Throughout our Society's history, we have held most of our programs at the elegant National Arts Club, a private club opposite Gramercy Park in Manhattan. Our namesake, William Butler Yeats, spoke and slept there a number of times when visiting New York from Ireland. His father, John Butler Yeats, renowned Irish painter and intellectual, also spoke there on at least one occasion and was planning to give another talk to its members when he died in February 1922.
The NAC was founded in 1898 by Charles DeKay, a New York Times art and literary critic, to "stimulate, foster, and promote public interest in the arts and to educate the American people in the fine arts." Today, the club offers a variety of exhibitions, talks, educational programs, and awards in theater, visual arts, film, literature, and music. Since 1906, it has occupied the Samuel J. Tilden House, a Victorian Gothic Revival brownstone. The mansion has been designated both a New York City and a national landmark.
Next door is the Players Club, which was founded in 1888 by Edwin Thomas Booth as an association of artists and art lovers drawn from stage and screen, the visual arts, music, and literature. Booth was an American actor who toured the United States and the major cities of Europe, performing Shakespearean plays. In 1869, he founded Booth's Theatre in New York. Some theatrical historians consider him the greatest American actor, and greatest Prince Hamlet, of the 19th century. His achievements are often overshadowed by his relationship with his younger brother John Wilkes Booth, also an actor, who is infamous for assassinating President Abraham Lincoln in1865.
Yeats NAC Note to John Quinn
On March 11 (1914), Yeats wrote a note on NAC stationery to John Quinn, American patron of such seminal writers such as Ezra Pound, W.B. Yeats, and James Joyce, that reads as follows in the poet's hard-to-read handwriting with cross outs, missing punctuation, and misspellings:
My dear Quinn: I got your most welcome noted today & telephoned but you were not in town. I go to Washington, Connecticut, tomorrow soon after 3. I wonder if we could lunch somewhere. Could you lunch with me here. This note is very inadequate but I am exausted with a cold. Your friend always W B Yeats. I shall be at club at club between 11 & 11.30 at any rate & shall probably telephone. I shall be there probably the rest of the morning except for a few moments moments shopping.
Online: John Quinn, The Irish American Patron of Genius - The Wild Geese
Major Book: "The Man from New York: John Quinn and His Friends," by B.L. Reid, Oxford Press 1968
Another Yeats Visit to NAC
At National Arts Club after Event in Their Honor at NYC’s Waldorf Hotel (left to right): Irish tenor, John McCormack; W.B. Yeats; Irish composer and pianist, Hamilton Harty; and Irish writer and surgeon, Dr. Oliver St. John Gogarty. Photo ran in The New York Times along with event story, Jan. 22, 1933.