THE GONNE-YEATS LETTERS 1893-1938 by Anna MacBride & A. Norman Jeffares--Eds. White


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With only 29 Yeats letters to Maud Gonne extant (the others were destroyed in the Irish Civil War), and 373 of hers to him, this is hardly a two-way exhibition--and you have to have a great taste for either Celtic myth, occultism, progressive Irish politics, or the plight of a gorgeous, plucky woman to stay fully involved here. Gonne was a lifelong enchantment upon Yeats, drawing him to her like a moth to flame--and her allure certainly depended as much upon her beauty and poise as her mysticism (her third letter to him begins, ""My dear Mr Yeats, Have you been having any occult work or visions in which I have been in any way mixed within the last week?"") and her insistence on a ""spiritual"" but not physical marriage between them. The more she told Yeats not to love her, the more the poor guy naturally did. Gonne herself was a little more than a dilettante: politically fearless if excessive, an actress, an impresario, an editor--never quite the wisp that her occultism recommended herself to be. Yeats wrote great poem after great poem to her, and thus she qualified as one of the sterling muses of history. She knew it, too: In one letter she writes, ""Our children were your poems of which I was the Father sowing the unrest & storm which made them possible & you the mother who brought them forth in suffering & in the highest beauty & our children bad wings--."" Too lopsided to be of general interest, but Yeatsians will lap it up.

Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 1992
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Norton