Becoming George - The Life of Mrs W. B. Yeats: The Life of Mrs W. B. Yeats

Paperback | March 16, 2004

byAnn Saddlemyer

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'I, the poet William Yeats, | With old mill boards and sea-green slates, | And smithy work from the Gort forge, | Restored this tower for my wife George; | And may these characters remain | When all is ruin once again.' With this lovely six-line poem, W. B. Yeats dedicated the renovation ofThoor Ballylee to his wife. But the poem's truth conceals another, and different truth - that they worked together at the restoration, and it was largely her vision and hands that created a dwelling from the former ruins. Just how symbolic this is, of the close but largely hidden collaboration between them, is revealed by thisdeeply-researched life of George Yeats - the first full-scale biography of a woman of remarkable gifts and generous self-concealment. Raised in the decades before the First War, in London literary salons where the arts and occult met, Georgie Hyde Lees became an art student, accomplished linguist, and serious scholar of medieval arcana, anthroposophy, and astrology. She was a lifelong friend of Ezra Pound and his wife DorothyShakespear, in whose social circle Yeats also moved; he sponsored her initiation to the Order of the Golden Dawn. In 1917 they married (she was 25, he 52), and on their honeymoon Georgie began the automatic writing which formed the substance of A Vision, and from which sprang the ideas that occupiedYeats for the rest of his life. Her 'extrasensory' perceptions fed his poetic imagery as her practicality and warmth supplied the environment for his writing. As with the restoration of Ballylee, they were intimate collaborators - but her instinct was always for self-effacement. Though valued bynumerous writer-friends (among them Lennox Robinson, Thomas McGreevy, and Frank O'Connor) as a perceptive critic - and known to have written two plays and a novel, which she suppressed - she deliberately hid her talents from public view. Her choice was to appear as Yeats's wife, helpmeet, andsecretary, the mother of his children - and for thirty years after his death the tireless overseer of his literary legacy and a knowledgeable adviser to generations of younger critics and writers. For the first time, this intelligent and creative woman is allowed to take centre stage. Drawing on memoirs and a wealth of unknown and unpublished sources, this biography by the distinguished scholar Ann Saddlemyer reveals someone much more significant than just 'Mrs W. B. Yeats' - a personality atonce visionary and practical, and an important figure in twentieth-century literary history.

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'I, the poet William Yeats, | With old mill boards and sea-green slates, | And smithy work from the Gort forge, | Restored this tower for my wife George; | And may these characters remain | When all is ruin once again.' With this lovely six-line poem, W. B. Yeats dedicated the renovation ofThoor Ballylee to his wife. But the poem's tru...

Awarded the British Academy's Rose Mary Crawshay Award for criticism, 1986, for her 2-volume Letters of J. M. Synge (OUP). She is one of the General Editors of the Cornell Yeats series (publishing the MSS of the entire Yeats canon); and on the editorial boards of the Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, the Irish Studies Review, the Iri...

other books by Ann Saddlemyer

Synge and His Influences: Centenary Essays from the Synge Summer School
Synge and His Influences: Centenary Essays from the Syn...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:848 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 1.78 inPublished:March 16, 2004Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199269211

ISBN - 13:9780199269211

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Table of Contents

BibliographyIndexList of IllustrationsFamily TreeIntroductionPrelude - Ballylee, August 1923I. Progressions 1892-19181. Ancestry2. Childhood3. Friends4. Studies5. The Golden Dawn6. Forest Row7. London, Oxford, and DublinII. Conjunctions 1919-19218. Coole9. Anne10. Oxford and New York11. MichaelIII. Directions 1922-192812. Ballylee13. Merrion Square14. DublinIV. Transits 1929-193915. Rapallo16. Fitzwilliam Square17. Riversdale18. Majorca19. MentonV. Mapping20. Palmerston Road21. Seekers and Friends22. Postlude: OdysseysThe Death of William Gilbert Hyde LeesAbbreviationsNotesIndexList of IllustrationsFamily TreeIntroductionPrelude - Ballylee, August 1923I. Progressions 1892-19181. Ancestry2. Childhood3. Friends4. Studies5. The Golden Dawn6. Forest Row7. London, Oxford, and DublinII. Conjunctions 1919-19218. Coole9. Anne10. Oxford and New York11. MichaelIII. Directions 1922-192812. Ballylee13. Merrion Square14. DublinIV. Transits 1929-193915. Rapallo16. Fitzwilliam Square17. Riversdale18. Majorca19. MentonV. Mapping20. Palmerston Road21. Seekers and Friends22. Postlude: OdysseysThe Death of William Gilbert Hyde LeesAbbreviationsNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

`[In her] wise, majestic biography, Ann Saddlemyer seems to see all and understand all; her book is a masterpiece, an extraordinary achievement...Every page is fascinating.'Kildare Dobbs, Toronto Globe and Mail