Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Scenes from Passionate Life of W.B. Yeats

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Scenes from Passionate Life of W.B. Yeats

Article excerpt

W.B. YEATS: The Man and the Milieu

A biography by Keith Alldritt

388 pages, Clarkson Potter, $35 W,B. YEATS - A Life, Volume 1: The Apprentice Mage A biography by R.F. Forster 640 pages, Oxford University Press, $35 AWARDED the Nobel Prize for Literature and named to the Irish Senate, William Butler Yeats as Keith Alldritt's breathlessly written biography shows, was divided throughout his life between the attractions of the physical world and the philosophical abstractions he was convinced lay behind it. Regarded by many as the finest poet of the 20th century, Yeats was also a dramatist and combative journalist, who admired what he called the great myth-makers and mask-makers. An interest in the occult and spiritual realms led the one-time art student to become a follower of the noted Theosophist Madame Blavatsky and to join the magically inclined Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Nonetheless Yeats came to understand the wisdom of his character Crazy Jane that "fair needs foul," and after the other-worldly romanticism of his early years, his poetry grew more colloquial and earthy in form. Yeats' life was marked by involvement with many women, including affairs he conducted into his 70s with his wife's tacit approval and even encouragement. His most important relationships, however, were his friendship with the nurturing Lady Augusta Gregory and his lifelong pursuit of the ardently nationalistic Maud Gonne, who alternately beckoned then kept him at a distance. "I don't want you to give me so much place in your life," she advised him finally. As an Anglo Irish Protestant in predominately Catholic Ireland, Yeats' conservatism led to a flirtation with the fascist Blueshirt movement. Despite his unworldly interests, Yeats was a shrewd political infighter, taking control of the Abbey Theatre he helped to found or making an impassioned plea before an Irish Senate, wryly described by the then president of Ireland as a dull but well-dressed crowd. …

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