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W.B. Yeats, A Life: The Apprentice Mage, 1865-1914 (W.B. Yeats, A Life #1)

4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  75 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
William Butler Yeats has cast his long shadow over the history of both modern poetry and modern Ireland for so long that his preeminence is taken for granted. Now, in the first authorized biography of Yeats to appear in over fifty years, leading Irish historian R.F. Foster travels beyond Yeats's towering image as arguably the century's greatest poet to restore a real sense ...more
Paperback, 704 pages
Published December 17th 1998 by Oxford University Press (first published 1997)
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Katharine Kerr
A carefully written, fundamentally interesting study bogged down in way too much detail about feuds with people who have, historically speaking, turned out to be insignificant. Yeats, like too many writers, made enemies as easily as he made friends. The Abbey Theater years, in particular, seemed to bring out the worst in him and the other people involved.

Redeeming features: a decent treatment of Lady Augusta Gregory that gives her full credit for her accomplishments without the usual male schola
The first volume of Irish historian Roy Foster's two-volume biography of the great poet William Butler Yeats covers the poet's life from birth to the outbreak of World War I. The subtitle 'The Apprentice Mage' refers to Yeats's obsession with magic and the occult, and his efforts to write poetry that could, like a magic spell, alter physical reality by tapping into a spiritual substratum of consciousness and destiny. This book is a history of Yeats's life more than a critique of his poetry and s ...more
Philip Lane
Although this book was quite an eye-opener as I previously knew little about Yeats I did find it a little bit of an overload. There seemed to be an enormous amount of detail, all referenced and catalogued, and it felt like a lot of repetition as he revised and re-revised his own work. I felt that I was missing the forest because of the wood. This means this is probably a wonderful source for those who are Studying Yeats and know much of the background. A bit of a struggle for me but what impress ...more
Ali Miremadi
May 30, 2016 Ali Miremadi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was prompted to read this after seeing Foster interviewed by Bob Geldof in his terrific BBC programme about Yeats. It is authoritative and rewarding. As so often though it reminds me that it is that art more than the artist which merits attention.
I have abandoned this book because I have lost my copy. If I find it I will take it up again. It was difficult but I was going to read it and I am disappointed that this is not going to happen. I only had vol 1 of a two vol work.
Jun 16, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grown-up-books
Presumes a solid knowledge of Irish history. This is an historian's take on Yeats, rather than that of a literary critic. Follows the thread of Yeats' life rather than coming at it through the poems.
Katy Walters
May 12, 2011 Katy Walters rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is scintillating. A mine of information on a much loved poet and author. It is packed full of history, as well as being an absorbing autobiography.
Scott Lee
Feb 15, 2015 Scott Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stupendous first volume of Foster's excellent biography of W.B. Yeats.
Richard Epstein
Volume 1 of Foster's thick biography is thorough. Boy, is it thorough. Reading it is like running in sand. Uphill.
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Robert Fitzroy Foster, PhD, FBA, FRHistS, FRSL.
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Other Books in the Series

W.B. Yeats, A Life (3 books)
  • W.B. Yeats, A Life: The Arch-Poet, 1915-1939
  • W.B. Yeats, A Life: Two Volume Set

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