Young, Ella, 1867-1956

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1867-12-26
Death 1956-07-23
Irish (Republic of Ireland)
English

Biographical notes:

Young was born in 1867 in Fenagh, County Antrim, Ireland; came to America as a lecturer in 1925; held the Phelan Memorial Lectureship on Celtic Mythology and Literature at UC Berkeley; wrote poetry and books for children influenced by Irish folklore; publications include: Poems (1906), The rose of heaven (1920), To the little princess (1930), Marzilian and other poems (1930), and The unicorn with silver shoes (1932); she died in 1956.

From the description of Papers, 1900-1956. (University of California, Los Angeles). WorldCat record id: 39887953

Poet and author.

From the description of Ella Young papers, circa 1902-1945. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70981623

Biography

Young was born in 1867 in Fenagh, County Antrim, Ireland; came to America as a lecturer in 1925; held the Phelan Memorial Lectureship on Celtic Mythology and Literature at UC Berkeley; wrote poetry and books for children influenced by Irish folklore; publications include: Poems (1906), The rose of heaven (1920), To the little princess (1930), Marzilian and other poems (1930), and The unicorn with silver shoes (1932); she died in 1956.

From the guide to the Ella Young Papers, 1900-1956, (University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.)

Biography

Ella Young, poet and mythographer, was born in Ballymena, co. Antrim, on December 26, 1867, the eldest of the eight children of James Bristow Young, a cornbroker, and Matilda Ann, née Russell. The family were Presbyterian and unionist. They moved several times during Ella's childhood, setting eventually in Rathmines, Dublin, where she completed her education, studying at Alexandra College and graduating BA in law and political science from the Royal University in 1898. She joined the Dublin branch of the Theosophical Society in the 1890s and became a protégé of Irish nationalist and writer George William Russell. Her first collection, Poems, was published in 1906 by the Tower Press, with which Russell was closely associated. She subsequently published two more collections of poetry in Ireland, The Rose of Heaven (1920) and The Weird of Fionavar (1922).

Young had experienced visions and undergone mystical experiences from childhood, and a literal engagement with Irish mythology became the defining force in her life. W. B. Yeats respected her occult powers enough to correspond with her in 1903, but by 1909 he had become disenchanted with her claims to wisdom and insight. In 1909, Young, who had learned Irish, published The Coming of Lugh, the first of several collections of simplified versions of Irish mythology modeled on Fiona Macleod's The Laughter of Peterkin (1897). Two collections were embellished with illustrations and decorations by her close friend Maud Gonne, Yeats' erstwhile muse.

Young became an enthusiastic nationalist, a member of the Daughters of Ireland, and a friend of Patrick Pearse and Constance Markiewicz; she claimed to have hidden smuggled munitions and other supplies for the Republicans during the Easter Rising. She interpreted the 1916 rising in occult and numerological terms. She subsequently became bitterly disillusioned with the free state government and quarreled with Russell.

Young had first toured the United States in the early 1920s. In 1924 she accepted an invitation to succeed Celtic studies scholar William Whittingham Lyman, Jr., at the University of California at Berkeley, as Phelan lecturer in Celtic mythology and Gaelic poetry, a position created for her by a friend, Nöel Sullivan. She moved to the United States in 1925, and became an American citizen in 1931. She retired in 1936 and moved to Oceano, California, where she joined Halcyon, a theosophical commune, with which she had connections since 1927. During her retirement she completed her most enduring work, her autobiography, Flowering Dusk: Things Remembered Accurately and Inaccurately, which includes many fascinating sketches of Yeats, Maud Gonne, George Russell, Standish O'Grady, and Yeats's friend, the magician, MacGregor Mathers, as well as a highly colored account of her mystical and visionary experiences and a heavily romanticized narrative of the period from the 1916 rising to the end of the Irish Civil War.

Young published six collections of poetry. Her verse is described as "combining a facile Pre-Raphaelitism with a fin de siècle Celticism, as much influenced by Fiona Macleod (William Sharp) as by Yeats or Russell". Her three American collections, Marzilian and Other Poems (1938), Seed of the Pomegranate and Other Poems (1949) and Smoke of Myrrh and other Poems (1950), were privately printed in very small editions.

Young was a strikingly handsome woman and exploited her dramatic looks when teaching in California. Her emotional life centred on two women to whom her love poetry is addressed, ‘Brysanthe’ whom she had known as a child and Alys Boyd, a fellow mystic, with whom she had a close friendship in Dublin. She died in Oceano on July 23, 1956.

Source: Deidre Toomey, "Ella Young", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/59452, accessed April 30, 2011.

From the guide to the Ella Young Papers., 1931-2004, (bulk 1951-1956)., (Ella Strong Denison Library)

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Subjects:

  • Tales--Ireland
  • Women's writings
  • Fairy tales--Ireland
  • Women writers
  • Folklore Ireland
  • Women poets, Irish--Archival resources

Occupations:

  • Authors
  • Poets
  • Women poets, Irish--California--Archival resources

Places:

  • California (as recorded)