One of the world's leading Yeats scholars completes his definitive history, begun with the highly acclaimed Prodigal Father, in Family Secrets, a biography of William Butler Yeats, his younger brother Jack, and sisters Susan Mary (Lily) and Elizabeth Corbet (Lollie). This long-awaited sequel follows in the earlier book's tradition of the "right book written by exactly the right man" (Hugh Kenner). Never before has the public been privy to the story of these lives woven in such intimate detail. Murphy takes us into some of the family's darkest "secrets:" the strains of emotional instability among the Pollexfen aunts and uncles; interest in mysticism and the occult (about which Yeats wrote considerably); the father's long platonic relationship with Miss Rosa Butt; the tensions between Lily and Lollie (the "weird sisters"), and Lollie's difficult, even paranoid personality. Drawing on correspondence and an extensive number of unpublished letters and materials not hitherto available and more than one hundred photographs and illustrations (many never before published), Family Secrets explores a gallery of characters not often found within the confines of a single family. Their story, which reads like a novel, will not only capture the fancy of general readers but will make a significant contribution to the letters of twentieth-century literature.
Murphy, whose Prodigal Father (LJ 4/1/78) was nominated for a National Book Award, creates a novellike portrait of Yeats in brilliant and lucid prose. He connects the reader to a family of artisans, rooted in the aesthetic imagination of the father, John Butler Yeats. The book focuses on the four children, revealing the secret mysteries of their personalities and artistic talents. Murphy uses primary sources never before released for publication that provide an intimate look into the family life of one of our best English-speaking poets. Loyalty held the family together, despite the financial and artistic failures of the father, which became a burden for the entire family. The children each reacted differently to the father's artistic shortcomings and his poor "sense of economy," but he did give them a sense that "a life of art was praiseworthy and helped shape [one's] mind and soul." Highly recommended for literature collections.-Tim Gavin, Episcopal Acad., Merion, Pa.
Murphy (literature, Union College) examines the lives of W.B. Yeats, his younger brother Jack, and sisters Susan Mary (Lily) and Elizabeth Corbet (Lollie) in a substantial work which focuses on their relationships and family history as well as their business endeavors, political beliefs and artistic creations. Contains approximately 100 b&w drawings and photographs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Murphy, whose 1978 biography of John Butler Yeats, "Prodigal Father", was a National Book Award nominee, here offers interlinked biographical essays based on his years of research, two newly available collections (Lily Yeats' correspondence with her cousin Ruth Pollexfen Lane-Poole and the "platonic" love letters of J. B. Yeats to Rosa Butts), and new material about the first of the two handicraft businesses in which Lily and Lollie Yeats were involved. Murphy first sketches the Yeats and Pollexfen families, the Yeats children's experiences in Sligo, and their home life up to their mother's death in 1900. Three chapters consider the tense, complex story of Dun Emer and Cuala Industries, where Lily headed embroidery and Lollie ran the printing operation. Other essays address William Butler Yeats' relationships with his sisters; younger brother and artist Jack Yeats; and widowed patriarch J. B. Yeats' largely epistolary romance with Rosa Butts. An appendix considers W. B. Yeats' interest in occultism. A gracefully written contribution to Yeats family history; includes nore than 100 illustrations