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McGowan’s Code: Deciphering John Masefield and Jack B. Yeats

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Abstract

LADY GREGORY REPORTS that W. B. Yeats once told John Masefield ‘You’ll be a popular poet—you’ll be riding in your carriage and pass me in the gutter’.1 In later life, however, Masefield was sought out by those who wanted to discuss not his own work, but that of Yeats.2 It is not this later period of Masefield’s life I wish to discuss, however (nor indeed his connections with W. B. Yeats) but the friendship between Masefield and Jack B. Yeats that proved particularly productive for Masefield in a more relaxed and flippant vein. In contrast to Masefield’s connections to WBY, the friendship with Jack Yeats was the friendship of escapism and the desperately juvenile which enabled a release upon which both men thrived. The collaborative productions between Jack Yeats and Masefield, in addition to a substantial correspondence and holidays spent together suggest that the two were particularly close.

Keywords

  • Collaborative Production
  • Secret Code
  • Bodleian Library
  • Code Breaking
  • Literary Representative

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Notes

  1. Daniel J. Murphy (ed.), Lady Gregorys Journals Volume One (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1987), p. 385. I am grateful to the Society of Authors as literary representative of the Estate of John Masefield, to the Bodleian Library, and the Houghton Library, Harvard University for permission to reproduce Plate 10.

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  2. The example of Daniel Hoffman’s visit in 1961 is cited by Alison Lurie in ‘Opening the Box of Delights’, The New York Review of Books, 21 December 1995, 48–53.

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  3. John Masefield, New Chum (London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1944), p. 186.

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  4. Jack B. Yeats, A Little Fleet (London: Elkin Mathews, 1909), p. [6].

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  5. John Masefield, ‘Glossary’, Salt-Water Ballads (London: Grant Richards, 1902), p.109.

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  6. Muriel Spark reports that Lord Alfred Douglas claimed the poem was ‘ninetenths sheer filth’ and that Masefield exceeded the ‘wicked licentiousness’ of Marlowe. See Muriel Spark, John Masefield (London: Hutchinson, 1991), pp. 4–5.

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  7. First printed in Ernest Marriott, Jack B. Yeats: being a true and impartial view of his pictorial and dramatic art (London: Elkin Mathews, 1911) and also reproduced in T. G. Rosenthal, The Art of Jack B. Yeats (London: André Deutsch, 1993), p. 3.

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  8. Hilary Pyle, Jack B. Yeats (London: André Deutsch, 1989), p. 96.

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  9. Liam Miller, The Dun Emer Press, Later The Cuala Press (Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1973, p. 120. ‘A View of Pirate Island’ includes ‘McGowan’s Garden’ and ‘McGowan’s House’.

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  10. Judith Masefield has herself mentioned that one of the toys her father built for her was a soap box with ‘a mast with sails that furled, and correct rigging’. See her ‘Introduction’ to Corliss Lamont, Remembering John Masefield, (London: Kaye and Ward, 1972), p. 10.

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© 1998 Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited

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Errington, P.W. (1998). McGowan’s Code: Deciphering John Masefield and Jack B. Yeats. In: Gould, W. (eds) Yeats Annual No. 13. Yeats Annual. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-14614-7_14

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