Finding Aid for the Ella Young Papers D1956.1
Finding aid prepared by Michael P. Palmer, MLIS
Ella Strong Denison Library
1090 Columbia Ave
Title: Ella Young Papers.
Collection number: D1956.1
Ella Strong Denison Library
1090 Columbia Ave
The materials are written in English.
0.4 linear foot
1 box (13 folders).
Date (inclusive): 1931-2004
Date (bulk): (bulk 1951-1956).
Correspondence, photographs, postcards, writings,
reminiscences, and other materials relating to the Irish poet, political activist,
and mystic Ella Young. The bulk of the collection consists of letters exchanged
between Young and Scripps College Librarian Dorothy Drake from 1951 to 1955, letters
addressed from Young to Elsa Gidlow between 1951 and 1956, and letters between
Gidlow and Drake and Sybil M. Fielder, her successor as Scripps College Librarian,
from 1953 to 1972. The collection includes a recorded interview, together with a
published account, with photographs, of a visit to Young in 1951 by Drake and two
colleagues; another recorded interview with Young from 1953; a small number of her
interpretations of Irish traditions; and number of poems by Gidlow.
Young, Ella, 1867-1956
Restrictions on Access
The collection is available for research.
Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
For permission to reproduce or to publish, please consult Ella Strong Denison Library
Special Collections staff.
Source of Acquisition
Gift of Ella Young, 1951-1956, and of Elsa Gidlow, 1957-1972.
Processed by Sharon A. Pittman for Archival Studies 311, Claremont Graduate
University, Spring 2010; reprocessed by Michael P. Palmer, MLIS, April 2011.
Ella Young Papers, Special Collections, Ella Strong Denison Library, Scripps College,
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
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
, the first of several collections of simplified versions of Irish
mythology modeled on Fiona Macleod's
The Laughter of
(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
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,
Scope and Content
The collection consists of correspondence, photographs, postcards, writings,
reminiscences, and other materials relating to the Ella Young's life and works. The
bulk of the collection consists of three sets of letters: (1) letters exchanged
between Young and Scripps College Librarian Dorothy Drake from 1951 to 1955; (2)
letters addressed from Young to Elsa Gidlow between 1951 and 1956; and (3) letters
between Gidlow and Drake and Sybil M. Fielder, her successor as Scripps College
Librarian, from 1953 to 1972. The first set contains both Young's original letters
and carbon copies of Drake's responses, the latter with holes punched at the top,
indicating they were originally fastened together in an "administrative" file. The
second set of letters, from Young to Gidlow (but without copies of Gidlow's
responses) were donated to Scripps College in the 1960s and 1970s, after Young's
death. Two of Young's letters to Gidlow are represented by photocopies, Gidlow
having retained the originals, which may be among the Young letters cataloged among
Gidlow's papers at the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California in
San Francisco. The third and final set of letters, between Gidlow on the one hand
and Drake and Fielder on the other, contains both Gidlow's original letters and
carbon copies of Drake's and Fielder's replies, the latter, as in set 1, with holes
punched at the top, indicating they were originally fastened together in an
administrative file. Young's letters to both Drake and Gidlow contain discussion of
her (and in the latter case, Gidlow's) writings, as well as more general
conversation, news, and gossip. The correspondence between Gidlow and Drake and
Fielder is centered around Gidlow's donation of Young's correspondence and other
materials to Scripps College, but also includes a number of Gidlow's own poems,
which are filed separately.
The collection also includes a number of postcards and Christmas greeting cards
addressed to Young, 1931-1953, found among her papers, and donated to Scripps
College by Gidlow; a recorded interview, together with a published account, with
photographs, of a visit to Young in 1951 by Drake and two colleagues, Althea Warren
and Frances Richardson; and another recorded interview with Young from 1953,
recorded for radio station KPFA at Elsa Gidlow's house. Young's writings are
represented by a single typescript poem, "Lute Song", donated by Gidlow in 1967, and
typescript recountings of four Irish stories: "1. The Feast of Brighid ...", "2. The
Feast of Beltaine ...", "3. The Feast of Lughnasa (Loonassa)", and "The Feast of
Samhain". The collection includes a carbon copy application by Jane R. Thompson for
letters testamentary on Young's estate, August 10, 1956; a small number of
photographs of Young; and a few miscellaneous newspaper clippings.
Ella Young Papers, Collection 402, Department of Special Collections, University of
California Los Angeles Library.
Other letters from Ella Young to Elsa Gidlow (see Box 1, Folder 3) can be found in
Box 3, Elsa Gidlow Papers, Acc. 91-16, Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of
Northern California, San Francisco.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Box 1, Folder 1
Scope and Contents note
Application by Jane R. Thompson in the Superior Court for the County of San
Luis Obispo for letters testamentary, estate of Ella Young, August 10, 1956.
Biographic and bibliographic notes by Dorothy Drake, circa 1951-1956.
Box 1, Folder 2-5
Box 1, Folder 2
Correspondence. Ella Young and Dorothy Drake.
Box 1, Folder 3
Correspondence. Ella Young to Elsa Gidlow.
Box 1, Folder 4
Christmas Greeting Cards.
Audiotape Reel TR1 Mac
Ella Young interview with Althea Warren, Dorothy Drake, and
Oceano, June 1, 1951.
1 1/4-inch audiotape.
MISSING, May 1, 2011.
Audiotape Reel TR27 (Holbein
Room), Box 1, Folder 6
KPFA radio interview "Trees and Mountains" with Ella
1 1/4-inch audiotape + 1 printed KPFA
program guide, March 1954.
Interview of Ella Young held at Elsa Gidlow's house in 1953; broadcast by
KPFA, March 9, 1954. Audiotape MISSING, June 1, 2011.
Box 1, Folder 7
Scope and Contents note
(1) Empty envelope imprinted Mrs. Allen G. Freeman, Ridge Road, Berkeley,
California, addressed to Miss Ella Young, Box 136, Oceano, California, date
stamped December 9, 1939. (2) Poem "Processional of Joy", by Malcolm
Schloss, n.d. (circa 1950).
Box 1, Folder 8
Box 1, Folder 10
A Visit to Ella Young at
June 21, 1951
Account by Scripps College Trustee Althea Warren (1886-1958), recently
retired Los Angeles City Librarian, of a visit by her, Scripps College
Librarian Dorothy Drake, and Frances Richardson (1897-1995), at that time
Director of Research at 20th Century Fox Corporation, of a visit to Ella
Young at Oceano on June 1, 1951. Materials include an audiotaped interview,
3 typed versions of Warren's written account, and 2 copies of a slightly
edited version of the account published by the Scripps College Press as a
keepsake for the 27th Joint Meeting of the Zamorano and Roxburghe Clubs in
San Francisco, october 22-24, 2004.
Box 1, Folder 12-13
Box 1, Folder 12
Correspondence with Dorothy Drake and Sybil Fielder.