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49 DATES FOR THE RHYMERS' CLUB By R.K.R. Thornton (University of Newcastle upon Tyne) May I re-open the question of the dates of the Rhymers' Club, discussed by Daniel Rutenberg (ELT, XII: 3 [1969]) and by Karl Beckson (ELT, XIII: 1 [1970])? I should like first to confirm and to qualify the I890 dating. The date, suggested by Karl Beckson, of January I890 depends on the dating of the letter from Herbert Home to Ernest Rhys. Prof. Beckson says that he believed at one time that the date of Home's letter was erroneous, and I am afraid he was right in that belief. The letter is to be dated February 9, I891. There are three reasons for altering the date which Rhys gives and Prof. Beckson accepts. First, the reference in the letter to what Rhys tells us was a wedding gift is much more appropriate just a month after the wedding than it would have been eleven months before the redding , when Rhys had not met the woman he was to marry.! Second, the letter tells us that Rhys had described his life in Wales: Rhys and his new wife spent the early part of I89I in Wales where they had retreated from London's high rents. Third, and this seems to me conclusive. Home describes in the letter how I asked the Rhymers here the other evenings Oscar came in at the end, after the rhymes were all over, and smiled like a Neronian Apollo upon us all. A kind of enthusiasm or inspiration followed.2 This event is that described in at least two other letters of early February, I89I, and the enthusiasm or inspiration may well be immensely significant in the fortunes of the Rhymers' Club. Ernest Dowson wrote to Arthur Moore on February 2, I891» Thursday at Home's was very entertaining» a most queer assembly of "Rhymers"; and a quaint collection of rhymes. Crane (Walter) read a ballad: dull! one Ernest Radford, some triolets and rondeaus of merit: "Dorian" Gray some very beautiful obscure versicles in the latest manner of French symbolism; and the tedious Todhunter was tedious after his kind. Plarr and Johnson also read verses of great excellence; and the latter, also read for me my "Amor Umbratilis "» and Oscar arrived late looking more like his Whistlerian name, in his voluminous dress clothes, than I have seen him.-' On February 5, I89I, Lionel Johnson wrote to Campbell Dodgson» We entertained the other night eighteen minor poets of our acquaintance» from Oscar Wilde to Walter Crane, with Arthur Symons and Willie Yeats between. They all inflicted their poems on each other, and were inimitably tedious, except dear Oscar. 50 Because of this evidence, we must assign the date February 9, I89I, to Home's letter and thus we may not assume, as Prof. Beckson does, that the club was founded in January, I89O. The date of the letter from Rhys to Stedman on May 21, I890, to which he refers, is our first firm date. But when we have this date, we have the additional difficulty of making sure what it was the date of. Certainly it was the date of the founding of a Rhymers' or Rhymesters' Club. But it was not the date of the organisation of the club as most scholars take it to be when they refer to it. The date of Home's letter and the memorable meeting of January 29, 1891,5 are important because they add support to an argument that the club developed in two distinct stages, as is in fact stated in an interesting piece of evidence not so far cited in this argument, the recollections of the pedantic and precise Victor Plarr. In his book of reminiscences he wrote» The Rhymers held one memorable meeting in Mr Herbert Home's rooms in the Fltzroy settlement. They were then, so to speak, rediscovered and reconstituted, having previously been but a small group of Dublin poets. It was an evening of notabilities. Mr Walter Crane stood with his back to the mantelpiece, deciding, very kindly, on the merits of our effusions. And round Oscar Wilde, not then under a cloud, hovered...


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