Friday 23 February 2018

State stumps up €500,000 at UK auction to keep collection of Yeats letters in Ireland

W.B. Yeats. Scanned from the NPA collection
W.B. Yeats. Scanned from the NPA collection
Melanie Finn

Melanie Finn

A cache of letters written by WB Yeats to his wife George was saved from the hands of a private buyer after the State intervened and snapped them up for the National Library of Ireland (NLI).

The collection, which dates back more than 100 years and has huge historical importance, was due to be auctioned at Sotheby's of London yesterday, but a deal was struck that saw them withdrawn at the last minute.

In good news for Ireland's culture fans, the move saw the lot of more than 500 letters bought for an agreed price of €725,000, with €500,000 of that made available by the Culture Minister Heather Humphreys. The rest came from the NLI's own resources.

action

The department had been working with the NLI in relation to the Yates collection after a public petition signed by leading figures in the Irish arts world called on the State to take action once the letters came up for sale.

The lot was part of a collection put up for sale by Yeats's three grandchildren and chronicle the early stages of the poet's relationship with his wife.

Some start off with passionate declarations during the early days of their relationship, prior to their marriage in 1917.

Others broach more mundane subjects, with one letter detailing Yates's laundry requirements.

Most were written during stays in England or on visits to the US.

There are also letters written during the Irish Civil War and some discussing the Abbey Theatre, of which Yeats was a founding member.

Herald

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