English writer and composer Anthony Burgess gives his opinion of George Bernard Shaw, Brendan Behan and William Butler Yeats.

The English writer and composer Anthony Burgess is best known in Ireland for his novel 'A Clockwork Orange'. He is visiting Dublin for the celebrations marking the centennial of writer James Joyce's birth on 2 February 1882.

Part of the centenary programme includes a BBC RTÉ radio co-production ‘Blooms of Dublin’. This musical play based on James Joyce's 'Ulysses' is written by Anthony Burgess.

Anthony Burgess ponders why the Irish have such mastery over the English language,

Why have they developed this capacity for using the language in a way the English cant?

Anthony Burgess is clearly a Joycean, but he also rates the Irish dramatists, writer and music critic George Bernard Shaw.

Shaw’s a great man.

Anthony Burgess is less impressed by Brendan Behan who he calls,

A very minor writer.

He considers Brendan Behan to be a great raconteur but not a disciplined writer,

Had this spark of genius in him which came out best in conversation, in recitation, in song.

Anthony Burgess is critical of Brendan Behan’s output,

The plays and the book ‘Borstal Boy’ are very much secondary arts.

On the other hand Anthony Burgess is lavish in his praise for William Butler Yeats,

Conceivably the greatest poet of the 20th century.

Anthony Burgess decides the only writer to match Yeats is the American Thomas Stearns Eliot. But he concludes Yeats is superior.

This episode of ‘The Late Late Show’ was broadcast on 16 January 1982. The presenter is Gay Byrne.