writing is less m attention because than ere "journalism.") For. above all. Yeats wanted time for his serious work: not a crumb of the bread he won as a prose writer must he thrown away, since it must be used toconserve his energythus giving him the strength necessaryto devote his attention to the what really counted, his poetry and plays. Rut ifthese letters are full of pedestrian details about the price of producing small hooks of verse and hroadsheets and accruing royaltiessubjects of more interest for the literary historian rather than the general reader-then there is also the overriding idea running through the whole correspondence of a national literature.
It is axiomatic for him that nationality produces literature and vice versa. Yet. in regard to Ireland, the paradox remains that she has exiled nearly all her great writers, and national acclaim. as so often, comes a generation after death.
Most of Yeats's work was first published abroad, and it is perhaps significant that the present book should come from an Irish firm.
Incidentally. reading this selection of letters reminds one that Yeats was re
also tispecially interested in magic a phrase from and mysticism, and this book might well provide a subtitle for a further study of this side of his character. That phrase is the "churchless mystic."