A Critical Edition of Yeats's A Vision (1925)


The most baffling and misunderstood of Yeats's works, A Vision (1925), which is greatly different from the 1937 version, has been long out of print and is almost inaccessible. The editors have shown in introduction and notes how directly dependent Yeats was upon the experiments of his wife with automatic writing and dream visions (covering a period of six years and preserved in thirty-nine notebooks containing some 4000 manuscript pages). As Yeats wrote in the first draft of the Dedication, 'I declare that I have nto invented one detail of this system'. 'This task has been laid upon me by those who cannot speak being dead and who if I fail may never find another interpreter'. Although Yeats liked to quote Plato's admonition that none should enter the doors of the Academy who were 'ignorant of geometry'. The symbolic forms of psychic geometry outlined in A Vision were not in fact based on Plato, Swedenborg, or others of the classical writers Yeats often cited but rather on the experiments and thinking of his many friends and fellow students in the Order of the Golden Dawn and in the Society for Psychical Research. BY inquiring into the conception of A Vision and the circumstances and people surrounding Yeats while it was beign written, and by annotating the hundreds of unidentified allusions and references to art, philosophy, and literature, the editors have illuminated one of the strangest spiritual autobiographies of our time.


GEORGE MILLS HARPER is Professor of English at Florida State University. He is the author of The Neoplatonism of William Blake, Yeats's Golden Dawn, there monographs in the Dolmen Press's Yeats Paper and many articles in learned journals. He si the editor of Yeats and the Occult, co-editor (with Richard J. Finneran and William M. Murphy) of Letters to W. B. Yeats, co-editor (with Kathleen Raine) of Thomas Taylor the Platonist: Selected Writings, and a contributing editor to A Concordance to the Writings of William Blake. A former President of the College of English Association, he has lectured widely on Yeats in Europe and America.

WALTER K. HOOD has been Instructor at the University of North Carolina, Assistant Professor at St. Louis University and is now Professor at Tennessee Technological University. Having written his honor's thesis, M.A. thesis, and Ph.D. dissertation (all at the University of North Carolina) on Yeats's thought and art and having lectured on and published several papers about A Vision, Professor Hood has devoted most of his academic life to the study of Yeats.




Published on
Feb 9, 2016
Language Arts & Disciplines / Linguistics / General
Literary Criticism / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
Literary Criticism / General
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At the end of the ’eighties my father and mother, my brother and sisters and myself, all newly arrived from Dublin, were settled in Bedford Park in a red-brick house with several mantelpieces of wood, copied from marble mantelpieces designed by the brothers Adam, a balcony and a little garden shadowed by a great horse-chestnut tree. Years before we had lived there, when the crooked ostentatiously picturesque streets with great trees casting great shadows had been a new enthusiasm: the Pre-Raphaelite movement at last affecting life. But now exaggerated criticism had taken the place of enthusiasm, the tiled roofs, the first in modern London, were said to leak, which they did not, and the drains to be bad, though that was no longer true; and I imagine that houses were cheap. I remember feeling disappointed because the co-operative stores, with their little seventeenth century panes, had lost the romance they had when I had passed them still unfinished on my way to school; and because the public house, called The Tabard after Chaucer’s Inn, was so plainly a common public house; and because the great sign of a trumpeter designed by Rooke, the Pre-Raphaelite artist, had been freshened by some inferior hand. The big red-brick church had never pleased me, and I was accustomed, when I saw the wooden balustrade that ran along the slanting edge of the roof where nobody ever walked or could walk, to remember the opinion of some architect friend of my father’s, that it had been put there to keep the birds from falling off. Still, however, it had some village characters and helped us to feel not wholly lost in the metropolis. I no longer went to church as a regular habit, but go I sometimes did, for one Sunday morning I saw these words painted on a board in the porch: “The congregation are requested to kneel during prayers; the kneelers are afterwards to be hung upon pegs provided for the purpose.” In front of every seat hung a little cushion and these cushions were called “kneelers.” Presently the joke ran through the community, where there were many artists who considered religion at best an unimportant accessory to good architecture and who disliked that particular church.

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