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Letter from Thomas MacGreevy to George Yeats. 20 May 1926.

[p.1 recto]

at 15 Cheyne Gardens
London S.W.3
20th May 1926.

My dear George,

Well its all over and I hope you are having a finer day for it at BallyleeThoor Ballylee, the Norman tower near Lady Gregory's Coole demesne in County Galway and renovated under George Yeats's direction, had been the Yeats's retreat since 1918.note than I had at the Rhine. I had to put up a fight against combined flu and a chill on the estomac from Die Walküre on so I can't give a fair opinion, but I don't think all the same that I should ever want to hear the whole thing through again.MacGreevy attended a performance of the Ring Cycle at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden (17 May Die Walkure, 19 May Siegfried, 19 May Gotterdämmerung) conducted by Bruno Walter, with Lauritz Melchior in the role of Siegfried, and the German soprano Gertrude Kappel as Brunnhilde.note The opening of the Rhinegold was marvellous, there were great moments in Die Walküre, in Gotterdämmerung the return of Waltraute to Brynhilde was beautiful but how colossally dull it was on the whole very colossal but very exhausting. Thank God the ballet is coming back and one may hope for a lift that will not at the same time deprive one of one's capacity for experiencing any interest either emotional or intellectual.[p.1 verso] And yet so much or rather so many things were magnificent. So I suppose one must not blaspheme. And if I were well no doubt I should have got more out of it. It was not a very interesting audience. There was Rummel very smiling, very married, a dreadful nephew of Tim the Twister that I met at the MacNeills,Current governor-general James McNeill and his wife Josephinenote with some appropriate company, Ivor Novello with his profile as profilagate as ever—nice creature I should imagine though I have heard opinion to the contrary. Anthony Asquith a big thirtyish Treelike blonde and quantities of Wagnerites from solemn liberal advanced bourgeois homes. No, you were well out of it and I shall never go again and now I cannot afford a comfortable seat for any other opera of the season. But, like the war, at least it is a satisfaction to have seen the bloomin' thing through. Like the measles, its a triumph over the infants who aspire to get it over and haven't succeeded in doing so.

This evening I met Sean O'Casey in the King's Road. I think, quite seriously, that he's lost. It really was I who refused to wrangle!! He said Ireland was this and that. He is settling in London[p.2 recto] for good though he will be in Dublin in a week or two for a short time. Your country says he is wherever you get your bread and butter. Your country says I, Freudianwise, is wherever you get your emotions. The creature went into a tobacconists shop and bought 25 Abdullas—you couldn't offer a cheap cigarette to a nice little girl said he. Who's the nice little girl said I. There isn't one said he, but any nice girl you'd like to offer her a good cigarette not a Player's or something like that, quite serious all this. He bought Player's for himself. But I daresay he'll rise again from the dead in the third year or so. And he has £170 with a little more to come in—The Plough and the Stars will last a little while but not very long. And Augustus John is painting my portrait said he in tones that would be charming if he were twenty, but that positively made one wretched in a man of over forty who is not without some of the qualities of a great[p.2 verso] artist.

The strike was amusing in some ways.A nationwide general labor strike took place in England from 4 to 12 May in 1926 in support of subsidized wages for miners. Key industries such as railways and transportation, construction, printing, iron and steel working were involved.note It was not too hard on me except that I had to walk to Queen Victoria St & back & have lunch one day in an hour, and one evening I had to walk most of the way from Hampstead to Chelsea. It is only ½ an hour to my office however, and it was rather fine there. The acting editor, Rosy Posy, (F. Gordon Roe) my age, married, and with a tummy—I got fat after I married said he solemnly, its the change in one's life I suppose!—talked all the time about the workers as the shirkers, and said they must be stopped and Boshevicks and Bolshevism and dear Lady Victoria Manners who does minor 18th century painters came in and he said all the things one should say to the elderly daughter of a deceased and impoverished duke about the deplorable way the world was going owing to these democratic ideas & it was the same in art, these moderns &c. &c. It really was a great joy. But he quite approves of me taking the attitude of a foreigner and having no views in a English domestic squabble. Where as I feel myself to be in the presence of fire-eaters[p.3 recto] without demuring if I do not demur wholeheartedly somehow, I managed to make it clear that if I detested organised British labour (because it ?? struck rather than handle arms for Poland in 1920,In May 1920 London dock-workers refused to load or fuel a freight carrying munitions to Poland which was involved in a war with Russia. By the next week they refused to load any munitions to be used against Russia and in August the British Labour Party came out strongly against aid to Poland in the war.note but was quite cheerful about handling those that were going to the troops in Ireland) at the same time I would had no admiration for people who volunteered to be special constables but would think twice about going down a mine for 10/6 a day &c.

I read in the Irish Statesman about the Noh plays.WBs two Noh plays The Cat and the Moon and The Only Jealousy of Emer were produced for the first time on the Abbey Theatre stage at a Dublin Drama League annual meeting on 9 May.note I wish I could have seen the Cat at the Moon especially. The Statesman seemed patronising about it compared to the Emer. What did you think? What about doing The Powers of Darkness this year and have Commisarjevsky over to do it? I believe or rather I hear it said he is no good except with Russian plays. In anything he produced Lennox & Arthur Shields ought to act. Because he'd make a very good actor of Lennox & a tolerably good producer of Shields. Why not write to him at the Barnes[p.3 verso] TheatreIn 1925 Komisarjevsky began his Barnes Theater company which included John Gielgud, Charles Laughton, Jean Forbes-Robertson, Jeanne de Casalis, and Martita Hunt. He would continue to be an influential presence in English theater through the next decade.note and say you'd like to put it to your Committee, and what would be his lowest possible terms? It would be a good work for the D.D.L.The Dublin Drama Leaguenote to put Dublin actors in the hands of a first class producer for once. And fierce as The Ring is I wish the Free State would endow an opera (if only a Fritz Brase opera) to do such things. Whatever endowment may be in the end in the beginning it does seem to help in the general sport, at least it did in France and Germany.

What did you think of Lennox's kindly meant letter & the pig faced Con Curran's response?On 1 May MacGreevy's poem 'Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill' was published in the Irish Statesman. Lennox Robinson wrote in a letter to the editor on 8 May that he 'was already aware that L St Senan has made fruitless inquiries in Valladolid about the burying place of Aodh Ruadh O Domnhnaill' and that he had made inquiries of his own to an English Benedictine priest about the matter. On the day MacGreevy's poem was published he received a postcard from this person saying that Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill had been buried in the church of San Francisco, which was at the current site of the Plaza San Francisco. Probably on 15 May C P Curran wrote a response to Robinson's letter disputing this claim and arguing for another spot.note I want particularly that my identity should not be generally known, so I was a little upset by his making it clear to the whole country that St S.MacGreevy published 'Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill' in The Irish Statesman under the pseudonym L. St. Senannote was someone he knew. I didn't mind so much the white herringMacGreevy is probably referring to Mary Devenport O'Neill.note telling everyone at Sarah Purser's that they ought to read the good poem MacGreevy had written. I hated Curran's letter. It seemed to me to spring as much from resentment of Lennox's friendship with a Catholic priest as anything else. It does seem to me they hate him and I wish he could get away from Ireland. It isn't good for anyone to live in a hostile atmosphere & less good for Lennox than most. They admire W.B. as much as they hate him & its a different thing altogether. Lennox would, I believe, be happier here with his Lady Laverys,[p.4 recto] & all the rest. I hoped to treat him to Bayreuthe some time for all his kindness to me, but I'm not sure now that it would be a treat. I may Lunn it in Touraine this autumn.MacGreevy worked off and on as a tour guide for Lunn's Travel Agency. Begun by Sir Henry Simpson Lunn after the end of his career as a minister, Lunn's Travel Agency arranged tours to Europe, especially Switzerland and Italy, and Israel. These tours introduced large areas of Switzerland to the English public, increasing the popularity of winter sports. Sir Henry formed the Hellenic Travellers' Club, Alpine Sports Limited, the Church Travellers' Club, and the Free Church Touring Guild. In addition, Lunn's conducted cultural cruises, combining travel with lectures by well-known speakers. His firm has survived into the twenty-first century as Lunn-Poly.note If I do I shall probably not come back to England again. But all is still uncertain. I have not seen Mrs. Shakespeare ?? since January. But I dined with 'Erb on Monday or Thursday of next week. He volunteered for evening duty during the strike. The creature! But he was not called on. I should think that after a diminutive thing like that had footed it from Brompton to the Customs House & back he wouldn't be much use for evening duty.

Betty Lunn is going to have a baby in January and they are not coming to Cheyne Gardens after all, so I stay on for the present. Hester gets firier & firier as summer approaches & the problem of holidays rises clearer & clearer. There's no DalkeyProbably a reference to Lennox Robinson's home, Sorrento Cottage, in Dalkey, Co Dublin.note this year & neither Dolly nor Hilda pines to go with her, tho' Dolly is loyal & will probably go.

Such a lot of trivialities. Excuse a flat letter. Who's at Ballylee? My love to you all.


I am waiting for your review of the Eliot book. And what news of the 'plays'? Violet Eliot or Charlotte is is probably the "brilliant" writer.Eliot's mother Charlotte was the author of Savonarola which Yeats was asked to review by AE. No review seems to have ever been published. See Yeats's letter of 24 April 1926 for further information.note