W. B. Yeats by R. F. Foster
A Life Volume II: The Arch-Poet 1915-1939 (v. 2)

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Synopsis

The first volume in Roy Foster's magisterial biography of W.B. Yeats was hailed as "a work of huge significance" (The Atlantic Monthly) and "a stupendous historiographical feat" (Irish Sunday Independent). Now, the eagerly awaited second volume explores the complex poetic, political, and personal intricacies of Yeats's dramatic final decades, a period that saw the Easter Rebellion, the founding of the Irish state in 1922, and the production of Yeats's greatest masterpieces.
In the conclusion of this first fully authorized biography, Foster brilliantly illuminates the circumstances--the rich internal and external experiences--that shaped the great poetry of Yeats's later years: "The Wild Swans at Coole," "Sailing to Byzantium," "The Tower," "The Circus Animals Desertion," "Under Ben Bulben," and many others. Yeats's pursuit of Irish nationalism and an independent Irish culture, his continued search for supernatural truths through occult experimentation, his extraordinary marriage, a series of tempestuous love affairs, and his lingering obsession with Maud Gonne are all explored here with a nuance and awareness rare in literary biography. Foster gives us the very texture of Yeats's life and thought, revealing the many ways he made poetry out of the "quarrel" with himself and the upheaval around him. But this consummate biography also shows that Yeats was much more than simply a lyric poet and examines in great detail Yeats's non-poetic work--his essays, plays, polemics, and memoirs. The enormous and varied circle of Yeats's friends, lovers, family, collaborators and antagonists inhabit and enrich a personal world of astounding energy, artistic commitment and verve; while the poet himself is shown returning again and again to his governing preoccupations, sex and death.
Based on complete and unprecedented access to Yeats's papers and written with extraordinary grace and insight, W.B. Yeats, A Life offers the fullest portrait yet of the private and public life of one of the twentieth century's greatest poets.
 

About R. F. Foster

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Roy Foster is Carroll Professor of Irish History at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Hertford College. His books include Charles Stewart Parnell: The Man and His Family, Lord Randolph Churchill: a Political Life (OUP, 1981), Modern Ireland 1600-1972, Paddy and Mr Punch, and The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland. The prize-winning first volume of this biography, W.B. Yeats, A Life. I: The Apprentice Mage 1865-1914 was published by OUP in 1997.
 
Published December 1, 2003 by Oxford University Press. 798 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Education & Reference, Travel, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for W. B. Yeats

Kirkus Reviews

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Eminent Irish historian meets eminent Irish poet, continuing the massive biography begun nearly seven years ago.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of W. B. Yeats: A Life Volume II...

The New York Times

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The second volume of R. F. Foster’s marvelous biography of Yeats revolves around love, politics, poetry and magic.

Nov 09 2003 | Read Full Review of W. B. Yeats: A Life Volume II...

The New York Times

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... Review: Knausgaard Becomes a Writer in a Sick, Crooked World ... Books.
William M. Murphy, Biographer of W. B. Yeats's Family, Is Dead at 92 ... Richard
Ellmann, Yeats's eminent biographer, called “Prodigal Father” an ...

Oct 08 2008 | Read Full Review of W. B. Yeats: A Life Volume II...

The Guardian

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WB Yeats: A Life, Vol II: The Arch-Poet by RF Foster 798pp, Oxford, £30 TS Eliot said that Yeats was "one of those few whose history is the history of their own time, who are a part of the consciousness of an age which cannot be understood without them": a surprising claim, it might seem, si...

Sep 27 2003 | Read Full Review of W. B. Yeats: A Life Volume II...

Publishers Weekly

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The explosive era in both Irish history and Yeats's poetry justify the length of the second volume of Oxford historian Foster's masterful life of Yeats.

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Los Angeles Times

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" By 1913, Foster writes, Yeats was declaring in his poetry his determination "to rid himself of the late-Victorian 'embroidery,' now debased by imitators": "Song, let them take it / For there's more enterprise / In walking naked."

May 09 1997 | Read Full Review of W. B. Yeats: A Life Volume II...

The New York Review of Books

It is unlikely that this young woman cared in any deep way for Yeats: years afterward she told Yeats’s biographer Richard Ellmann that she had considered “keep[ing] Yeats about as her mother had done.”.

Feb 26 2004 | Read Full Review of W. B. Yeats: A Life Volume II...

The New York Review of Books

he was possibly tubercular.” He was also painfully shy, a condition he tried to deal with by retreating, as in his early Symbolist poems, to vagueness and the consolations of words: Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription a...

Feb 19 1998 | Read Full Review of W. B. Yeats: A Life Volume II...

The New York Review of Books

Yeats’s life, Roy Foster observes, “raises immediate and pressing questions about the relationship between everyday life and creative work.” In fact, the poet’s biography is an overwhelming refutation of his insistence that “The intellect of man is forced to choose/Perfection of the life, or of t...

Feb 26 2004 | Read Full Review of W. B. Yeats: A Life Volume II...

Project MUSE

And only students of Irish literature will have read even the triad “Davis, Mangan, Ferguson” invoked in Yeats’s poem “To Ireland in the Coming Times.” In an early newspaper piece later collected in Letters to the New Island, Yeats wrote that “one can only reach out to the universe w...

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Spectator Book Club

And now my utmost mystery is out: A woman’s beauty is a storm-tossed banner: Under it wisdom stands, and I alone — Of all Arabia’s lovers I alone — Nor dazzled by the embroidery, nor lost In the confusion of its night-dark folds, Can hear the armed man speak.

Oct 04 2003 | Read Full Review of W. B. Yeats: A Life Volume II...

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