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Series of teenage WB Yeats letters sell for over €53,000 at Sotheby’s auction in London


The letters had a pre-sale estimate of £12,000 to £18,000

The letters had a pre-sale estimate of £12,000 to £18,000

The letters had a pre-sale estimate of £12,000 to £18,000

A series of letters by famous Irish poet WB Yeats, written in his teenage years, sold for over €53,000 (£47,000) at a Sotheby’s auction in London on Tuesday.

While the letters had a pre-sale estimate of €13,000 (£12,000) to €20,000 (£18,000), they sold for €53,076 (£47,880) after 22 bids to an anonymous buyer.

The series features seven letters, six addressed to Ethel Veasey and one to her brother Harley Cyril Veasey, were sent between 1883 and 1885. Yeates met Cyril when they were both attending Godolphin School in Hammersmith.

Ethel was also friends with Lolly Yeats, WB Yeats’ sister.

The letters illustrate the ways that the young poet navigates his early years in Dublin and give a glimpse into the very early states of his career.

The first letters show his ambitions and doubts, as he responds to a question from Ethel about his writing, admitting that he is writing poetry but "none that I am at all satisfied with".

The young poet also writes about his love for nature and one letter focuses on his thoughts about landscape and how he longs for “once acre of green wood willed with the hum of insects”, written three years before his famous poem about nature’s beauty entitled 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree'.

In April 1884, Yeats writes about one of his earliest verse dramas 'Time and the Witch Vivien', giving a summary of the plot as well how it originated at a Christmas fancy dress ball.

"I finished it yesterday I begin today a new play I am also in the middle of a prose romance called The Island of many flowers,” he writes.

Yeats also gives an insight into his personal life and his own changing circumstances.

On July 18, 1884, he gives a vivid account of the family's latest move to 10 Ashfield Terrace and how the view was better at his old home in Howth.

“Our new house is better than our old one but dull, from my Howth window I had a view of a wide sea and much heather and at times could say 'there goes a grey gull - Let verse be as spontaneous as the flight of a grey full over the bay',” he writes.

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“But here from my window I see a straight wall and by much stretching round the corner, the glimpse of a bush very dim and dusty - a lamentable view for a maker of verses."

He also writes about some of his friends, such as writer Katharine Tynan "a writer of exquisite religious poetry" and C.H. Oldham, the editor of the Dublin Literary Review who is described by some to be a political radical: "up to the lips in plots and away in his house on the slopes of the mountains he entertains nihilists and other strange people".

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