Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Creator:
Yeats, John Butler, 1839-1922
Collector:
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Title:
John Butler Yeats Collection
Repository:
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/d791sg20w
Dates:
1909-1978 (mostly 1911-1922)
Size:
22 boxes, 8 items, and 9.31 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Boxes 1-21; 2A
Language:
English

Abstract

Consists of original manuscripts, drawings, correspondence, miscellaneous materials, photographs and portraits, articles, clippings, and other printed material by and related to the Irish portrait painter John Butler Yeats.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Description:

The collection consists of original manuscripts, drawings, correspondence, miscellaneous materials, photographs and portraits, articles, clippings, and other printed material by and related to John Butler Yeats. The bulk of the collection, however, is composed of typed transcripts of this correspondence as well as copies of other correspondence (primarily letters by and to John Quinn from the John Quinn Memorial Collection in the New York Public Library), and other research material.

The manuscripts include an autograph draft of "The Last of Her Sex," typed and corrected drafts of "Extravaganza Written in Anticipation," "The Haunted House," "Jack B. Yeats," "A Painter on Painting" (which appeared in The Seven Arts, April 1917), and an untitled manuscript.

The drawings consist of two pencil self-portraits, several of women, and one of an unidentified group.

The original correspondence (with many of the original envelopes) from 1908 to 1922 documents Yeats's years in New York. The majority of the correspondence is by Yeats to several of his American friends, including Martha Fletcher Bellinger, Mary Tower Lapsley Caughey, Eulabee Dix (Becker), Dolly Sloan, John Sloan, Ann Squire, and others. Many of these letters are heavily illustrated with humorous sketches and drawings. Some of the envelopes addressed to Mary Tower Lapsley Caughey contain notes by her. There are also letters to Yeats by others, including his daughters Elizabeth Corbet (Lollie) Yeats and Susan Mary (Lily) Yeats, and his son Jack (John) Butler Yeats. Furthermore, there is a small selection of correspondence between various persons about Yeats.

The photographs show the sitting room in Yeats's house in Dundrum, Ireland, and Anne Yeats (daughter of W. B. (William Butler) Yeats) as a young child with her nurse; and there are photographic reproductions of Yeats's portraits of Mary Tower Lapsley Caughey, Mary-Lapsley Caughey Guest, and Padraic Colum, as well as of some drawings.

The miscellaneous materials consist of envelopes addressed by Yeats to Charlotte (?) Jordan and W. B. (William Butler) Yeats, a list of Yeats's articles by Elizabeth Corbet (Lollie) Yeats, a drawing with notes by Mary Tower Lapsley Caughey, a typed and corrected draft of "Memories of J. B. Yeats" by Mary-Lapsley Caughey Guest (?), a poem, "Theocritus," by Mary-Lapsley Caughey Guest, and a typed transcript of "An Incident of the British Occupation of Egypt in 1882" by Captain George Freeman (Fitzgerald) (?).

The research material was compiled by William Murphy, Glenn O'Malley, and Donald Torchiana-probably used by Murphy in his research for his biography Prodigal Father: The Life of John Butler Yeats, 1839-1922 (1978), and intended for use by O'Malley and Torchiana in a publication of the correspondence of Yeats to his American friends. Included are typed transcripts and photocopies of the original correspondence by Yeats in the collection, as well as of his correspondence to Van Wyck Brooks, Robert Henri, and others. Also present are typed transcripts, photocopies, and microfilm of the correspondence of John Quinn with John Butler Yeats, Jack (John) Butler Yeats, and others from the John Quinn Memorial Collection in the New York Public Library. In addition, there are notes about the correspondence and other related material.

Articles by Yeats, written while in New York, include essays, poetry, and letters to the editor. The clippings document Yeats's social circle in New York, publications of his essays and letters, interviews, various posthumous remembrances, and other related topics. The other printed material includes miscellaneous publications about Yeats and Jack (John) Butler Yeats.

Arrangement:

The collection has been arranged in the following series:

Collection Creator Biography:

Yeats, John Butler, 1839-1922

John Butler Yeats was born in the parish of Tullylish, County Down, Ireland, on March 16, 1839. He attended Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated in 1862. He then studied law at King's Inns and was admitted to the bar in 1866.

In 1867 he ended his career as a barrister to pursue his life-long interest in drawing at Heatherley's Art School in London. Yeats went on to become a talented and well-known, albeit moderately successful, portrait painter, primarily of Irish writers and prominent people in the theater.

Yeats was also the father of four artistic children, including the poet W. B. (William Butler) Yeats, and the painter and illustrator Jack (John) Butler Yeats.

In December, 1907, Yeats accompanied his eldest daughter, Susan Mary (Lily) Yeats, to an embroidery exhibit in New York City for what was intended as a short visit. However, Yeats remained there for the following 14 years and never returned to Dublin. He took up residence at a boarding house run by the Petitpas sisters at 317 West 29th Street, and participated in the literary and art communities of the city. In New York, Yeats continued to paint portraits and sketch for commissions, as well as for friends and himself. He also wrote several essays on subjects that included art, Irish issues, and women, and was a public speaker at venues in the eastern United States. Within his circle of artistic friends in New York, Yeats was known as an exceptional conversationalist. During this time he nurtured friendships with Martha Fletcher Bellinger, the writer Van Wyck Brooks, Mary Tower Lapsley Caughey, the miniature painter Eulabee Dix (Becker), the painter John Sloan and his wife, Dolly, Ann Squire, the lawyer and art patron John Quinn, and several others. Yeats maintained contact with his family in Europe and friends in America through extensive correspondence.

On February 3, 1922, Yeats died, leaving behind an unfinished self-portrait, commissioned by Quinn, that he had been working on for 11 years. He is buried in Chestertown, New York, near Lake George in the Adirondacks.

Collection History

Acquisition:

Gift of Mary Lapsley Guest, Glenn O'Malley, Prof. Charles C. Gillispie, Mr. Van Wyck Brooks.

Custodial History:

The collection was formed as a result of a departmental practice of combining into one collection manuscript material of various accessions relating to a particular author.

Archival Appraisal Information:

No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Karla J. Vecchia in 2001. Finding aid written by Karla J. Vecchia in 2001.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

John Butler Yeats Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/d791sg20w
Location:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184

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Publication Note:

The manuscript "A Painter on Painting," found in draft form in the collection (see Box1, Folder 1), was printed in The Seven Arts (April, 1917), pp. 677-80 (see Box 20, Folder 1). The most comprehensive biography of Yeats is Prodigal Father: The Life of John Butler Yeats (1839-1922) (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978) by William Murphy.

Subject Terms:
Artists -- Ireland -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Artists -- Ireland -- 20th century -- Drawings.
Boardinghouses -- New York (N.Y.) -- 20th century.
Genre Terms:
Correspondence.
Self-portraits.
Sketches.
Names:
Bellinger, Martha Fletcher, b. 1870
Caughey, Mary Tower Lapsley.
Dix, Eulabee, 1878-1961
Quinn, John, 1870-1924
Sloan, John, 1871-1951
Squire, Ann
Yeats, John Butler, 1839-1922
Yeats, John Butler, 1839-1922