"A Friend's Illness"
William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)
“A Friend’s Illness” manuscript draft written in the end papers of Gregory’s copy of The Collected Works in Verse and Prose of William Butler Yeats, vol. 1
Stratford-on-Avon, Imprinted at the Shakespeare Head Press
Drained by overwork, difficulties at the Abbey, and other worries, Gregory’s health declined, leading to a nervous collapse and severe nosebleeds—often incorrectly described since as a cerebral hemorrhage— on February 3, 1909. She told Yeats a few days later, “I think I nearly slipped away.” The news shocked him to the core. In a moving letter he told her she was “a second self. The only person in the world to whom I could tell every thought.” In his journal he wrote, “She has been to me mother, friend, sister and brother. I cannot realize the world without her.” “A Friend’s Illness” is the first of several poems in which he would meditate on her singular qualities and his reliance on her.