Belfast Telegraph

First Yeats play brought to life

Pages from one of the five notebooks and loose scraps of paper from WB Yeates's Love and Death
Pages from one of the five notebooks and loose scraps of paper from WB Yeates's Love and Death

Scenes from a never before staged play by WB Yeats will be performed for the first time next month.

Love and Death - the writer's first play - was revealed to the public for the first time this year by Boston College after academics digitised the 127-year-old hand-written manuscript.

The work is written across five notebooks and loose scraps of paper and is peppered with notes.

Betsy McKelvey, Boston College's digital collections librarian, said the manuscript was in good condition despite its age.

"Of course one of the things that's so charming about it is you can tell it was a household item, there's calculations and miscellaneous notes written on the back pages, but in terms of its physical stability it's great," Ms McKelvey said.

Yeats wrote Love and Death in 1884 when he was just shy of 20, the same year that he began writing Mosada and The Island of Statues, his earliest published plays.

It will be of interest to Yeats scholars, academics and general fans of the writer perhaps better known for his world-renowned poetry, including Easter 1916, which highlights his torn emotions at the failed rising against British rule.

The US university acquired the manuscript in 1993 through the late Michael Yeats, the poet's son and former Fianna Fail senator.

But because of copyright restrictions lifted only in January, it could not be widely disseminated among the public until April, when it was digitised.

The plot focuses on a murderous princess who falls in love with an immortal being, which Yeats himself described in the manuscript as a tragedy.

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