Cover image for Becoming George : the life of Mrs. W.B. Yeats
Becoming George : the life of Mrs. W.B. Yeats
Saddlemyer, Ann.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxi, 808 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR5906 .S28 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Ann Saddlemyer's biography of W. B. Yeats's wife, George, portrays an extraordinarily talented, intelligent, and self-effacing woman, whose creative influence has never before been fully understood. She was wife and manager of a famous poet, and mother to his children, but in her own right also an inspired visionary and a practical woman of the arts. Georgie Hyde Lees was raised in London's literary salons, where arts, anthroposophy and the occult met. An accomplished linguist, art student and literary scholar, she married W. B. Yeats when she was 25, and he 52. Her supernatural "automatic writing" became the inspiration of Yeats's poetry and thought for the last 20 years of his life, yet she always concealed the depth of their collaboration. Close friend of many writers and poets, among them Frank O'Connor and Ezra Pound, she spent her long widowhood steering the "Yeats industry" and actively assisting younger scholars and writers.

For the first time, this intelligent and creative woman is allowed to take center stage. Drawing on memoirs and a wealth of unknown and unpublished sources, this biography by the distinguished scholar Ann Saddlemyer reveals someone much more significant than just '"Mrs. W. B. Yeats"--a personality at once visionary and practical, and an important figure in twentieth-century literary history.

Author Notes

Ann Saddlemyer is Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Thought of as the young girl whom Yeats married after he had been repeatedly rejected by Maud Gonne and her daughter Iseult, Georgie Hyde-Lees was Yeat's third choice but a fortunate one, because the "automatic writing" she began on their honeymoon provided the raw material for A Vision and for some of his finest poems. In 1917 Yeats wrote to Lady Gregory, "I think [this] girl both friendly, serviceable, and very able." She was far more than that: fluent in several languages, widely read, a member of the occult Order of the Golden Dawn, close friends with Dorothy Shakespear (the future Mrs. Ezra Pound), she would become not only a powerful literary inspiration for the poet but his business manager, literary executor, and nurse during the long illnesses of his last years. She played an active role in the management of the Abbey Theatre and Cuala Industries and endured Yeats's extramarital affairs and extended absences abroad and her own struggles with alcohol. The detail Saddlemyer (emer., Univ. of Toronto) supplies may overwhelm less experienced readers, but more advanced readers will appreciate the copious endnotes and a view of a side of Yeats absent from other biographies. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All academic collections; upper-division undergraduates through faculty. G. Grieve-Carlson Lebanon Valley College

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. xv
Introductionp. xix
Family Treep. xxii
Prelude: Ballyleep. 1
Part I Progressions 1892-1918p. 7
1. Ancestryp. 9
2. Childhoodp. 17
3. Friendsp. 34
4. Studiesp. 43
5. The Golden Dawnp. 63
6. Forest Rowp. 105
7. London, Oxford, and Dublinp. 134
Part II Conjunctions 1919-1921p. 163
8. Coolep. 165
9. Annep. 205
10. Oxford and New Yorkp. 230
11. Michaelp. 254
Part III Directions 1922-1928p. 287
12. Ballyleep. 289
13. Merrion Squarep. 311
14. Dublinp. 343
Part IV Transits 1929-1939p. 383
15. Rapallop. 385
16. Fitzwilliam Squarep. 422
17. Riversdalep. 451
18. Majorcap. 498
19. Mentonp. 529
Mrs W.B.
Part V Mapping 1939-1968p. 563
20. Palmerston Roadp. 565
21. Seekers and Friendsp. 615
22. Postlude: Odysseysp. 646
Appendix The Death of William Gilbert Hyde Leesp. 655
Abbreviationsp. 657
Notesp. 660
Indexp. 795