Thursday 8 December 2016

How Joyce bit the Yeats hand that fed him

James Joyce was a regular critic of the poet, despite profiting from their relationship

Anthony J Jordan

Published 30/08/2015 | 02:30

PROSE AND POETRY: James Joyce criticised the work of WB Yeats
PROSE AND POETRY: James Joyce criticised the work of WB Yeats
Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939)

W B Yeats's mentoring of the young James Joyce shows our national poet at his most generous.

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One day, Joyce stopped Yeats in the street and introduced himself. Yeats had previously been warned about Joyce by George Russell, who wrote: "The first spectre of a new generation has appeared. His name is Joyce. I have suffered from him and I would like you to suffer."

Yeats invited Joyce to a smoking room off O'Connell Street, where he endured one of the greatest put-downs in literary history. Yeats records that Joyce "began to explain all his objections to everything I had ever done; politics, folklore, historical settings of events and so on. Above all, why had I written about ideas? These things were all the signs of the cooling of the iron, of the fading out of inspiration. . . his own little book of poetry owed nothing to anything but his own mind which was much nearer to God than folklore".

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