Synopses & Reviews
William Butler Yeats was Ireland's leading poet, chief architect of the Irish Literary Revival, and, according to T.S. Eliot, "one of those few whose history is the history of their own time, who are part of the consciousness of an age which cannot be understood without them." In this absorbing new study, David Pierce provides a fresh perspective, one that attends as much to Yeats's English contexts as his Irish ones and to the preoccupations of his art. If he was critical of British attitudes toward Ireland, Yeats was also much taken with English life, with the coterie atmosphere of the Rhymers' Club in the 1890s, with membership of the Savile Club in London, with gatherings at English country houses. For this intimate portrait of Yeats, Pierce pays particular attention to the hitherto unappreciated role of the poet's English wife, George Yeats, whose presence, influence, and humor can be felt throughout the book.
Interweaving biography, criticism, and history, Pierce follows Yeats's life from his birth in Dublin in 1865 to his death in the south of France in 1939. He describes Yeats's family and home; his interest in the oral tradition, the occult, and automatic writing; his literary activities in London and Dublin; his work with the Abbey Theatre and his life during World War I; his response to the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War; his friendship with fellow-modernist Ezra Pound; his sympathy with fascism; and his rage against old age. Enriched with a wide range of illustrative material, including specially commissioned photographs, the book affords a timely reassessment of Yeats's worlds.
"In this lavishly illustrated scholarly analysis of the Nobel Prize-winning poet and dramatist, Pierce places greater emphasis on his subject's connection to England than earlier studies have....Drawing on unpublished letters, old newspaper reports and other primary sources, the author provides a cultural context for his subject's Anglo-Irish identity." Publishers Weekly
"The book is beautiful to hold and look at....The writing is good, and the scholarship sound." Michael Stephens, Washington Post Book World
"A stylish but learned amalgam of images, documents, biography and criticism on the poet and his turbulent Irish times." New Statesman
"An excellent complement to other Yeats studies." Los Angeles Times
"[An] innovative and illuminating book....Marvellous photographs and maps, as well as excellent scholarly deduction." Toronto Globe & Mail
"This book breaks new ground by arguing for a consideration of Yeats within the English tradition....Lively and original...Pierce's book boldly rearranges the furniture in the Yeatsian household, and the biographers will have to take note." Irish University Review
Includes bibliographical references (p.337-342) and index.
About the Author
David Pierce has taught, read, and written about modern literature and Irish writing for more than thirty years. He is on the Board of the International James Joyce Foundation, is reviews editor for estudiosirlandeses.org, an internet journal devoted to Irish Studies, and the author of W. B.Yeats State of the Art (Bristol Classical Press,1989); James Joyce's Ireland (Yale University Press, 1992); W. B. Yeats Critical Assessments 4 vols (Helm Information, 2000); Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century: A Reader (Cork University Press, 2001); Joyce and Company (Continuum, 2006); and Reading Joyce (Longman, 2008). Now retired, David lives in York, England.