WB Yeats (1865-1939) - Mercyhurst University

W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)
► Poet,
dramatist, mystic, essayist, critic.
► Widely considered to be one of the greatest
English-language poets of the 20th century.
► Founded the Irish Literary Theatre.
► Received the Nobel Prize for Literature in
Overview of Yeats
► Important
member of the Abbey theater
group, Gaelic Revival, and Celtic Twilight.
► Pretty political at one point in his life but
later rejects most political causes to follow a
more aesthetic and philosophical path.
► Poems touch on desire for Irish Identity,
Irish Mythology, Culture, Irish Politics, and a
healthy distrust of man-made systems.
A Family of Artists
► William
Butler Yeats was born on June 13,
1865 in Dublin. His father was a lawyer of
sorts who turned Pre-Raphaelite painter. In
1867 the family followed him to London and
settled in Bedford Park. In 1881 (Yeats =
16) they returned to Dublin, where Yeats
studied at the Metropolitan School of Art.
Father, Son, and Brother
A portriat of W.B. Yeats
(painted by his father)
A painting by Jack B Yeats
(W.B. Yeats’s brother)
Identity Crisis – or -- Contrasts and Balance
► While
Yeats was born in Ireland’s East,
some of his early days and later family
jaunts were spent in Sligo (Which he sees
as his home).
► While he is part of the Protestant
Ascendancy, he and his family support the
Irish Nationalist movements.
Coole Park
Changing Interests
► As
a student at the Metropolitan School of
Art, Yeats was uninspired. While there he
met the poet, dramatist, and painter George
Russell (1867-1935). Russell was interested
in mysticism, and his search inspired Yeats
to explore reincarnation, the supernatural,
and Oriental mysticism.
A Writer is Born
► Yeats
made his literary debut in 1885, when
his first poems were published in The Dublin
University Review. In 1887 the family
returned to Bedford Park (London), and
Yeats devoted himself to writing the poetry
that would fill his first few volumes.
Maud Gonne
► Yeats
met the love of his life, Maud Gonne,
in 1889. She was an actress who was
financially independent and she was also an
Irish revolutionary who became a major
figure in Yeats’s life and work. Yeats wrote
poetry for her, asked her to marry him
multiple times, and many biographers claim
he worshipped her. When she married
another in 1903, Yeats wrote “No Second
A Different Agenda
► Maud
Gonne influenced Yeats to join the
revolutionary organization the Irish
Republican Brotherhood. By 1896 Yeats
began work reforming the Irish Literary
Society, and then the National Literary
Society in Dublin, which aimed to promote
the New Irish Library.
Lady Gregory And the Abbey Theater
► In
1897, Yeats met Lady Gregory. Yeats,
Gregory, Synge, and others founded the
Irish Literary Theatre.
Lady Gregory
The Old Abbey Theater
J.M. Synge
Later Life
► In
early 1917 Yeats bought
Thoor Ballyle, a derelict
Norman stone tower near
Coole Park. After restoring
it, the tower became his
summer home and a central
symbol in his later poetry.
In 1917 he married Georgie
Getting Personal
and Writing Much
► Yeats’s
later work is more personal and his
subjects include his children and the
experience of growing old. Many suggest his
greatest poetry is written late in his life.
Yeats is buried in Sligo