Letters on Poetry

FromW. B. Yeatsto Dorothy Wellesley
EVERYTHING about a great man is of interest, hence there is interest in this book, but it is a very small one. All the poems by Yeats in it have been already published, and the letters themselves, as letters, are frankly dull. Did the writers, one wonders, never have jokes together, or racy gossip, or talk about anything between the veriest trivialities and the Immensities, the Eternities, the Mysteries, and the Passions? Yeats’s own views about modern poetry were illustrated in the highly personal selection he gave in The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, and these letters elaborate those views — that his favorites (apart from Lady Gerald) were W. J. Turner, Elinor Wylie, and Richard Hughes; that Wilfred Owen was ‘unworthy of the poets’ corner in a country newspaper’; that Eliot’s early poems contain nothing but ‘a level flatness of rhythm.’ The friendship between Yeats and Lady Gerald was no doubt a rich and fruitful one for them both, and personal flattery between friends is one of the graces of friendship, but to publicize it in this way has, nevertheless, a slight tinge of the ridiculous and of the distasteful.