1987. Monaco - The Yeats the European International Conference:

Opening Statement of the book by C. George SANDULESCU, Monaco. 


(The volume, Yeats the European, being the Proceedings of the Third Conference held at the Princess Grace Irish Library of the Principality of Monaco, in May 1987, was published by Colin Smythe, of Gerrards Cross.)


                                                               still loftier than the world suspects


            Ever since the morning of Thursday 8 April 1982 -- I remember it so well ! -- when Mark Mortimer of Paris took me high up to Roquebrune-Village, and still higher up, along tortuous mountain roads,  to its churchyard in order to show me the Dulac Unicorn plaque, my obsessive dream has been to have an international Yeats Conference organised in the Principality of Monaco.

            It had been only the day before that Her Serene Highness Princess Grace had spent the whole afternoon and evening -- nine solid hours ! -- listening attentively to us Joyceans celebrating that other Dubliner's centenary. But the Irish Library did not at that time exist in Monaco, and this Yeats conference idea was nothing more than a wild dream -- or utopia -- or was it an intuition of the large scale cultural activities in the English language that were soon to come to the Principality ?

            The moment the Princess Grace Irish Library became a reality -- on 20 November 1984 -- I more than knew that the International Yeats Conference was slowly but certainly on its way. What preceded it were two introductory events, to break the ice: one was devoted to the scrutiny of a very recent edition of Joyce's Ulysses that its editor wanted to pass on as dogma (which was not very wise !); the other gathering was entirely devoted to a possible definition of the impossible concept of Irishness . . . 

            But a Yeats event was autre chose: it was the focal point. After all, W.B. Yeats had lived, written, socialised, and died at a stone's throw from Monaco in a place more than symbolically called -- by a Joycean coincidence Hôtel Idéal Séjour ! Could one recreate that idéal séjour fifty years later ?  Having known Derry Jeffares for just under a quarter of a century -- his scholarly attachment to WBY, his enterprising spirit, his quick and most accurate decision processes and, above all, his worldwide network of scholarly contacts -- I was more than certain that a pleasurable reconstruction of what Yeats had felt and experienced about continental Europe was feasible through him, and through him only.

            So Derry took over with the promptitude, confidence, and inventivity that is his hallmark. It was very easy to work with him: he sent out the invitations; I received the replies. He drafted the academic programme; I and the Library's Trustees took care of the social programme and everything else that a four-day international conference entails. When it came to chairing, Derry and I chaired jointly: I was keeping the good timing, and he was keeping the good mood; and it was the most satisfying tandem chairing that I have ever experienced. We had become a team to such an extent that it never even occurred to me to thank him at the end of the day for all he had done for us. And when somebody from the audience drew our attention to this omission, it suddenly dawned on me that, deep down inside, Derry was by now one of the house and the essentially pleasurable and highly evocative nature of our séjour was entirely due to him.

             The presence of Yeats's children enhanced out family feeling, and pre-war evocative connotations; I wish to thank Senator Michael Yeats and Miss Anne Yeats for their very active participation throughout. I also wish to thank Sir David and Lady Orr for accepting our invitation to attend.

            And then, one sunny morning His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco casually walked into the conference hall right in time to listen to the talk on Ezra Pound and then to my friend Bernardo expounding volubly on Lady Gregory.

            In a word, it has been an idéal séjour for all of us.

                                                                        C. George Sandulescu
                                                                        Series Editor
                                                                        Monaco, 16 June 1988