Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers

The Old Cinema,
Chatsworth Street,
Castlecomer,
Co. Killkenny,
R95 XV05,
Ireland.

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Lot 677/0234

SOLD Hammer price: €1750, Estimate: €1750-2500

Important Early Manuscript Poem by James Stephens
With Critical Manuscript Comments by George Bernard Shaw

Manuscript
: A folio page containing a poem entitled “The Earth Song” signed by James Stephens. There are six verses, each of eight or nine lines.
Written across both sides of the sheet are comments, by George Bernard Shaw, to whom Stephens had evidently sent the poem for his appraisal. Shaw’s critique is fairly devastating: “Unless you have an intensity of feeling that transfigures everything for you and can express that feeling in lines that have beauty, dignity, fascination, you cannot write poetry”.
However, Shaw reassures Stephens that the prompt return of a short story he had sent to an editor does not mean it is no good, and he criticises the facetious tone of Stephens’s letter to the editor: “Englishmen don’t understand jokes in the wrong place – sometimes not even jokes in the right place.” He urges Stephens to persist with his writing but warns him not to be financially dependent on its success.
Shaw’s remarks are signed from Maybury Knoll, Woking, and dated 29 December 1902.
Much about Stephens’s early life is obscure, and at this period he was employed in a series of poorly paid clerical jobs of short duration. His first known literary contributions were made to the United Irishman in 1905, so this early composition – with Shaw’s reaction to it – is specially significant and unique. As a m/ss, w.a.f. (1)

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