Wednesday, February 13, 2013

81. John Gray in Holland

The first time that the name of Charles Shannon was mentioned in Holland coincided with the first appearance of the name of John Gray in a Dutch newspaper. See my earlier blogs on an article from the Dagblad that was later published in the Java-Bode (7 May 1891). The report of the performance of Ibsen's Ghosts in London on 13 March 1891 not only mentioned Shannon as a member of the Independent Theatre Society, but also noted that Oscar Wilde had come to see the play, and his name was followed immediately by that of John Gray, who was called 'the new poet'. 

John Gray, c. 1892
To call him a poet was rather premature. By March 1891 John Gray had published a critical piece, 'Les Goncourt', and a fairy tale, 'The great worm', both in the first issue of Ricketts's and Shannon's magazine The Dial (August 1889). An obituary of Albert Dubois-Pillet was published in The Academy of September 1890, and The Artist and Journal of Home Culture of August 1890 had published a 'Sonnet', a translation from Paul Verlaine. One of Gray's own poems had been published with a drawing by Ricketts in Black and White, 28 February 1891, and some more were to follow in the second issue of The Dial in February 1892. A 'new' poet, indeed.

Meanwhile Gray had sent Wilde a handwritten poem for what was to become his famous book of poems Silverpoints (1893), and he had been reciting his poetry to the Rhymers' Club in January 1891. He befriended the poets Lionel Johnson and Ernest Dowson, and by the autumn of 1891 he also knew Alexander Teixeira de Mattos. 'Tex', as his friends called him, was probably the writer of the article about the first performance of Ghosts. Gray lived at the Temple, and since April 1891 he rented rooms at No 3, Plowden Buildings, where George Moore - also mentioned in the article! - Arthur Symons and Tex lived on the same floor.

Binding by Phoenix Bindery for Paul van Capelleveen, Dutch silverpoints (2007)
Why would the author of an article for a Dutch newspaper mention Gray's name, apart from friendship? It is very likely that Teixeira de Mattos had inspired Gray to write to the editor of a Dutch magazine, De Nieuwe Gids ('The New Guide') in January 1891, in an attempt to get his poems accepted for publication. Nothing came of it. I published Gray's letters to the Dutch writer Frederik van Eeden in Dutch Silverpoints. John Gray's Struggle for Fame in Holland. This book was beautifully produced by Hans van Eijk on his private Bonnefant Press in 2007. As some copies are still for sale, I will not quote these letters here, but refer you to the Bonnefant Press website for your order, which will be patiently awaited.