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A FOOTNOTE ON THE WEEKLY REVIEW By Joann Gardner (Florida State University) In a footnote to a letter written by W. B. Yeats to John O'Leary, Allan Wade posits that the Weekly Review, a journal for which Yeats was writing a great deal at the time, may well have been a theosophical publication. Wade bases his conjecture on an unpublished letter of Yeats's father to John O'Leary in which the review is mentioned in connection with Charles Johnston, the author of Esoteric Buddhism, and Yeats seems to confirm Wade's speculation by mentioning later in the letter that his first article for the Weekly Review concerned Lucifer, the magazine of the Theosophical Society. Two minor problems surface, however, to challenge Wade's conclusions: Yeats's article was so insulting-that he was forced to resign from the inner section of the Society because of it, and the title of the periodical in which the article was published does not in any way suggest a journal of theosophical bent. The discovery of a letter written by John Davidson to Ernest Rhys and published in Rhys's Letters from.Limbo helps to eliminate some of the mystery concerning this enigmatic periodical. Dated simply "1891," the document speaks of the Weekly Review's untimely demise and identifies a Mr. Fleming as the journal's financial backer. Rhys explains in a postscript to the letter that the Weekly Review was Davidson's one experiment as an editor and that both he and Davidson were financially dependent upon it. He also notes that Davidson's final sentence—assuring Rhys that he would "turn up on Friday"—refers to a Rhymers' Club night when the Rhymers gave Rhys a send-off supper on the eve of a wedding. This notation fixes the date of the letter as sometime in early January, of 1891 and, thus, helps us to approximate the date of the Weekly Review's demise. Since neither Davidson nor Rhys was particularly interested in theosophical affairs, it seems unlikely that the Weekly Review was meant to be an organ for this concern. Having come to London late in 1889, Davidson ia documented as having attended one of the earliest meetings of the Rhymers' Club, and it seems reasonable to assume that he would benefit from the talent and the variousness of this organization. Yeats and Rhys were founding members of the club, and the third contributor about whom we have any information (Charles Johnston) was a friend of both Yeats and O'Leary, two fellow Irishmen who had been present on the evening in question. Yeats also attests to the entrepreneurial rewards of the club in a letter to Katherine Tynan a year later. In this letter, he indicates that the notes section of the Speaker is "in the friendly hand of John Davidson" and that the Star, the Pall Mall and the Academy were also "a-writing in friendly hands." Obviously, Yeats's and Davidson's relationship had not yet disintegrated into the notorious rivalry that it became, and the Rhymers' Club, founded ostensibly as a means of keeping poets from becoming jealous of one another, provided a pool of talent from which the Weekly Review could choose. Further indication of the nature of Davidson's journal is suggested by the column he began to write soon after his editing venture folded. The notes section of the Speaker to which Yeats alludes in his letter to Katherine Tynan was entitled "The Week" and consisted of a series of notes, literary gossip and events. "The 198 Week" began as a regular column in January 1891, the same month as the send-off supper referred to in Davidson's letter. Judging by the similarity of the names of these publications and their chronological proximity, one might make a case for similarity of content. Davidson's qualifications for the Speaker post may have been established by his experience with the Weekly Review, or he may have been offered the column as compensation for withdrawal of support for the ephemeral journal. In any case, it seems unlikely that the Weekly Review was closely affiliated with theosophical circles or that it attempted to promote any...


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pp. 198-199
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Will Be Archived 2021
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