Preface to the First Edition of The Well of the Saints

  • W. B. Yeats


Six years ago I was staying in a students’ hotel in the Latin Quarter, and somebody, whose name I cannot recollect, introduced me to an Irishman, who, even poorer than myself, had taken a room at the top of the house. It was J. M. Synge, and I, who thought I knew the name of every Irishman who was working at literature, had never heard of him. He was a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, too, and Trinity College does not, as a rule, produce artistic minds. He told me that he had been living in France and Germany, reading French and German literature, and that he wished to become a writer. He had, however, nothing to show but one or two poems and impressionistic essays, full of that kind of morbidity that has its root in too much brooding over methods of expression, and ways of looking upon life, which come, not out of life, but out of literature, images reflected from mirror to mirror. He had wandered among people whose life is as picturesque as the Middle Ages, playing his fiddle to Italian sailors, and listening to stories in Bavarian woods, but life had cast no light into his writings. 1 Since writing this I have, with Lady Gregory’s help, put Red Hanrahan into the common speech.—W. B. Y.


Trinity College Individual Life German Literature Escape Analysis Modern Poetry 
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© Mrs W. B. Yeats 1961

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  • W. B. Yeats

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