Irish Literary Society of London

Dublin University Review Founded in 1885, the Dublin University Review was a high-toned monthly magazine catering to a general readership. The review was edited by the political economist Charles Hubert Oldham (1860–1926), the leader of a “small group of intellectual Protestant Home Rulers in Trinity College” and the moving spirit behind the Contemporary Club (W. B. Yeats 45), and by the poet-journalist T. W. Rolleston (1857–1920), who would later become a member of the Rhymers’ Club and cofounder with Yeats of the Irish Literary Society of London (see National Literary Society). Yeats’s first published work began to appear in the review in 1885. In his Autobiographies, Yeats recalls having to perform a trial reading of his play The Island of Statues before the editors of the review in Oldham’s rooms at Trinity (98). Yeats’s contributions to the review were as follows: “Song of the Fairies” and “Voices” (songs from The Island of Statues, the latter reprinted as “The Cloak, the Boat, and the Shoes”), March 1885; The Island of Statues, April–July 1885; “Love and Death,” May 1885; The Seeker, September 1885; “An Epilogue. To ‘The Island of Statues’ and ‘The Seeker’ ” (later “The Song of the Happy Shepherd”), October 1885; “In a Drawing-Room,” January 1886; “Life,” February 1886; “The Two Titans. A Political Poem,” March 1886; “On Mr. Nettleship’s Picture at the Royal Hibernian Academy,” April 1886; Mosada, June 1886; “Miserrimus” (later “The Sad Shepherd”) and “From the Book of Kauri the Indian—Section V. On the Nature of God” (later “The Indian upon God”), October 1886; “The Poetry of Sir Samuel Ferguson,” November 1886; “An Indian Song” (later “The Indian to his Love”), December 1886. The poems and plays are reprinted in The Variorum Edition of the Poems of W. B. Yeats, while the essay on Ferguson is reprinted in the first volume of Uncollected Prose by W. B. Yeats. Bibliography Hone, Joseph. W. B. Yeats; Wade, Allan. A Bibliography of the Writings of W. B. Yeats; Yeats, W. B. Autobiographies, Uncollected Prose by W. B. Yeats (vol. 1), The Variorum Edition of the Poems of W. B. Yeats. Dun E mer P ress The Dun Emer Industries, to which the Dun Emer Press belonged, were launched in 1902 by Evelyn Gleeson (1855–1944), the 46-year-old daughter of an Irish physician who abandoned medicine to found the Athlone Woolen Mills (Dun Emer Press 14). Inspired by William Morris’s craft movement and by the Irish Renaissance that was by then well under way, Gleeson sought to create a workshop that would assist the revival of Irish culture while providing young girls with employment and education in weaving, embroidery, and printing. Gleeson was familiar with Yeats’s sisters, Lily Yeats (1866–1949) and Lolly Yeats (1868–1940), through the Irish Literary Society of London (see National Literary Society), and she enlisted them as founding partners (Yeats Sisters 99). Their famous brother aside, they had much to recommend them. Lolly had published four primers for young painters (G. Philip and Son, London, 1895, 1898, 1899, 1900) and Lily had been an embroiderer with Morris and Company, working under Morris’s daughter May from 1888 to 1894 (63–67). They had no capital to invest, but Gleeson’s friend Augustine Henry, a botanist, came to the rescue. “Not only would he advance short-term loans towards the capital necessary for setting up the business,” writes Joan Hardwick, “he would also guarantee in the form of a loan, a yearly income for Lily and Lolly should initial profits be insufficientto provide this. The loan was to be paid back from subsequent profits” (113). Lily was to be in charge of embroidery, and Lolly in charge of printing and publishing. The enterprise was called “Dun Emer” (“Emer’s Fort”) in honor of Cuchulain’s wife, the legendary Emer, who was renowned for her domestic skills. In October 1902, John Butler Yeats and his two daughters moved from Bedford Park to a house called “Gurteen Dhas” (“pretty little meadow”), in the Dublin suburb of Churchtown, about five miles southwest of Dublin. From there it was a 35-minute walk to the leased house near the village of Dundrum that served as the Dun Emer workshop as well as Gleeson’s residence (PF 241). By 1905, Dun Emer employed 30 young women (Dun Emer Press 15). As R. F. Foster notes, “Working at Dun Emer became a way-station, almost a rite of passage, for many young women involved in nationalist cultural enterprises: future writers, painters, Sinn Féin activists, and Abbey actresses served their time there” (AM 275). Lolly modeled the Dun Emer Press on Morris’s Kelmscott Press. The Dun Emer publications were distinguished by fine paper (high rag-content paper from Saggart Mills, near Dublin) and elegant type (14-point Caslon Old Style). All printing was done on an 1853 model Demy Albion hand press (Dun Emer Press 103; Yeats Sisters 120). Headings, notes, and colophons were printed in red ink in what was to become a trademark of the press, and editions numbered between 200 and 500 copies. As one of the most renowned men of letters in Ireland, Yeats acted as literary adviser and editor, keeping the press supplied with his own work and with the work of his friends. It became customary that Yeats’s work was published in small editions by his sisters and then in larger editions by commercial firms. Inevitably, Yeats and Lolly—the high-handed brother and the temperamental sister—quarreled about editorial decisions, and John Butler Yeats was frequently required to act as conciliator (PF 265, 304–307). The press’s maiden volume—a tour de force— was Yeats’s collection of poems In the Seven Woods. It was sent to subscribers in August 1903. Yeats’s inscription in a copy of the volume sent to John Quinn indicates his satisfaction with the press’s

Portrait of Lily Yeats
Portrait of Lily Yeats, the poet’s sister, circa 1877, by
John Butler Yeats (Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane)

handiwork: “This is the first book of mine that is a pleasure to look at—a pleasure whether open or shut” (Biblio. 67; Dun Emer Press 33). Over the five-year career of the press there followed 10 further volumes: The Nuts of Knowledge by George Russell (AE), December 1, 1903; The Love Songs of Connacht by Douglas Hyde (preface by Yeats), July 4, 1904; Twenty-One Poems by Lionel Johnson (selected by Yeats), February 21, 1905; Stories of Red Hanrahan, by Yeats, May 16, 1905; Some Essays and Passages by John Eglinton (selected by Yeats), August 25, 1905; Sixteen Poems by William Allingham (selected by Yeats), November 27, 1905; A Book of Saints and Wonders by Lady Gregory, September 10, 1906; By Still Waters: Lyrical Poems by George Russell, December 14, 1906; Twenty One Poems by Katharine Tynan (selected by Yeats), August 6, 1907; Discoveries by Yeats, December 15, 1907 (Biblio. 451–452; Dun Emer Press 105–107). By 1904, relations with the difficult Gleeson were beginning to sour and the Yeats sisters were in financial difficulties, as they would be perpetually,with Yeats expected to come to the rescue (CL3 547–548). In an agreement arbitrated by George Russell on behalf of the sisters, the industries split into Gleeson’s Dun Emer Guild and the sisters’ Dun Emer Industries. The two entities operated independently though they remained under the same roof, with the sisters paying a third of the rent and a share of expenses (Yeats Sisters 131). In 1908, the sisters fully dissolved their partnership with Gleeson and struck out on their own, forming Cuala Industries on the model of its predecessor. Over subsequent decades the Cuala Press carried on the work of the Dun Emer Press.

3 thoughts on “Irish Literary Society of London

  1. is something that is shown in the facets of your life and not the literary appeal of your words.

  2. I should like to know where I can find a list of the Presidents and Vice-Presidnets of the Irish Literary Society for the periods 1908-1912 and 1924-1948. Thank you

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