John Butler Yeats


John Butler Yeats (1839-1922), Irish painter


Excerpt from a letter to his son, the poet William Butler Yeats, written in 1908 from New York. Published in Steegmuller, Francis: Your Isadora. The love story of Isadora Duncan & Gordon Craig. New York, MacMillan, 1974.



  "I first met her in a restaurant and at once understood her to be the oddest and most unexpected person in the world. She forms her own plans and is quite indifferent to what people think or say, for that reason she is never aggressive just as she makes no effort to conciliate any one.

  I met her twice in private and since that I saw her (from her own box) dancing in the biggest theatre, and on the biggest stage in N. York - a figure dancing all alone on this immense stage - and there again you felt the charm of the self-contained woman.

  Several people said: Is it not like watching a kitten playing for itself? We watched her as if we were each of us hidden in ambush. I don't wonder that at first New York rejected her - she stood still, she lay down, she walked about, she danced, she leaped, she disappeared, and re-appeared - all in curious sympathy with a great piece of classical music, and I did not sometimes know which I most enjoyed, her or the music.

  America's great sculptor was in the box and led the appreciation."