Literary Works of Jack B. Yeats
The Literary Works of Jack B. Yeats

The Literary Works of Jack B. Yeats


There is far more to Jack Yeats than meets the eye, and it is to be hoped that he will soon be recognised as deserving of a place in the forefront of Irish letters. In recent years, however, his greatness as a painter has eclipsed his writings and this work seeks to redress the position. John Purser brings a knowledge of symbolism and language used in the West of Ireland to his study, and with the aid of previously unused evidence and a new chronology, new interpretations are given for many of Jack Yeats's works and an overall pattern is revealed.

The religious imagery of The Careless Flower and The Amaranthers is developed, and the significance of the theme of inheritance in the latter work is brought out for the first time, allowing the two halves of the novel to be seen more clearly as an integrated whole. The Charmed Life is shown to have an underlying Faustian and Christian significance, related to the progress of Ireland as a nation, and Ah Well is interpreted as a remarkable fable of a kind of Eden in reverse. Harlequin's Positions is interpreted as a riposte to Shaw and an assertion of Ireland's need and ability to maintain her independence in the face of the approaching war, and La La Noo, The Green Wave and In Sand are seen in part as approving extensions of that theme.

As well as his father, major literary figures recognised his genius – Synge (who shared a journey and vision of Ireland with him), Joyce (who recognised a shared methodology), his brother (who knew that few would recognise Jack's genius, though he saw it himself), and Beckett (who learned much from him and wrote in profound admiration of The Amaranthers). One day John Butler Yeats's prophecy, 'Some day I shall be remembered as the father of a great poet, and the poet is Jack', will come true.

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