Friday 20 April 2018

How Joyce bit the Yeats hand that fed him

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

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)

Anthony J Jordan

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

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".

Please sign in or register with for free access to Opinions.

Sign In

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss