Skip to main content

Joyce’s First Meeting with Yeats

  • Chapter


The manner of his first meeting with Yeats, of which Gogarty gives a wrong account, has been much discussed, and Yeats himself has given an account of it ‘fabled by the daughters of memory’. My brother introduced himself to Yeats, accosting him in the vicinity of the National Library. It is reported that at their first meeting my brother said to Yeats: ‘I regret that you are too old to be influenced by me’; and it seems that my brother always denied the story. To the best of my recollection, it is at least substantially correct, though perhaps Jim may have phrased it somewhat differently. As it stands, it sounds rather like one of Yeats’s good stories; what is certain is that at that meeting my brother told Yeats how much he admired two stories of his, ‘The Tables of the Law’, and ‘The Adoration of the Magi’,1 and urged him to reprint them. In ‘The Day of the Rabblement’2 my brother had already spoken of them as ‘stories which one of the great Russians might have written’. Yeats did reprint them a couple of years later, and in the few lines of preface to the reprint, he said that he had met a young man in Ireland ‘the other day’, who admired these stories very much and nothing else that he (Yeats) had written. That young man was my brother, unless some other young man told him exactly the same thing, which is improbable, for in that case there would have been at least two ‘young men in Ireland’ who told him so. The words ‘and nothing else that he had written’, have been added for dramatic effect. I believe that the other phrase has been similarly edited. I do not think that Yeats ever cared much about pointing a moral, but he undoubtedly liked to adorn a tale.

Stanislaus Joyce, My Brother’s Keeper (London: Faber and Faber, 1957) pp. 182–6.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. W. B. Yeats, The Tables of Law: The Adoration of Magi (London: privately printed, 1897).

    Google Scholar 

  2. James Clarence Mangan (1803–49), author of Poets and Poetry of Munster and The Tribes of Ireland. A bronze bust of the Irish poet stands in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. See Yeats’s article on him, ‘Clarence Mangan’s Love Affair’, United Ireland (Aug 1891).

    Google Scholar 

  3. ‘Words alone are certain good.’ W. B. Yeats, ‘The Song of the Happy Shepherd’, Crossways (1889).

    Google Scholar 

  4. James Joyce, himself a Catholic, had not read the Protestant Anglo-Irish writers before he went to Belvedere College. He then discovered Yeats and admired him to the point of committing his stories as well as his poems to memory. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man tells how at the opening night of The Countess Cathleen Stephen refuses to join the rioting nationalists and takes care in his diary to dissociate himself from Yeats. However, in The Day of the Rabblement Yeats’s theatre is condemned for coming to terms with the rioters. For more details and numerous other essays see James Joyce, The Critical Writings, ed. Ellsworth Mason and Richard Ellmann (New York: Viking Press, 1959).

    Google Scholar 

Download references


Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Copyright information

© 1977 Macmillan Publishers Limited

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Joyce, S. (1977). Joyce’s First Meeting with Yeats. In: Mikhail, E.H. (eds) W. B. Yeats. Palgrave, London.

Download citation