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Monday, October 8, 2018

William B. Yeats Visits Boston in 1911 to Promote Ireland's National Theatre





Irish poet William Butler Yeats was feted at a luncheon in Boston on October 6, 1911 by local literary and Irish leaders.  The luncheon hosted by the John Boyle O’Reilly Club and covered by The Boston Globe.   

This was part of an American tour in fall 2011 to promote the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s new national theatre.  The Boston visit included presentations of J.M. Synge’s plays, including the controversial Playboy of the Western World.

During Yeats’ remarks, he paid special tribute to O’Reilly, saying in part:

“I never met Boyle O’Reilly, but, as far as I can remember, the first poem of mine that was ever paid for appeared in the Boston Pilot under is editorship.  I don’t remember how I came to send my poems to him, but rumor used to come back to Ireland of his romantic and gallant personality and we all knew of his adventurous life.  Probably it was old John O’Leary, the Fenian, who got me to send them, for he had told me much of O’Reilly.”

Regarding Ireland’s cultural and political movements, Yeats said “the present intellectual movement in Ireland came immediately after the death of Parnell. When Parnell died there came political discouragement.  For nine years the disputes of the Irish part took the romance from public life.  Everything became individual.  There were no longer any generals; everybody had to do the best he could.”

Yeats said that now, “we are beginning to see the true lineaments of the national character again.  How harsh it can be, how gracious it can be.  The spirit of Goldsmith, the spirit of Swift has come back to us.”

Here is information about the W.B. Yeats collection at John J. Burns Library at Boston College.

In 1988, the W.B. Yeats Foundation was formed by Professor James Flannery at Emory University in Atlanta.

For details on cultural activities in greater Boston, visit IrishBoston.org.  For information on Boston's Irish heritage, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.