W. B. Yeats to William Sharp
W. B. Yeats to William Sharp, autograph letter signed, August 24, 1896
Originally on loan from the collection of William F. Halloran
In 1896, Yeats and Arthur Symons spent the month of August in County Galway. They were invited to Tullyra Castle, the home of Edward Martyn whom they met in London earlier that year. On this visit, Yeats became a close friend of Lady Gregory, at whose estate, Coole Park, he stayed for many summers beginning in 1897. Their relationship and collaboration changed the course of Irish literature and established the Irish National Theatre.
In this letter to Sharp, who had probably told Yeats that he and Fiona Macleod were visionaries, Yeats described his vision of an archer which he had summoned at Tullyra using occult methods learned from The Golden Dawn. A similar vision came to Arthur Symons in a dream the same night.
Sometime after receiving Yeats’s letters, one to himself and one to Fiona, Sharp finished a short story, “The Archer,” signed by Fiona Macleod and sent it off to London as a submission to Arthur Symons for The Savoy. When Yeats returned to London in late September or early October and saw the story on Symons’ desk, he became convinced that Macleod had seen her archer vision without knowledge of his own vision at Tullyra. When Wynn Wescott showed Yeats the archer symbols in a higher order of The Golden Dawn, Yeats was convinced that the visions proved the existence of a spiritual world above the natural world.
The Archer motif became a symbol of the experience of vision and a recurring motif in his work.