W B Yeats and George Yeats: The Letters by Ann Saddlemyer (ed) - review by John Montague

John Montague

True Minds

W B Yeats and George Yeats: The Letters


Oxford University Press 596pp £30 order from our bookshop

At the Dublin launch of Becoming George, Ann Saddlemyer’s biography of W B Yeats’s wife, I found myself sitting beside Michael Yeats, the poet’s son, by then a dignified senior citizen. Tall and strong-featured like his father, Michael was clearly enjoying the occasion, since he and his sister Anne, an artist, had always campaigned on their mother’s behalf: she was a spiritual beacon and loyal wife to the poet, a splendid mother to them, and a formidable woman in her own right. And yet, in the course of the launch, he murmured to me, ‘How extraordinary that Anne and I turned out to be so normal, considering how eccentric our parents were!’

Was Michael being fair, or was he enjoying my amused surprise? The story began in 1911, when George, a nineteen-year-old art student in London, ‘saw Yeats rush past her like a meteor’ in the British Museum. And that very afternoon she was introduced to him at the home

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