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Excellent Quality Work But Could Have Been More Judiciously Selected
on 17 September 2013
Being a long time fan of Yeats's poems, and already owning the Finneran-edited 'Collected Poems', an old out-of-print 'Collected Plays', the two versions of 'A Vision', the Penguin edition of Folklore writings and the paperback of his 'Autobiographies' I peeked into the contents of this edition to see how it fares against the general background of what I already have. I suspected that the Occult Writings would be limited, and, quite predictably, OWC have given us what looks like thirty-odd pages of these. And seeing that the overall edition comes in at just over 600 pages two questions immediately come to mind: 1/Given that there is NO EXTANT VERSION in print of Yeats's 1937 edition of 'A Vision' and 2/That the material gathered in both the twenties edition and the later edition PROFOUNDLY coloured all of Yeats's poetry from 1920 onwards... why oh why could OWC not manage a decent 100-150 page selection from these writings?? Surely, if, for the sake of space, shorter sections of plays could've been cut to accommodate it??
Unfortunately (and while I respect so much of what OWC has been putting out in the last while, particularly with regard to the publishing of great ancient classics from Asia) they, like many biographers, are falling into the great trap of ignoring this side of Yeats, regardless of how fundamental to his working life it was. While I think it is a great reduction to imagine Beckett and Joyce loathed Yeats, it is the Republican/politico/playwright (albeit a very wrong thing to pan ALL of the plays?) which, I believe, will not hold up to public scrutiny in the coming years (we now know that Dev was a spy for the British crown, and the whole 'Republican push' is very much the wrong side to read Yeats from, with those poems also ageing the quickest... yet, via this selection, it seems very much the predictable line that this publisher has gone for).
I recently bought OWC's 'Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems'... it's a hefty 750 page tome with thick paper and solid binding, and, while I don't have the Yeats volume in front of me, I guess that the options for printing with OWC, paper-wise, are fairly open (I have lots of other OWC books that are lighter, and not in ratio, than the Shakespeare... with thinner pages. I also have a Bible by OWC that's closer to the weight of the Shakespeare but, obviously, with many more pages... 1200ish).
I can't help, then, suspecting that a Yeats volume without the material I mention INCLUDED may well have been simply a (bad!) financial decision. A 900 page stormer of a compendium was up for grabs here, bringing back badly needed work into print since the 70s... yet what we have is a very sparse and compromised volume, with the majority of its material easily available elsewhere.