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 déclassé 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.
R. F. Foster, Carroll Professor of Irish History, Hertford College, Oxford
"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
List of illustrations; Source illustrations; Acknowledgements; Foreword; Family trees; Introduction; Prologue: Yeatses and Pollexfens; 1 The Artist's Children: Sligo 1865-1881; 2 Explorations: Dublin 1881-1887;
3 Two Years: Bedford Park 1887-1889; 4 Secret Societies 1889-1891; 5 The Battles of the Books 1891-1893; 6 Lands of Heart's Desire 1894-1896; 7 Waiting for the Millennium 1896-1898; 8 Shadowy Waters 1898-1900; 9 Occult Politics 1900-1901; 10 National Dramas 1901-1902; 11 The Taste of Salt 1902-1903; 12 From America to Abbey Street 1903-1904; 13 Delighting in Enemies 1905-1906; 14 Synge and the Ireland of His Time 1907-1909; 15 Severances 1909-1910; 16 True and False Irelands 1910-1911; 17 Ghosts 1911-1913; 18 Memory Harbour 1913-1914
Appendix: 'The Poet Yeats Talks Drama with Ashton Stevens', from the San Francisco Examiner, 30 January 1904; Abbreviations; Notes; Index.