With no new ground to break in either personal life or historical context, Alldritt's perspective on Yeats as ""calculating...

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W.B. YEATS: The Man and the Milieu

With no new ground to break in either personal life or historical context, Alldritt's perspective on Yeats as ""calculating dreamer"" and ""clubman"" is fairly mundane. Faced with William Butler Yeats's astonishingly varied career and equally varied literary output, many Yeats biographers like Alldritt (English/Univ. of British Columbia) rush their narratives through his long and productive life. Typically, their biographic jeweler's loops focus on only a few facets: Yeats the Anglo-Irish London journalist, the Gaelic League member, the semi-decadent associate of the Rhymers' Club, the bard of the Celtic Twilight, the dynamo of the Abbey Theater, etc. Alldritt's book also comes just after R.F. Fosters's fact-packed first volume of his life of Yeats (p. 192), which authoritatively details the poet's involvement with various movements for Irish nationalism--Charles Stewart Parnell's home rule bid, Standish O'Grady's revival of Irish culture, and John O'Leary's Young Ireland organization--all matters that Alldritt has less success in untangling. Even Alldritt's ancillary project--to place Yeats in the rise of cultural nationalism all over Europe--falls unfortunately fiat (an unconvincing parallel with Sibelius and Finland is a case in point). He has a generally better command of the literary eras Yeats spanned, and he convincingly stresses Yeats's links to French literature, and the Symbolist school in particular, through his visits to Paris and the early influence of Villers de I'Isle-Adam's famous Symbolist drama, Axel's Castle, and his play, The Shadowy Waters. Disappointingly, the drama of Yeats's life, featuring such remarkable cast members as his father, John Butler Yeats, Maud Gonne, Lady Augusta Gregory, and Ezra Pound, gets less than enthralling treatment. A passable summary of Yeats's multifaceted life, but superseded before it hits the shelves.

Pub Date: June 1, 1997

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997