I read an excellent review of the second volume in the Observer on Sunday.
He had at once a passionate intensity and a wish for a passionate intensity. In the second half of his life he had to work out whether this conflict that pervaded, as Foster shows, every area of his life - the erotic, the intellectual, the political - revealed a debilitating timidity or an unusual courage.
Here is a quote which I ended up thinking about a lot.
Yeats, Foster writes, 'was prepared ruthlessly to search out themes in unlikely places, and work up his own poetic energies through a willing suspension of incredulity. He infused himself with creative power through bizarre transactions.'
I was thinking that there may be a contradiction between what you have to do to be a good person, and what you have to do to be creative. For example, perhaps it was semi-deliberate that Yeats worked himself up into a frenzy of desire for massively unsuitable people, and embraced insane political ideas, and idiosyncratic metaphysics. Because that level of intensity fed his work. But on the other hand, he paid a healthy and even selfish attention to his own personal comforts and prosperity, which fed his body. So, I think perhaps that most creative people combine daft over-exaggeration of life, with a firm undercurrent of selfishness, and neither of these are the recipe for a most healthy and supportive personality.
And, most importantly, for most people there will be no payoff. There must be an huge hinterland of self-indulgent people, who try and fail to achieve great works of art, for every single Yeats or Tarantino, who succeed in creating something of great value from their selfishness. Are these people who take the gamble failures as both people and artists? Should they have paid more attention to being kind and considerate? They also serve who only stamp and prate?