in the UK
In the first authorized biography of W. B. Yeats for over 50 years, Roy Foster brings new light to one of the most complex and fascinating lives of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Working from a great archive of personal and contemporary material, he dramatically alters traditional perceptions to illuminate the poet's family history, relationships, politics, and art. From a childhood inheritance of declasse Irish Protestantism with strong nationalist sympathies, and an exceptional and talented family background, the narrative charts his development into a great poet. It ends in his 50th year with the controversies and disillusionment affecting his personal and public life at the time of the First World War. A bohemian life of uncertain finances, love-affairs, avant-garde friends and experiments with drugs and occultism prefaces his attempt to unite politics with high culture and his creation of an Irish national theatre. Constantly shifting between Dublin, Coole Park and London, with forays to America and Paris, ruthlessly constructing a public life as well as a creative reputation, Yeats's genius attracted admirers and enemies with equal passion. His story intersects with those of an engrossing cast of characters including Lady Gregory, J. M. Synge, George Moore, 'AE', Ezra Pound and above all Maud Gonne - an influence eternally re-created 'like the phoenix', affecting everything he did. The search for supernatural wisdom forms a constant thread, traced through Yeats's occult notebooks and closely related to the insecurities of his personal life. The Apprentice Mage charts the growth of a poet's mind and of an astonishing personality, both of which were instrumental in the formation of a new and radicalised Irish nationalist identity.
Oxford University Press
Publisher and industry reviews
wonderfully illuminating Seamus Deane, The Guardian will remain a central text for all admirers of Yeats Peter Ackroyd, The Times an instant classic - such style, wise humour and airy scholarship ... one to keep close by The Sunday Telegraph the fullest and most reliable account of Yeats's career ... required reading John Kelly, The Irish Times biography on the heroic scale John Carey, The Sunday Times
UK Kirkus review
The author's achievement in this masterly biography is to show, for the first time, the symbiotic relationship between Yeats's Protestant nationalism and his interest in the occult. This first volume covers the first 50 years of the poet's life, focusing on his actions rather than his writings, his membership of the Golden Dawn and his complicated relationship with Maud Gonne. It is beautifully written, well illustrated and handsomely produced. No-one who wants to understand the mind of one of the century's towering literary figures can afford to ignore this work. (Kirkus UK)
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