“The Sunset of Fantasy” by AE

  • Peter Kuch
Part of the Yeats Annual book series (YA)


This fragment, first published posthumously in the Dublin Magazine in January 1938, is from a draft of George William Russell’s unfinished autobiography, The Sunset of Fantasy. By the time Russell [AE] began his book, literary Dublin was widely known through the reminiscences of Moore, Katharine Tynan, and W. B. Yeats, and through Ulysses. Of these, Moore’s Hail and Farewell, which was published in three volumes between 1911 and 1914, was initially the most influential. It not only generated widespread interest in the life and literature of Dublin, but it also challenged Irish writers to experiment with self-portraiture. Moore’s trilogy skilfully counterpoints autobiography and history. In the guise of deliberating about himself and his friends and acquaintances, or those of them at least who were eminent in Irish affairs, he created the illusion that he was giving a full account of contemporary Ireland.


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  1. 1.
    See Richard Cave (ed.), George Moore, Hail and Farewell (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1976) pp. 581–2.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Russell, review of Katharine Tynan, Twenty-Jive Years: Reminiscences, in Henry Summerfield (ed.), Selections from Contributions to the Irish Homestead by G. W. Russell — A. E., 2 vols (Gcrrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1978) II, 884. Hereafter cited as Summerfield (ed.), Homestead.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Alan Denson (ed.), Letters from AE (London: Abelard Schuman, 1961) pp. 109–10, to George Moore, [6 April 1916]. Hereafter cited as Denson (ed.), Letters.Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    AE, “On the Character in Irish Literature”, foreword to Frank O’Connor, The Wild Bird’s Nest: Poems Translated from the Irish (Dublin: Cuala Press, 1932).Google Scholar
  5. See Peter Kuch, “A Few Twigs from The Wild Bird’s Nest”, in A. Norman Jeffares (ed.), Yeats the European (Gcrrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1989) pp. 101–18.Google Scholar
  6. 19.
    Maybe an unconscious allusion to Edmund Gumey, Frederick W. H. Myers and Frank Podmore’s Phantasms of the Living (London: Society for Psychical Research, 1886).Google Scholar
  7. 40.
    Russell seems to have first met Little, an eccentric Catholic mystic and poet, some time in the early eighties and to have kept in touch with him until the mid-twenties. Much of the above is derived from his article, “Philip Francis Little”, The Irish Statesman, 18 December 1926, pp. 355–6, partly reprinted in Monk Gibbon (ed.), The Living Torch (London: Macmillan, 1937) pp. 154–8.Google Scholar
  8. Russell also used the same material in his “Address to the Thirtieth Annual Dinner of the American-Irish Historical Society”, delivered 28 January 1928, and published in the Journal of the American-Irish Historical Society (New York) XXVII, pp. 368–80.Google Scholar
  9. 49.
    Russell wrote about his work in “The Art of John Hughes”, New Ireland Review, X (Dublin, November 1898) pp. 162–5;Google Scholar
  10. reprinted in the Journal and Proceedings of the Arts and Crafts Society of Ireland, 1 (Dublin, 1901) pp. 243–8.Google Scholar
  11. 54.
    For a discussion of the poems and articles Yeats wrote about the encounter, see Peter Kuch, Yeats and AE: “the antagonism that unites dear friends” (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe; New York: Barnes and Noble, 1986) pp. 64–8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Kuch

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