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Yeats sisters and the Cuala.

The Cuala Press and its predecessor, the Dun Emer Press, are well known as important private presses of the twentieth century operated primarily by working women. The driving force behind both presses was Elizabeth Corbet Yeats. In Gifford Lewis's opinion previous commentary, in particular William H. Murphy's Prodigal Father: The Life of John Butler Yeats (1978), has tended to portray Elizabeth `as an unpleasant person verging on the mentally unstable.' This characterization, Lewis argues, does not ring true when one takes into account `that the profession of typesetter and printer requires a particularly stolid, grindingly precise type of character' (p. [xiii]). According to Lewis the negative testimony against Elizabeth comes from her two siblings -- her older sister, Lily, whose temperament was quite opposite to Elizabeth's, and the great Irish poet, W.B. Yeats, who ambitiously controlled the editorial side of the Cuala Press.

Lewis's book is much more than a character study of the two Yeats sisters. There are chapters on the Yeats and Pollexfen families, Elizabeth's training at the Women's Printing Society and her apprenticeship at the Kelmscott Press, the Dun Emer and Cuala co-operatives, the impact of the First World War, the Irish Rebellion, and the Irish Free State. Researchers wishing to investigate the contribution of these `Weird Sisters' to the private press movement and to the revival of Irish literature will also want to examine Murphy's recent scholarly publication, Family Secrets: William Bulter Yeats and His Relatives (1995).
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Publication:Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1996
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