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WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS (1865-1939)

The following biography was originally published in The British and American Drama of Today. Barrett H. Clark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915. pp. 181-2.

William Butler Years was born in Dublin in 1865. The son of an artist, his early education was received in his native city and in London. Early in his career he identified himself with numberous attempts to revive the legends and literature of ancient Ireland; in this connection his most important activity was the foundation, together with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and George Moore, of The Irisn Literary Theater. Yeats spent many years in collecting folk-lore; his he utilized in many of his plays and collected into volumes of prose essays. Outside his dramatic work, essays and collections of legendary material, are his poems, undoubtedly that part of his total output by which he will be longest remembered: Poems, first and second series, The Wanderings of Oisin, The Secret Rose, and The Wind Among the Reeds.

"The future will look back to Mr. Yeats as to a landmark in the literary history of Ireland, both because of his artistic achievement and because he has been a leader in a remarkable movement. Through his poetry the Celtic spirit moves like a fresh wind," says H.S. Krans, in his [book] William Butler Yeats. Yeats brought to the theater great poetic gifts, he went far to arouse interest in the past glory of his country; as propagandist, as manager, as lecturer, he [did] more than any other [dramatist of his day], with the possible exception of Lady Gregory, to create a new and living art for Ireland, but he cannot be accounted a great dramatist. His vision is too limited, his genius too delicate, his temperament too subjective, to allow him to stand aloof and let his characters work out their destiny as human beings.


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