Introduction (1936) to Margot Ruddock, The Lemon Tree (1937)
I was in Majorca, breakfasting in bed at 7.30 when my wife announced that Margot Collis had arrived1 — a† woman in whom I had some two years before divined a frustrated tragic genius. She had asked my help to found a poets’ theatre.2 Of distinguished beauty of face and limb, a successful provincial actress, managing her own company, she had come to London hoping to get work on the London stage.3 Her father’s name was Ruddock, and she wishes, when we speak of her as a poet, to be called Margot Ruddock. I brought her to Dulac the painter, and Ashton the creator and producer of ballets,4 subtle technical minds with an instinctive knowledge of the next step in whatever art they discussed. I asked her to recite some poems. She had all the tricks of the professional elocutionist, but rehearsed by Ashton and Dulac substituted a musical clarity pleasant to a poet’s ear. In a few days she had lost it and returned unconsciously to the tricks, but what can be done once can be done again.5 I had never seen her act, but after thirty years’ experience I know from the mind of man and woman what they can do† upon the stage when they have found their legs, judging that mind perhaps from the way they sink into a chair or lift a cup.
KeywordsGood Nature Teddy Bear Sweet Nature Eternal Damnation Irish Literature
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- 5.In October and November 1934 Yeats and Margot Ruddock worked on plans for her to read and sing Yeats’s poems from the stage at the Mercury Theatre. Those readings never took place, but she read and chanted his poems in his last three BBC broadcasts, in 1937. For the 3 July 1937 broadcast, she was replaced as a singer by Olive Grove at the insistence of the BBC producer, George Barnes — to the delight of Edmund Dulac, who considered Ruddock’s singing to be amateurish. See George Whalley, ‘Yeats and Broadcasting’, in Wade 472–4, and Colin White, Edmund Dulac (London: Studio Vista, 1976) p. 175.Google Scholar
- 6.A production of The Player Queen (first perf 1919) was planned for the Mercury Theatre ‘Plays by Poets’ series of spring 1935. Edmund Dulac resigned from the project after a disagreement with Margot Ruddock over plans for this play, and Ashby Dukes postponed the production until September 1935. By August Yeats had abandoned hope for it. Then, as part of the celebration of Yeats’s seventieth birthday, the People’s National Theatre, headed by Nancy Price, produced The Player Queen at the Little Theatre, London, on Sunday evening, 27 Oct 1935, with matinees on 28, 29 and 31 Oct. Yeats was disappointed that Margot Ruddock was given only the supporting role of the real Queen, but a review in The Times (28 Oct 1935, p. 12, col. c) had high praise for Joan Maude in the title role of Decima and for Robert Newton as the dramatist and poet Septimus, while finding that ‘the remainder of the long cast played conscientiously, but not without some weak spots’. William Rothenstein, after attending a matinee, agreed with The Times (William Rothenstein, Since Fifty: Men and Memories, 1922–1938 [New York: Macmillan, 1940] p. 246).Google Scholar
- 14.Iliad, x. 150: ‘Now on the eager razor’s edge for life or death we stand’ (tr. George Chapman [1559-1634], in Chapman’s Homer, vol. II: The Iliad, ed. Allardyce Nicoll [New York: Pantheon Books, 1956] p. 204).Google Scholar