Boston College Digitizes Yeats’s Unpublished First Play

A young William Butler Yeats wrote his first play, “Love and Death,” in 1884. Now the little-known work, never before published nor performed, is available online from Boston College.

The play was mined from materials originally donated in 1993 by Yeats’s son, Michael, to BC’s Burns Library, the world’s largest repository of manuscripts from the Irish poet and playwright outside of the National Library of Ireland. Copyright ended on the work this past January.

Contained in five notebooks—with some loose-leaf inserted papers—is a tragedy set in the 12th century and featuring such characters as a “spirit hunter” named Sintram, his mortal brother, Moscon, and a princess, Ginevra. Yeats’s abundant notes and corrections shed light on the writer’s practices in the same era he composed his earliest published plays, Mosada and The Island of Statues.

Dathalinn M. O’Dea, a Ph.D. student in English at BC, prepared both the transcription and the facsimiles of the notebooks under the guidance of Yeats scholar and associate professor Marjorie Howes. Currently in Ireland, O’Dea will present her work on the manuscript and digitization next week at the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo, where students have plans to perform some of the scenes.


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