Irish government pays €500,000 to keep Yeats’ letters in Ireland
Ireland’s department for Culture and Heritage has invested in a collection of over 500 letters between WB Yeats and his wife George, so that they can remain in the National Library.
Following plans for an auction of the Yeats family collection at Sotheby’s in London last week, the National Library was offered the opportunity to acquire them for the national collection prior to the sale.
Agreement was reached that the letters should not be included in the sale, and they have been purchased privately for €725,000, made possible by special allocation funding of €500,000 provided by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys.
The letters between WB and George Yeats show many facets of their relationship through more than 20 years.
They begin with passionate love letters written in the days before their marriage on 20th October 1917. Later letters discuss Yeats’ movements, meetings, work (writing, theatrical work, collaborations, occult activities) and the domestic realities of daily life.
Correspondence from George Yeats to WB Yeats includes interesting letters written during the Irish Civil War, as well as letters discussing the Abbey Theatre, publications, and access for scholars to WB Yeats’ papers.
NLI Director, Dr Sandra Collins added: “WB Yeats spent many happy years writing in the National Library, so it is really fitting that we hold the most important collection of Yeats material in the world, now enhanced even further by these extensive new acquisitions.”
At the auction last week a writing desk used by the poet sold for £187,500, which was over six times the top estimate of £30,000.
The 18th century oak and mahogany desk was among 224 items of art, antiques and heirlooms being sold by the poet’s grandchildren. But the top lot, a collection of letters between Yeats and his first lover, English writer Olivia Shakespear, failed to sell as offers did not reach the low estimate of £250,000.