The Words Upon the Windowpane
Edited by Mary Fitzgerald
Words upon the Window Pane, first staged in 1930, is W. B. Yeats's most powerful and brilliant dramatic exploration of the occult, in which he had a lifelong interest, and an affirmation of Anglo-Irish Protestant cultural ascendancy. Written at Lady Gregory's Coole Park estate, it features a séance in which Jonathan Swift's voice is projected through a medium. Like Yeats, Swift was both politician and poet, and taking Swift as his subject allowed Yeats to cloak a political message under personal character.
Quite probably based on an obscure one-act play called Swift and Stella by Charles Edward Lawrence, Lady Gregory's editor, the play is centered on a romantic triangle involving Jonathan Swift and two women, Vanessa and Stella. Yeats's use of a séance as a frame permits him to compare the present with the past by putting twentieth-century Dubliners side by side with Swift's contemporaries. This volume of the Cornell Yeats contains transcriptions and photographic reproductions of the drafts of Words upon the Window Pane, with variant readings from proofs, typescripts, and notebook entries, as well as other materials pertaining to its writing, publication, and performance.