"W.B. Yeats is usually seen as a great innovator whose extraordinary imagination transformed modern Irish literature, making a decisive break with the past. But what made him the remarkable writer he was? In this book, drawn from the 2009 Clark Lectures, Yeats's prize-winning biographer R.F. Foster returns to the rich seed-bed of nineteenth-century Irish literature to reveal the influences that shaped the poet's unique and powerful voice: romantic history of the Young Ireland movement, the occult and supernatural novels of Sheridan LeFanu, William Carleton's 'peasant fictions', fairy-lore, and folktale collections. The young Yeats consciously mined these traditions and was, Foster shows, an inheritor as much as an inventor."--Dust jacket.