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W. B. Yeats: A Life Vol.2: II: The Arch-Poet 1915-1939 (Hardback)
  • W. B. Yeats: A Life Vol.2: II: The Arch-Poet 1915-1939 (Hardback)

W. B. Yeats: A Life Vol.2: II: The Arch-Poet 1915-1939 (Hardback)

Hardback 856 Pages / Published: 02/10/2003
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The acclaimed first volume of this definitive biography of W. B. Yeats left him in his fiftieth year, at a cross-roads in his life. The subsequent quarter-century surveyed in The Arch-Poet takes in his rediscovery of advanced nationalism and his struggle for an independent Irish culture, his continued pursuit of supernatural truths through occult experimentation, his extraordinary marriage, and a series of tumultuous love affairs. Throughout he was writing his greatest poems, from the stark simplicity of 'The Fisherman' and 'The Wild Swans at Coole', through the magnificent complexities of the sequences reflecting the Troubles and Civil War and the Byzantium poems, to the radical compression of his last work - some of it literally written on his deathbed. The drama of his life is mapped against the history of the Irish revolution and the new Irish state founded in 1922. Yeats's many political roles and his controversial involvement in a right-wing movement during the early 1930s are covered more closely than ever before, and his complex and passionate relationship with the developing history of his country remains a central theme. Throughout this book, the genesis, alteration, and presentation of his work (memoirs and polemic as well as poetry) is explored through his private and public life. 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. Yeats constantly re-created himself and his work, believing that art was 'not the chief end of life but an accident in one's search for reality': a search which brought him again and again back to his governing preoccupations: sex and death. He also held that 'all knowledge is biography', a belief reflected in this study of one of the greatest lives of modern times.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780198184652
Number of pages: 856
Weight: 1328 g
Dimensions: 241 x 162 x 50 mm

Foster, a historian with a great literary sensibility, masterfully tells the story of W.B. Yeats, and the whole landscape of the poet emerges afresh. * Ken'ichi Matsumura, Journal of Irish Studies *
... excellent and exhaustive biography. * Contemporary Review *
'Magisterial' and 'monumental' are the words for which one reaches in awed response to this second volume of Roy Foster's biography of Yeats. Yet such routine blurb epithets hardly convey the book's special strengths; suppleness, subtlety, patience might come closer. What is remarkable is the tenacity and skill with which the historian has stuck to his task. * Irish Studies Review *
The rich, messy, complicated, heroic and ignoble life of Yeats is all here ... Above all, [Foster] shows throughout how, with Yeats, the life generated the poetry and the poetry animated the life. * Irish Studies Review *
Foster has an eye and an ear for poetry to match his special skills as historian and biographer. For all of us who care about Yeats he has done a great service; this is a book we will be revisiting again and again. * Irish Studies Review *
This is a hugely absorbing, meticulously researched, stately biography of a great and peculiar man that illuminates, without explaining, the mystery of his creativity. For lovers of his work, it is an essential companion to the poetry. * Winston-Salem Journal (USA) *
Roy Foster has quite magnificently done his best to help us reach into and read W. B. Yeats. To recommend this book to others is an honour. * The Globe and Mail (Canada) *
It is hard to know which to admire the more: the unravelling of Yeats's own politics or the historian's understanding of the new Ireland. * Michael Foot, Books of the Year, Observer Review *
The treatment afforded Leda and the Swan can be taken as a touchstone of the book's method and manner. Dilligent, thorough, unobstructed by jargon or modishness, careful with the details of both the life and any poem under consideration, measured and intelligent in its readings and criticism, this is a model approach to literary biography. * The Globe and Mail (Canada) *
... for those who think the poetry of Yeats one of the great inheritances of the century now mercifully finished, the second instalment of the mighty work of University of Oxford historian R. F. Foster is welcome. * The Globe and Mail, Canada *
Again Foster approaches Yeat's memoirs with skepticism, shrewdly and scrupulously applying the historical facts to Yeats's self-made image and his poetry. * Publishers Weekly *
Foster's initial volume is exceptional ... The Arch-Poet is no less outstanding. * The New Leader *
My first choice is R.F. Foster's W. B. Yeats: A Life, II: The Arch-Poet, the concluding volume of his magisterial biography of the great poet. Reading it, you don't just understand Yeats better: you understand Ireland better as well. * Ian Duhig, Books of the Year, The Irish Times *
R.F. Foster's W.B. Yeats: A Life: II: The Arch-Poet, 1915-1939 achieved that rare feat of becoming a classic on publication. One of its greatest illuminations is on the imaginative and deeply necessary role Yeats played in the embryonic years of the Free State. * Caroline Walsh, Books of the Year, The Irish Times *
R.F. Foster's training as an historian and his feeling for literature join together to create both a formidable scholarly work and a marvellous story. * John Montague, Books of the Year, The Irish Times *
... the second volume of [Foster's] biography of Yeats completes with great elegance the most important Irish biographical project of the era. * Bernard O'Donoghue, Books of the Year, The Irish Times *
The biography of the year - of the decade - is surely R.F. Foster's W. B. Yeats: A Life, II: The Arch-Poet, 1915-1939, a magnificent account of a magnificent life, and a timely redefinition of that difficult concept "Irishness". * John Banville, Books of the Year, The Irish Times *
... superb on the poetry, the politics and the personal life. * Colm Toibin, Books of the Year, The Irish Times *
Foster's control of such voluminous material is remarkable in itself, but it is not achieved at the expense of lucidity nor of intelligent reading of the poetry. And through its long course we are constantly enlivened by Foster's ironical wit. * Frank Kermode, Books of the Year, The Irish Times *
Foster's biography is a magnificent achievement. * The Catholic Herald *
I have never read a biography of any poet that has conveyed so clearly the genius of its subject and the talent of its author. * Frank Kermode, Los Angeles Times *
Elegant, interesting, comprehensive, the book marshalls its army of facts lightly, anecdotally, magisterially. It will be plundered by critics and historians, for generations probably. * The Dubliner *
There are few writers better able to place Yeats in a broader historical, political and, yes, religious context ... a magisterial biography. * Mick Heaney, Sunday Times (Ireland) *
... as readable as it is definitive. * Catherine Foley, The Irish Times *
Yeats once described his art to Ezra Pound as "an accident in one's search for reality". In this lively new book Foster captures all the richness of that reality, creating a balanced view of Yeats's poetry and his politics alike. * Newsweek *
... as much an introduction to the fraught history of Irish nationalism as a definitive life of Ireland's best-loved poet. * Newsweek *
The overwhelming impression one carries away from this wonderful book is one of dense activity, constant creativity, endless self-examination and extraordinary achievement, packed into the last 20 years of Yeats's life. That all of this can be clearly laid out, and expertly mediated to us, is a mark of Foster's great scholarship, fine intelligence and detached empathy. * Catriona Crowe, Sunday Tribune (Dublin) *
Foster's capacity to intelligently interweave the life and the work gives the narrative resonance and depth, and immeasurably enriches our understanding of these great works. * Catriona Crowe, Sunday Tribune (Dublin) *
Foster's takes on the great poems are as good as anything one will find, and better than most because of his detailed understanding of their contexts and the clarity of his prose. * Catriona Crowe, Sunday Tribune (Dublin) *
[Foster] places Yeats in a scrupulously balanced context. While he does not hide the poet's reactionary views, he also demonstrates that those were free of the taint of anti-Semitism ... Foster is also an admirable interpreter of the poems. * The Week *
... this book reminds us how inspiring lives can be in their retelling. It lets us imagine, as Yeats wanted to imagine in 1925, 'history grown symbolic, the biography changed into a myth'. * Adam Phillips, The Observer *
In writing this biography of Yeats as one biography of Ireland in his times, Foster is writing a new kind of history, as well as a new kind of biography. * Adam Phillips, The Observer *
... it is the miracle of this book that it is exhaustive without ever being exhausting. The narrative never flags, and the writing never falters; neither the intricacies of the political situation, nor the deft and sometimes daft ingenuities of Yeats's A Vision stop the pace. And the poems are treated with a brief eloquence that makes them instantly more readable. * Adam Phillips, The Observer *
Rich as Foster's achievement was in the first volume, the second volume is more astonishing yet. * Adam Phillips, The Observer *
... the biography will be invaluable to scholars, who will mine it for decades to come. Every decent library should have it. * Lachlan Mackinnon, Daily Telegraph Saturday Arts *
... one of the most scholarly and entertaining biographies of recent years. * Ferdinand Mount, The Sunday Times Culture *
Foster is adept in presenting the evidence and leaving it to the reader to judge. * Jonathan Bate, The Sunday Telegraph *
... an extraordinary achievement ... this is the biography that no lover of Yeats's poetry can afford to be without. * Mark Bostridge, The Independent on Sunday *
... a biography to stand beside Ellmann's James Joyce. * Bernard O'Donoghue, Guardian Review *
Yeats has found his ideal biographer, a sparkling controversialist with exactly the right degree of patience with the visionary thought, ready to suspend belief where the poet's claimed credulity becomes excessive. * Bernard O'Donoghue, Guardian Review *
Foster is wonderfully readable; he keeps a courteous rein on his scepticism, but it is given occasional licence to fine comic effect. * Bernard O'Donoghue, Guardian Review *
... the volume's distinctive and triumphant form places the poems in relief against the historical and personal documentation, rather like set pieces embedded in a film script. * Bernard O'Donoghue, Guardian Review *
Roy Foster exemplifies the virtues of that Irish intellect so often invoked by Yeats himself, independent, vigorous, liberal and, on occasion, consciously provocative. * Seamus Heaney, Financial Times magazine *
The Apprentice Mage gave promise of a masterwork and the promise is fulfilled in The Arch-Poet. What we have now is one of the great biographies, as affectionate as it is scholarly, intellectually equal to the tasks it sets itself. * Seamus Heaney, Financial Times magazine *
... this triumphant sequel to The Apprentice Mage, Roy Foster's first volume of biography, which traced the poet's development until his 50th year. The new volume lives up to the expectations created by that greatly lauded book. It is rammed with a life that comes from its subject's Shakespearean capacity to be simultaneously at home in the worlds of high policy and deep imagining and its author's Boswellian attentiveness to his every mental and physical move. * Seamus Heaney, Financial Times magazine *
The completion of this biography is in itself a moment of cultural rearticulation in Ireland. The work involved is staggering, but the narrative carries it with the ease of a lifting wave. * Seamus Deane, The Irish Times *
... magnificent. * Paul Muldoon, The Times *
Foster tells the whole story with just that blend of empathy and scepticism which allows him to register the frequent absurdities amidst all the grandeur. * Declan Kiberd, Times Literary Supplement, *
Foster reminds us every so often of what is happening offstage as well as on, giving a sense of depth and perspective to the emerging portrait. * Declan Kiberd, Times Literary Supplement, *
To restore openness to each moment of a long, rich life requires a mastery of many different planes of narrative, all unfolding simultaneously ... Foster's gifts as a narrative historian, as well as his talent for archival research, mean that he is equal to the task. The amount of detail included in some paragraphs is quite astonishing, yet the prose never seems weighed down by this knowledge. The result is not only a major study in itself, but a trove which will be mined by commentators for years to come. * Declan Kiberd, Times Literary Supplement, * is the detailed research, well-serviced by a graceful literary style, which makes this work so valuable and enduring. The dust of the archives never clutters the narrative momentum. This is partly a testament to the propulsion lent the ale by the full, varied, and engaged life that Yeats led, but it is also a tribute to the tight and unobtrusive stitching of the narrative structure. In short, it is a biographical achievement worthy of its subject. * The Yearbook of English Studies *

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