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Augusta, Lady Gregory

   Lady Gregory, the widow of a distinguished British Foreign Service officer, met W.B. Yeats in 1896.  Although she was fifteen years older than Yeats, they became great friends, and she served as a mother figure to him.  She housed and fed Yeats when she noticed he was sick, and she helped him collect folklore for his poems.  Lady Gregory's estate at Coole Park became the subject of many of Yeats's poems, including the famous "The Wild Swans at Coole."  In the spring of 1907, Yeats joined Lady Gregory and her son Robert on a tour of northern Italy, which further strengthened the bond he had with the Gregory family.  Yeats stayed at Coole for a part of every year until his marriage in 1917.  As one scholar notes, "If Lady Gregory had not saved his life she had made it healthier, firmer, more elegant, given him the first stability he had known" [B.L. Reid, Dictionary of Literary Biography, p.409].