A Biography of W.B. Yeats

William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin in 1865, the son of a well-known painter, John Butler Yeats. Yeats spent his childhood between Dublin, Sligo and London. Although born into the Protestant Ascendancy he became involved in the Celtic Revival which was a movement against the cultural influence of English rule in Ireland and which sought to promote the spirit of Irish native heritage.

In 1889, Yeats met Maud Gonne, then a twenty-three year old heiress and ardent Nationalist. Yeats developed an obsessive infatuation with her beauty and outspoken manner. She was to have a profound influence on his poetry and indeed on his life. He proposed to her four tines but each time was rejected partly due to his refusal to participate in her national activism.

In 1903 to Yeats’ absolute horror she married the Irish nationalist Major John MacBride. In 1899, Yeats, Lady Gregory, Martyn, and George Moore established the Irish Literary Theatre for the purpose of performing Celtic and Irish plays. They opened the Abbey Theatre in December 1904, Yeats’ play Cathleen Ni Houlihan featured on the opening night.

He married George Hyde-Lees in 1916, they went on to have two children Anne and Michael. He was appointed a senator of the Irish Free State in 1922. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, the prize led to a significant increase in the sales of his books, for the first time he had money and he was able to finally repay his debts. He died at the Hotel Ideal Sjour In Menton, France in 1939. He was buried in France but in 1948 his body was moved to Drumcliffe, Co. Sligo. His epitaph reads Cast a cold Eye/ On Life, on Death./ Horseman, pass by.

Russell Shortt is a travel consultant with Exploring Ireland, the leading specialists in customised, private escorted tours, escorted coach tours and independent self drive tours of Ireland. Article source:


Irish Nobel Prize winners

by Admin · Published July 19, 2011 · Updated May 19, 2014



  1. William Butler Yeats (Literature) 1923
  2. George Bernard Shaw (Literature) 1925
  3. Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton (joint) (Physics) 1951
  4. Samuel Beckett (Literature) 1969
  5. Seán MacBride (Peace) 1974
  6. Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams (Peace) 1976
  7. John Hume and David Trimble (Peace) 1998

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