The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats (Volume IX): Early Articles and Reviews: Uncollected Articles and Reviews Written Between 1886 and 1900

Overview

The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats, Volume IX: Early Articles and Reviews is part of a fourteen-volume series under the general editorship of eminent Yeats scholars Richard J. Finneran and George Mills Harper. This first complete edition includes virtually all of the Nobel laureate's published work, in authoritative texts with extensive explanatory notes.
Coedited by John P. Frayne and Madeleine Marchaterre, Early Articles and Reviews assembles the earliest examples of Yeats's ...

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The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats Volume IX: Early Art: Uncollected Articles and Reviews Written Between 1886 and 1900

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Overview

The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats, Volume IX: Early Articles and Reviews is part of a fourteen-volume series under the general editorship of eminent Yeats scholars Richard J. Finneran and George Mills Harper. This first complete edition includes virtually all of the Nobel laureate's published work, in authoritative texts with extensive explanatory notes.
Coedited by John P. Frayne and Madeleine Marchaterre, Early Articles and Reviews assembles the earliest examples of Yeats's critical prose, from 1886 to the end of the century — articles and reviews that were not collected into book form by the poet himself. Gathered together now, they show the earliest development of Yeats's ideas on poetry, the role of literature, Irish literature, the formation of an Irish national theater, and the occult, as well as Yeats's interaction with his contemporary writers. As seen here, Yeats's vigorous activity as magazine critic and propagandist for the Irish literary cause belies the popular picture created by his poetry of the "Celtic Twilight" period, that of an idealistic dreamer in flight from the harsh realities of the practical world.
This new volume adds four years' worth of Yeats's writings not included in a previous (1970) edition of his early articles and reviews. It also greatly expands the background notes and textual notes, bringing this compilation up to date with the busy world of Yeats scholarship over the last three decades. Early Articles and Reviews is an essential sourcebook illuminating Yeat's reading, his influences, and his literary opinions about other poets and writers.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This ninth volume in Scribner's comprehensive collection of the work of W.B. Yeats showcases the earliest examples of the Irish poet's critical prose from 1886 to 1900. The collection of articles and reviews (with background and textual notes) is full of the great poet's literary observations on a variety of subjects. He briefly glosses historical figures such as Oscar Wilde, William Blake, A.E. Houseman, and Belgian dramatist Maurice Maeterlinck. He also writes about Irish fairies, ghosts, and witches, mentions the threat of French decadence, and pronounces the ante-modernist caveat that "there shall be no literary class with its own way of seeing things and its own conventions." This is an important collection of works that were never gathered together in book form by Yeats himself. Recommended to all readers and all libraries.-Scott Hightower, Fordham Univ., New York Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684807300
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 6/2/2004
  • Pages: 672
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 1.44 (d)

Meet the Author

William Butler Yeats is generally considered to be Ireland’s greatest poet, living or dead, and one of the most important literary figures of the twentieth century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923.

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Chapter One

THE POETRY OF SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON — I

This article appeared in The Irish Fireside of 9 October 1886, under the heading "Irish Poets and Irish Poetry." Sir Samuel Ferguson had died on 9 August 1886, and the present article was one of two pieces written by Yeats to sum up the achievement of Ferguson. This article may have been written after the longer, more detailed one that appeared in The Dublin University Review of November 1886, pp. 10-27 in this collection. In the present article Yeats writes about Ferguson's Conary, from Poems (Dublin: W. McGee, 1880), "Of this poem's splendid plot, which I have no space to describe here, I have written somewhat copiously elsewhere."

Sir Samuel Ferguson (1810-86), Belfast-born poet and antiquary, most heavily influenced Yeats by his attempt to use ancient Irish legends and heroic sagas as subjects for his poems. What Ferguson's work meant to Yeats is writ large in this and the following article.

Of old, unhappy, far-off things,

And battles long ago.

In the garden of the world's imagination there are seven great fountains. The seven great cycles of legends — the Indian; the Homeric; the Charlemagnic; the Spanish, circling round the Cid; the Arthurian; the Scandinavian; and the Irish — all differing one from the other, as the peoples differed who created them. Every one of these cycles is the voice of some race celebrating itself, embalming for ever what it hated and loved. Back to their old legends go, year after year, the poets of the earth, seeking the truth about nature and man, that they may not be lost in a world of mere shadow and dream.

Sir Samuel Ferguson's special claim to our attention is that he went back to the Irish cycle, finding it, in truth, a fountain that, in the passage of centuries, was overgrown with weeds and grass, so that the very way to it was forgotten of the poets; but now that his feet have worn the pathway, many others will follow, and bring thence living waters for the healing of our nation, helping us to live the larger life of the Spirit, and lifting our souls away from their selfish joys and sorrows to be the companions of those who lived greatly among the woods and hills when the world was young.

It was in Ferguson's later poems that he restored to us the old heroes themselves; in his first work, Lays of the Western Gael, he gave us rather instants of heroic passion, as in 'Owen Bawn', and 'Deirdre's Lament for the Sons of Usnach', or poems in which character is subordinated to some dominant idea or event, as in the 'Welshmen of Tirawley', and 'Willy Gilliland', or tales round which is shed the soft lustre of idyllic thought, as the 'Fairy Thorn'.

In other words, he was more lyrical and romantic than dramatic in this first and best known of his books. 'The Fairy Thorn', does the whole range of our rich ballad literature contain a more beautiful ballad of 'the good people' than this? I will quote almost the whole of it:

'Get up, our Anna dear, from the weary spinning-wheel,

For your father's on the hill, and your mother's asleep;

Come up above the crags, and we'll dance a highland-reel

Around the fairy thorn on the steep'.

At Anna Grace's door 'twas thus the maidens cried —

Three merry maidens fair, in kirtles of the green;

And Anna laid the sock and weary wheel aside,

dThe fairest of the four, I ween.

They're glancing through the glimmer of the quiet eve,

Away, in milky wavings of neck and ankle bare;

The heavy sliding stream in its sleepy song they leave,

And the crags in the ghostly air;

And linking hand in hand, and singing as they go,

The maids along the hillside have ta'en their fearless way,

Till they come to where the rowen trees in lonely beauty grow

Beside the fairy hawthorne grey.

But solemn is the silence of the silvery haze

That drinks away their voices echoless repose,

And dreamily the evening has still'd the haunted braes,

And dreamier the gloaming grows.

And sinking one by one, like lark-notes from the sky

When the falcon's shadow saileth across the open shaw,

Are hushed the maidens' voices, as cowering down they lie

In the flutter of their sudden awe.

For from the air above, and the grassy ground beneath,

And from the mountain ashes, and the old whitethorn between,

A power of faint enchantment doth through their beings breathe,

And they sink down together on the green.

Thus clasped and prostrate all, with their heads together bow'd,

Soft on their bosoms beating — the only human sound —

They hear the silky footsteps of the silent fairy crowd,

Like a river in the air, gliding round.

No scream can they raise, nor prayer can they say,

But wild, wild, the terror of the speechless three —

For they feel fair Anna Grace drawn silently away —

By whom they dare not look to see.

They feel their tresses twine with her parting locks of gold,

And the curls elastic falling, as her head withdraws;

They feel her sliding arms from their tranced arms unfold,

But they may not look to see the cause.

For heavy on their senses the faint enchantment lies

Through all that night of anguish and perilous amaze;

And neither fear nor wonder can ope their quivering eyes,

Or their limbs from the cold ground raise.

Till out of night the earth has rolled her dewy side,

With every haunted mountain and streamy vale below;

When, as the mist dissolves in the yellow morning tide,

The maidens' trance dissolveth so.

Then fly the ghastly three as swiftly as they may,

And tell their tale of sorrow to anxious friends in vain —

They pined away,6 and died within the year and day;

And ne'er was Anna Grace seen again.

You must go to the book itself for that ringing ballad, 'Willy Gilliland', or that other, 'The Welshmen of Tirawley', which I am told the English poet Swinburne considers the best Irish poem, for I cannot do them justice by short quotations. I could give no idea of a fine building by showing a carved flower from a cornice.

His well-known poem, the 'Lament of Deirdre', is a version from the Irish. It is one of 'the things of the old time before'. The name of him who wrote it has perished, his grave is unknown; and she in whose mouth it is put beheld the dawn from her tent door, and heard the long oars smiting the grey sea, and beheld the hills and the forest, and had her good things long ago, and departed. Well then, perhaps, some one will say, if it has come from so far off, what good can it do us moderns, with our complex life? Assuredly it will not help you to make a fortune, or even live respectably that little life of yours. Great poetry does not teach us anything — it changes us. Man is like a musical instrument of many strings, of which only a few are sounded by the narrow interests of his daily life; and the others, for want of use, are continually becoming tuneless and forgotten. Heroic poetry is a phantom finger swept over all the strings, arousing from man's whole nature a song of answering harmony. It is the poetry of action, for such alone can arouse the whole nature of man. It touches all the strings — those of wonder and pity, of fear and joy. It ignores morals, for its business is not in any way to make us rules for life, but to make character. It is not, as a great English writer has said, 'a criticism of life',9 but rather a fire in the spirit, burning away what is mean and deepening what is shallow.

Sir S. Ferguson's longest poem, Congal, appeared in 1872. Many critics held this to be his greatest work. I myself rather prefer his Deirdre, of which more presently. Deirdre is in blank verse, which, I think, sustains better the dignity of its subject than the somewhat ballad metre of Congal. Nevertheless, Congal is a poem of lyric strength and panther-like speed.

It is the story of the death in the seventh century, at the battle of Moyra (or Moira) of Congal Claen. Congal was a heathen; his enemy, the arch-King Ardrigh, was a Christian. This war was the sunset of Irish heathendom. Across Ireland, eager for the battle, march Congal and his warriors. The demons of field and flood appear to them and prophesy their destruction. Defying heaven and hell, on march the heathen hosts. One morning, in the midst of the ford of Ullarvu, they behold that gruesomest of Celtic demons, 'the Washer of the Ford' — a grey hag, to her knees in the river, washing the heads and the bodies of men. Congal fearlessly questions her.

'I am the Washer of the Ford', she answered; 'and my race

Is of the Tuath de Danaan line of Magi; and my place

For toil is in the running streams of Erin; and my cave

For sleep is in the middle of the shell-heaped Cairn of Maev,

High up on haunted Knocknarea, and this fine carnage-heap

Before me, in these silken vests and mantles which I steep

Thus in the running water, are the severed heads and hands,

And spear-torn scarfs and tunics of these gay-dressed gallant bands

Whom thou, O Congal, leadest to death. And this', the Fury said,

Uplifting by the clotted locks what seemed a dead man's head,

'Is thine head, O Congal!'

Still on they go, these indomitable pagans. Surely nothing will resist their onset. Will they not even shake the throne of God in their sublime audacity? No; Congal when he has accomplished deeds of marvellous valour is slain by the hand of an idiot boy who carries a sickle for sword, and the lid of a cauldron for shield. Ah, strange irony of the Celt.

Notice throughout this poem the continual introduction of the supernatural. I once heard a great English poet, in comparing two existing descriptions of the battle of Clontarf, the Irish and the Danish, say that the Irish narrator turns continually aside to discuss some great problem, or describe some supernatural event, while the Dane records only what affects the result of the battle. This was so, he said, because the Celtic nature is mainly lyrical, and the Danish, mainly dramatic.

The lyrical nature loves to linger on what is strange and fantastic.

In 1880, was published Ferguson's last volume, Poems.

In England it received no manner of recognition. Anti-Irish feeling ran too high. 'Can any good thing come out of Galilee', they thought. How could these enlightened critics be expected to praise a book that entered their world with no homage of imitation towards things Anglican?

Sir Samuel Ferguson himself, declares the true cause of this want of recognition in English critical centres in a letter published the other day in the Irish Monthly. He sought to lay the foundation of a literature for Ireland that should be in every way characteristic and national, hence the critics were against him.

In this last book of his are his two greatest poems, Conary, which de Vere considers the best Irish poem, and Deirdre.

In Conary, thus is the king of Ireland described by a pirate's spy —

One I saw

Seated apart: before his couch there hung

A silver broidered curtain; grey he was,

Of aspect mild, benevolent, composed.

A cloak he wore, of colour like the haze

Of a May morning, when the sun shines warm

On dewy meads and fresh-ploughed tillage land;

Variously beautiful, with border broad

Of golden woof that glittered to his knee

A stream of light. Before him, on the floor,

A juggler played his feats; nine balls he had,

And flung them upward, eight in air at once,

And one in hand: like swarm of summer bees

They danced and circled, till his eye met mine;

Then he could catch no more; but down they fell

And rolled upon the floor. 'An evil eye

Has seen me', said the juggler.

Of this poem's splendid plot, which I have no space to describe here, I have written somewhat copiously elsewhere.

Deirdre is the noblest woman in Irish romance. Pursued by the love of King Conor, she flies with her lover and his brethren and his tribe. Who has not heard of their famous wanderings? At last peace is made; but she who has been like a wise elder sister to the sons of Usnach knows that it is treacherous, and warns Naoise, her lover. He will not believe her. Sadly she sings upon her harp, as they leave their refuge in Glen Etive —

Harp, take my bosom's burthen on thy string,

And, turning it to sad, sweet melody,

Waste and disperse it on the careless air.

Air, take the harp-string's burthen on thy breast,

And, softly thrilling soul-ward through the sense,

Bring my love's heart again in tune with mine.

Alba, farewell! Farewell, fair Etive bank!

Sun kiss thee; moon caress thee; dewy stars

Refresh thee long, dear scene of quiet days!

Slowly they are meshed about and entrapped; the sons of Usnach are slain, and she kills herself that she may escape the power of King Conor.

Sir Samuel Ferguson, I contend, is the greatest Irish poet, because in his poems and the legends, they embody more completely than in any other man's writings, the Irish character. Its unflinching devotion to some single aim. Its passion. 'The food of the passions is bitter, the food of the spirit is sweet', say the wise Indians. And this faithfulness to things tragic and bitter, to thoughts that wear one's life out and scatter one's joy, the Celt has above all others. Those who have it, alone are worthy of great causes. Those who have it not, have in them some vein of hopeless levity, the harlequins of the earth.

One thing more before I cease; if I were asked to characterize, as shortly as may be, these poems, I should do so by applying to them the words of Spenser, 'barbarous truth.'

Compilation copyright © 2004 by Michael Yeats

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

Abbreviations

Articles and Reviews by W. B. Yeats

1. "The Poetry of Sir Samuel Ferguson — I," The Irish Fireside, 9 October 1886

2. "The Poetry of Sir Samuel Ferguson — II," The Dublin University Review, November 1886

3. "The Poetry of R. D. Joyce," The Irish Fireside, 27 November and 4 December 1886

4. "Clarence Mangan (1803-1849)," The Irish Fireside, 12 March 1887

5. A fragment of "Finn MacCool" from The Gael, 23 April 1887

6. "The Celtic Romances in Miss Tynan's New Book" (review of Shamrocks), The Gael, 11 June 1887

7. "Miss Tynan's New Book" (review of Shamrocks), The Irish Fireside, 9 July 1887

8. "The Prose and Poetry of Wilfred Blunt"
(review of Love Songs of Proteus), United Ireland, 28 January 1888

9. "Irish Fairies, Ghosts, Witches, etc.," Lucifer, 15 January 1889

10. "Irish Wonders" (review of D. R. McAnally's book), The Scots Observer, 30 March 1889

11. "John Todhunter," The Magazine of Poetry (Buffalo), April 1889 86

12. "William Carleton" (review of Red-Haired Man's Wife), The Scots Observer, 19 October 1889

13. "Popular Ballad Poetry of Ireland," The Leisure Hour, November 1889

14. "Bardic Ireland" (review of S. Bryant's Celtic Ireland),
The Scots Observer, 4 January 1890

15. "Tales from the Twilight" (review of Lady Wilde's Ancient Cures), The Scots Observer, 1 March 1890

16. "Irish Fairies," The Leisure Hour, October 1890

17. "Irish Folk Tales" (review of D. Hyde's Beside the Fire), The National Observer, 28 February 1891

18. "Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling" (review of G. E. Leland's book), The National Observer, 18 April 1891

19. "Plays by an Irish Poet" (review of J. Todhunter's A Sicilian Idyll), United Ireland, 11 July 1891

20. "Clarence Mangan's Love Affair," United Ireland, 22 August 1891

21. "A Reckless Century. Irish Rakes and Duellists," United Ireland, 12 September 1891

22. "Oscar Wilde's Last Book" (review of Lord Arthur Savile's Crime), United Ireland, 26 September 1891

23. "The Young Ireland League," United Ireland, 3 October 1891

24. "A Poet We Have Neglected" (review of W. Allingham's collected poems), United Ireland, 12 December 1891

25. "Poems by Miss Tynan" (review of Ballads and Lyrics), Evening Herald (Dublin), 2 January 1892

26. "The New 'Speranza'" (article on Maud Gonne), United Ireland, 16 January 1892

27. "Dr. Todhunter's Irish Poems" (review of The Banshee), United Ireland, 23 January 1892

28. "Clovis Hugues on Ireland," United Ireland, 30 January 1892

29. "Sight and Song" (review of M. Field's book), The Bookman, July 1892

30. "Some New Irish Books" (review of books by G. Savage-Armstrong, W. Larminie, and R. J. Reilly), United Ireland, 23 July 1892

31. "Dublin Scholasticism and Trinity College," United Ireland, 30 July 1892

32. "A New Poet" (review of E. J. Ellis's Fate in Arcadia), The Bookman, September 1892

33. "'Noetry' and Poetry" (review of G. Savage-Armstrong's collected poems), The Bookman, September 1892

34. "Invoking the Irish Fairies," The Irish Theosophist, October 1892

35. "Hopes and Fears for Irish Literature," United Ireland, 15 October 1892

36. "The Death of Oenone" (review of Tennyson's poems), The Bookman, December 1892

37. "The Vision of MacConglinne" (review of K. Meyer's edition), The Bookman, February 1893

38. "The Wandering Jew" (review of R. Buchanan's poem), The Bookman, April 1893

39. "A Bundle of Poets" (review of A. H. Hallam's poems, etc.), The Speaker, 22 July 1893

40. "The Writings of William Blake" (review of L. Housman's selection), The Bookman, August 1893

41. "The Message of the Folk-lorist" (article, and review of T. F. Dyer's The Ghost World), The Speaker, 19 August 1893

42. "Two Minor Lyrists" (review of poems by J. D. Hosken and Fenil Haig [F. M. Ford]), The Speaker, 26 August 1893

43. "Old Gaelic Love Songs" (review of D. Hyde's Love Songs of Connacht), The Bookman, October 1893

44. "The Ainu" (review of B. D. Howard's Life with Trans-Siberian Savages), The Speaker, 7 October 1893

45. "Reflections and Refractions" (review of C. Weekes's poems), The Academy, 4 November 1893

46. "Seen in Three Days" (review of E. J. Ellis's poem), The Bookman, February 1894

47. "A Symbolical Drama in Paris" (review of Villiers de
L'Isle-Adam's Axël), The Bookman, April 1894

48. "The Evangel of Folk-lore" (review of
W. Larminie's West Irish Folk Tales), The Bookman,
June 1894

49. "A New Poet" (review of AE's Homeward, Songs
by the Way), The Bookman,
August 1894

50. "Some Irish National Books" (review of books by M. MacDermott, E. M. Lynch, and C. O'Kelly), The Bookman, August 1894

51. "An Imaged World" (review of E. Garnett's prose poems), The Speaker, 8 September 1894

52. "The Stone and the Elixir" (review of F. E. Garrett's translation of H. Ibsen's Brand), The Bookman, October 1894

53. "Battles Long Ago" (review of S. O'Grady's The Coming of Cuculain), The Bookman, February 1895

54. "An Excellent Talker" (review of O. Wilde's A Woman of No Importance), The Bookman, March 1895

55. "Dublin Mystics" (review of AE's Homeward, Songs by the Way, 2nd ed., and J. Eglinton's Two Essays on the Remnant), The Bookman, May 1895

56. "The Story of Early Gaelic Literature" (review of D. Hyde's history), The Bookman, June 1895

57. "Irish National Literature, I: From Callanan to Carleton," The Bookman, July 1895

58. "The Three Sorrows of Story-telling" (review of D. Hyde's translation), The Bookman, July 1895

59. "Irish National Literature, II: Contemporary Prose Writers," The Bookman, August 1895

60. "That Subtle Shade" (review of A. Symons's London Nights), The Bookman, August 1895

61. "Irish National Literature, III: Contemporary Irish Poets," The Bookman, September 1895

62. "Irish National Literature, IV: A List of the Best Irish Books," The Bookman, October 1895

63. "The Life of Patrick Sarsfield" (review of J. Todhunter's biography), The Bookman, November 1895

64. "The Chain of Gold" (review of S. O'Grady's book), The Bookman, November 1895

65. "William Carleton" (review of Carleton's autobiography), The Bookman, March 1896

66. "William Blake" (review of R. Garnett's book), The Bookman, April 1896

67. "An Irish Patriot" (review of Lady Ferguson's biography of Sir Samuel Ferguson), The Bookman, May 1896

68. "The New Irish Library" (review of books by R. A. King, J. F. Taylor, and C. G. Duffy), The Bookman, June 1896

69. "William Carleton" (review of Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry), The Bookman (New York), August 1896

70. "Greek Folk Poesy" (review of L. Garnett's collection), The Bookman, October 1896

71. "The Well at the World's End" (review of W. Morris's romance), The Bookman, November 1896

72. "Miss Fiona Macleod as a Poet" (review of Macleod's [William Sharp's] From the Hills of Dream), The Bookman, December 1896

73. "Young Ireland" (review of C. G. Duffy's book), The Bookman, January 1897

74. "Mr. John O'Leary" (review of O'Leary's Recollections of Fenians and Fenianism), The Bookman, February 1897

75. "Mr. Arthur Symons' New Book" (review of Amoris Victima), The Bookman, April 1897

76. "Miss Fiona Macleod" (review of Macleod's [William Sharp's] Spiritual Tales, Tragic Romances and Barbaric Tales), The Sketch, 28 April 1897

77. "The Treasure of the Humble" (review of Maeterlinck's book), The Bookman, July 1897

78. "Mr. Standish O'Grady's Flight of the Eagle," The Bookman, August 1897

79. "Bards of the Gael and the Gall" (review of G. Sigerson's book), The Illustrated London News, 14 August 1897

80. "Aglavaine and Sélysette" (review of Maeterlinck's play), The Bookman, September 1897

81. "The Tribes of Danu," The New Review, November 1897

82. "Three Irish Poets" (article on AE, Nora Hopper, and Lionel Johnson), The Irish Homestead, December 1897

83. "The Prisoners of the Gods," The Nineteenth Century, January 1898

84. "Mr. Lionel Johnson's Poems" (review of Ireland, with Other Poems), The Bookman, February 1898

85. "Mr. Rhys' Welsh Ballads," The Bookman, April 1898

86. "The Broken Gates of Death," The Fortnightly Review, April 1898

87. "Le Mouvement Celtique: Fiona Macleod" (article with a review of The Laughter of Peterkin), L'Irlande Libre, 1 April 1898

88. "AE's Poems" (review of The Earth Breath), The Sketch, 6 April 1898

89. "Le Mouvement Celtique: II. M. John O'Leary," L'Irlande Libre, 1 June 1898

90. "Celtic Beliefs About the Soul" (review of Meyer's translation of The Voyage of Bran), The Bookman, September 1898

91. "John Eglinton and Spiritual Art," The Daily Express (Dublin), 29 October 1898, reprinted in Literary Ideals in Ireland, 1899

92. "A Symbolic Artist and the Coming of Symbolic Art," The Dome, December 1898

93. "High Crosses of Ireland," The Daily Express (Dublin), 28 January 1899

94. "Notes on Traditions and Superstitions," Folk-lore, March 1899

95. "The Irish Literary Theatre," Literature, 6 May 1899

96. "The Dominion of Dreams" (review of Macleod's book), The Bookman, July 1899

97. "Ireland Bewitched," The Contemporary Review, September 1899

98. "The Literary Movement in Ireland," The North American Review, December 1899, reprinted in Ideals in Ireland, 1901

Copy Texts, Emendations, and Notes

Copy Texts Used in This Edition

Emendations to the Copy Texts

Notes

Index

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