BIOGRAPHY: William Butler Yeats

W. B. Yeats was born in Dublin 1865 although his parents were of Irish descent. He spent most of his early years growing up in London. Jack Yeats, his father, was a struggling artist. William gave painting a try while still in his teens but soon abandoned the endeavor. When he was twenty, Yeats published his first poems in the Dublin University Review. For most of his life Yeats moved back and forth living in England and Ireland. Each change of environment had a notable effect on his writing.

In 1899 Yeats was involved with helping found the Irish National Theatre. Unfortunately, bitter struggles with an overwhelmingly conservative middle-class audience would eventually drive him back to London. He would return however, in 1916 when the Irish Rebellion and its members were trying to gain independence from the controlling British forces. When Ireland was obtained partial independence in 1922 Yeats was appointed a Senator and served in the government for six years.

Neither Yeats nor Pound new what to expect of their first stay together at Stone Cottage. Yeats referred to Pound in letters as his "secretary" and called the endeavor an "experiment." Of course the first Stone Cottage retreat was a success and two more winters of Yeats and pound reading and writing together would follow. In 1913 in a letter to Lady Gregory he wrote: "Ezra is a pleasant companion and a learned one. He never shrinks from work" (Hone 290). Just prior to the Stone Cottage years he boasted in a letter to his parents that he had Yeats's ear for an entire evening of conversation. Now as Yeats's "secretary," Pound had to admit that he felt a good deal of pride in his exclusive association with Yeats.

Yeats's career as a writer was long and successful. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923. He died in 1939 at the age of 74.