The Corner

Re: Shaw and Friends


I have been reading Roy Foster’s biography of Yeats, who was friends with

Pound for many years, before Pound became too much for him. Now, it is

plain from Foster’s book that Yeats, for all the famous “silliness,” was a straight-up human being:

a dutiful son, a loving husband (with some slight allowance for his

aristocratic/bohemian notions, which his wife was fully in accord with) and

father, an affectionate sibling, a loyal friend, and a conscientious

citizen. (He served in the Senate of the Irish Free State for 6 yrs.) The

very brief flirtation with the Blueshirts (= Irish fascists) in the early

1930s was nothing — in particular, nobody has ever found a trace nor a hint

of antisemitism in anything WBY said or wrote. I ended Foster’s books

liking & admiring Yeats tremendously.

Now: if such a good man as this could keep up a friendship with Pound

across many years, I submit that Pound could not have been all bad. Pound

is in hell, all right; but like Humbert Humbert, he is let out one evening a

year and allowed to stroll in a green country lane, on account of his

friendship with Yeats.

BTW, I have for some years nursed the notion — it hardly rises to the level

of a theory — that while arrogant, irresponsible, rules-don’t-apply-to-me

egotists of the type so memorably described in Paul Johnson’s book

Intellectuals — Shelley, Hemingway, etc. — have certainly given us much,

the true greats are sober, decent, and bourgeois types: Horace, Longfellow,

Kipling, Tennyson and Yeats come to mind. The little we know of Shakespeare

suggests that he was a solid citizen, and a good and decent man (that

“second-best bed” notwithstanding). What do you think of this notion?


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