The collection of more than 200 items features letters, paintings, drawings and personal effects owned by the father and siblings of poet WB Yeats (1865-1939) and his brother, artist Jack Yeats (1871-1957).
The highest value lot, going under the hammer at Sotheby’s tomorrow, is a cache of more than 130 letters from WB Yeats to his first lover, then life-long friend and author Olivia Shakespear, is estimated at £250,000-350,000.
Seamus Heaney’s widow, poets Michael Longley and Paul Muldoon are among 80 people who have signed a letter to the Irish Times, published yesterday (Monday, September 25), urging Ireland’s arts minister to purchase the collection for Ireland’s National Library.
The newspaper reports that the Irish government has responded by restating its “long-standing position of not commenting in advance of auctions”.
In 2016 the country’s government was criticised for turning down the opportunity to buy the surrender letter of Padraig Pearse, leader of the Easter Rising of 1916, which came up for auction at Adam’s in Dublin in the rebellion’s centenary year.
The grandchildren of WB Yeats, now living outside Ireland, are selling the Yeats Collection but have donated items to the National Library over the years.
Historian Diarmaid Ferriter, writing in the Irish Times last week, rued the Irish government’s "curious silence" over the Yeats sale.