Ellis, Edwin John (writer, artist)

Reference: MS 293Date: 1890-1922Extent: 2 boxes, 1 folder
Edwin John Ellis (1841-1916) edited the works of William Blake with W.B. Yeats, published a volume of his own verse and two novels, and illustrated Shakespeare’s sonnets and other books.

He was a long-term friend of Irish artist John Butler Yeats. They shared a London studio in Newham Street from 1869. In the same year, an informal association called “The Brotherhood” was formed, bound by friendships and a desire to help progress the work of each member. It started out with Ellis alongside fellow artists John Trivett Nettleship, Sydney Hall and John Butler Yeats. Hall left soon after, securing steady work as an illustrator, and was replaced by George Wilson.

The Yeats family moved to London in 1879 and Ellis met John Butler Yeats’ son, William Butler Yeats. They began a joint study of William Blake in 1889, resulting in the discovery of the manuscript of Vala, or the Four Zoas. They would publish it together in 1893 in their three-volume commentary book about Blake’s work: The Works of William Blake: Poetic, Symbolic and Critical.

Ellis took part in the meetings of The Rhymers’ Club, a London-based group of poets founded in 1890 by W.B. Yeats and Ernest Rhys. The group produced volumes of poetry in 1892 and 1894 to which Ellis contributed work. Elkin Matthews and John Lane published these volumes.

Ellis had his work included in Yeats’ famous Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1892-1935 which was published in 1936.

The collection includes correspondence, manuscripts written by both Ellis and W.B. Yeats, a number of paintings and drawings, prints and sundry papers.

More information

Sources from our library collections

  • There are copies of books illustrated by Ellis, including the two Rhymers’ Club publications, in our rare book collections