J. M. Synge pp 15-17 | Cite as

First Meeting with Synge

  • W. B. Yeats


I am certain of one date, for I have gone to much trouble to get it right. I met John Synge for the first time in the autumn of 1896, when I was oneand-thirty, and he four-and-twenty. I was at the Hôtel Corneille instead of my usual lodging, and why I cannot remember, for I thought it expensive. Synge’s biographer says that you boarded there for a pound a week, but I was accustomed to cook my own breakfast, and dine at an Anarchist restaurant in the Boulevard St. Jacques for little over a shilling. Some one, whose name I forget, told me there was a poor Irishman at the top of the house, and presently introduced us. Synge had come lately from Italy, and had played his fiddle to peasants in the Black Forest—six months of travel upon fifty pounds—and was now reading French literature and writing morbid and melancholy verse. He told me that he had learned Irish at Trinity College, so I urged him to go to the Aran Islands and find a life that had never been expressed in literature, instead of a life where all had been expressed. I did not divine his genius, but I felt he needed something to take him out of his morbidity and melancholy. Perhaps I would have given the same advice to any young Irish writer who knew Irish, for I had been that summer upon Inishmaan and Inishmore, and was full of the subject. My friends and I had landed from a fishing-boat to find ourselves among a group of islanders, one of whom said he would bring us to the oldest man upon Inishmaan. This old man, speaking very slowly, but with laughing eyes, had said, ‘If any gentleman has done a crime, we’ll hide him. There was a gentleman that killed his father, and I had him in my own house six months till he got away to America.’


Trinity College French Literature Double Force Irish Language Write Request 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1977

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  • W. B. Yeats

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