Friday, June 13, 2008


Happy birthday William Butler Yeats
and Tyler Nolan.

James Joyce tried to emulate Yeats not in
writing but in music making.

One of Joyce's early ideas was to be a
traveling minstrel, sort of a 20th century
O’Carolan. He had heard that Yeats had recently
puchased a hand made lute. Here’s how he
explained it in a letter to Gogarty written
June 3rd, 1904:
“My idea for July and August is this - to get
Dolmetsch to make me a lute and to coast the
south of England from Falmouth to Margate,
singing old English songs”

And he told Padraic Colum that the tour would be
“personally conducted, like the Emperor Nero’s
tour in Greece.”

The plan didn’t work out. Dolmetsch, the one who had
made a similar instrument for Yeats, was hesitant
to make another one. He told Joyce that making a
lute would be highly expensive and “I could hardly
say when it would be finished. The lute is moreover
extremely difficult to play and very troublesome to
keep in order.” He recommended Joyce use a spinet
or harpsichord. Joyce gave up on the idea instead.

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