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Yeats's Mask

 | 
Margaret Mills Harper
, 
Warwick Gould

Yeats’s mask

The Manuscript of ‘Leo Africanus’

Steve L. Adams et George Mills Harper

Texte intégral

1[Headnote: In a volume devoted to Yeats’s Mask, it seemed appropriate to reprint this major landmark in the long process of bringing ‘unpublished Yeats’ to light. We are grateful to the Yeats Estate, to the Estate of the late George Mills Harper and to the Estate of the late Richard J. Finneran, to whom copyright was assigned for the initial publication in Yeats Annual 1 (1980). No re-editing of the MS has been undertaken, but the original endnotes have been inserted as footnotes to aid reading. Citations of standard works with Yeats Annual abbreviations have been brought into conformity with that system of citation, but no attempt has been made to cite in-text. Inverted comma conventions, and dashes, have also been silently emended, and certain editorial American spellings in the editorial commentary have been standardized to English or French spellings. Eds.]

1. EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION

  • 1 The first to discuss the manuscript was Richard Ellmann, in Yeats: The Man and the Masks (New York (...)
  • 2 As a result of his continued correspondence with Julia, Stead founded Julia’s Bureau, which was de (...)

2Although several critics have commented on the first appearance of the spirit of Leo Africanus to Yeats and a few have examined the unpublished manuscript of Yeats’s dialogue with him,1 no one has pointed out either the extent of Yeats’s preoccupation or the significance of his changing conception of Leo. Yeats first referred to “Leo”, so far as we can determine, in some Notes of a very poor sitting with Mr Feilding, on May 3rd 1909, ‘which contain a “plainly fanciful account of my ‘guides’”’ Everard Feilding, an Honorary Secretary of the Society for Psychical Research, remained a friend for many years and was probably responsible for Yeats’s membership in the Society (from 1913 to 1928). Alluding first to a young girl who was ’not a guide’, Yeats then records that ‘a Julia comes – a guide.’ This is probably a reference to Julia A. Ames, the dead American woman whose Letters from Julia to William T. Stead were widely known throughout Europe.2 Since Julia’s Circle had been established at Cambridge House, Stead’s home in Wimbledon, on 24 April 1909, Yeats may be recording the first of many séances he attended there. After Julia came Agrippa, ‘a key’ who ‘wants to do something through me.’ But ‘all this while’, Yeats noted parenthetically, ‘I am trying to call Leo I want Leo to control medium.’ Leo’s reply is important: ‘I am trying to control – I have been to you before (Africa name).’ ‘Are you Leo the writer’, Yeats asked. ‘I am your guide’, Leo replied. After a brief discussion of when and where Leo was born, there is some suggestion that Yeats may be confused about Leo’s identity: ‘A Pope. Leo. Has been long with me. A sister much involved[?] [with] me – a guide – a spirit.’

  • 3 Transcribed and edited by Denis Donoghue, this Journal is reproduced in Memoirs (London: Macmillan (...)
  • 4 See Appendices A and B for reproductions of the typescripts.
  • 5 Mrs Etta Wriedt (1860–1942), a well-known medium from Detroit, Michigan, visited England five time (...)

3We have discovered no further references to Leo until he reappeared at a séance in Cambridge House on 9 May 1912. Since Yeats preserved two records of this séance and summarized events briefly the following morning in a journal he kept for ‘stray notes on all kinds of things’,3 it is clear that Yeats was much impressed, though he was then, and remained, sceptical. As Secretary of the Bureau, Miss Harper prepared the record for the Archives, a copy of which she must have made for Yeats, who was apparently a member of ‘Julia’s ‘Inner Circle’.’ Because he considered the sitting so important apparently, and probably before he received Miss Harper’s account, Yeats recorded his own much fuller version.4 Since he left a blank for the name of Mrs Wriedt, the medium,5 and named only Miss Harper and her mother, we can perhaps assume that he did not know the others present, who were with one exception also strangers to Miss Harper. Both accounts record the time, place, and date – a practice Yeats followed for most of his psychical experiments, in his notebooks as well as the Automatic Script of the years following his marriage. Yeats preserved two copies of his own account, both containing the same slight corrections and both initialled at the end. Beginning with a description of the ‘entirely darkened’ room and its equipment, including a ‘long tin trumpet’ always present at Mrs Wriedt’s séances, Yeats recorded that a loud voice through the trumpet ‘claimed to come for ‘Mr Gates’ ‘ (‘evidently me’, Yeats noted). The voice informed him ‘that it had been with me from childhood’, and ‘that they wanted to use my hand and brain ... The voice said something about my possessing the key or the key-mind they wanted.’ ‘I had this kind of spirit once before’, Yeats observed, ‘and was repelled by what I considered an appeal to my vanity.’ He may be recalling the séance of 3 May 1909, at which Agrippa was described as ‘a key’ who ‘wants to do something with me.’ This time, however, the key-mind revealed himself as ‘Leo, the writer and explorer.’ Yeats ‘noticed that ‘Leo’ had a strong Irish accent’, not unlike his own according to one of the sitters. Although Yeats was excited over the appearance of Leo, he remained sceptical. ‘Miss Harper looked up Leo in Lempriere’, but Yeats made a‘Note – Not to look up the references till after next Seance as they might become a suggestion to the control.’

4At this point in the typescript he drew a line and continued with two more paragraphs of reflections about his experience. ‘It is possible’, he wrote, ‘that Leo may turn out to be a symbolic being.’ Here also, as he did in the years following, Yeats linked ‘Leo, the writer and explorer’ with ‘Leo, the constellation, the house of the sun.’ ‘Further’, Yeats added, ‘if it be true as I have always supposed, that the influence under which I do my work and think my most profound thought, is what an Astrologer calls solar, this being or state like the previous control which said to me very similar things some 12 years ago, may be a dramatization of a reality.’ This is surely a strange, almost incredible statement to those who recall that in A Vision and throughout the Automatic Script on which it is based Yeats always suggests that the influence under which he does his work and thinks his ‘most profound thought’ is lunar. This change in his astrological assumptions may help to explain why Leo becomes a Frustrator rather than a Guide in the Automatic Script. Yeats concluded his account with a typically tentative suggestion which also was to receive great attention in the Script and to influence his thought and art for the remainder of his life: ‘ I have never been quite certain that certain controls who give themselves names of great antiquity, do not really select by some process of unconscious affinity from the recorded or unrecorded memories of the world, a name and career that symbolizes their nature.’ Some five and a half years later, in the first recorded questions of the Automatic Script, Yeats asked:

  1. What is the relation between the Anima Mundi and the Antithetical Self?
  2. What quality in the Anima Mundi compels that relationship?

5The answer to the second question by Thomas of Dorlowicz, the first ᆳtion with such symbolic Masks or Anti-Selves as Leo: ‘It is the purely instinctive & cosmic quality in man which seeks completion in its opposite which is sought by the subconscious self in anima mundi to use your own term while it is the conscious mind that makes the E[vil] P[ersona] in consciously seeking opposite & then emulating it.’

  • 6 See E. K. Harper, 121.
  • 7 See EPS 405–6.

6Although Miss Harper remarked that the séance of 9 May was ‘very mediocre’‘to those who have often sat with Mrs Wriedt’, it obviously was not mediocre to Yeats. For several months following this appearance of Leo, Yeats attended many séances and related psychic experiments, in several of which Leo participated. He recorded and preserved accounts of the séances he considered significant, and commented on numerous other experiments, chiefly in the unpublished Maud Gonne Notebook designated ‘Private.’ On Wednesday, 5 June, a regular meeting night for Julia’s ‘Inner Circle’, he attended another of Mrs Wriedt’s séances at Cambridge House. Besides Miss Harper and her mother the only other sitter was a well-known experimenter and friend of Stead named Dr Abraham Wallace.6 When Mrs Wriedt called Yeats ‘Professor’, Wallace ‘corrected her & said “no a poet & writes plays”’. Yeats then spoke of a séance some years ago when Charles Williams,7 a famous materialization medium, had produced a ‘form, vaguely visible by the light of a phosphorescent slate’ which he said was ‘“Leonora” my “guide” or perhaps it was “Eleanora”.’ Yeats observed the resemblance of ‘the names in either form to Leo.’ Yeats made a sketch of the room and commented that ‘it would have been better to use a more empty room’ to avoid the possibility of ‘trance juggling perhaps in the midst of genuine manifestation.’ Again the voice of Leo, speaking through the trumpet,

more or less repeated what he said before. ‘He had been with me from childhood’etc & then [?] said ‘Though a Spaniard I am not a villain. I am still a Spaniard’ and ‘I am trying to teach you to write plays in a scientific way.’ He seemed to resent my scepticism & was truculent as ever[.] I asked if I could help him[;] he resented this said it was for him to help me. He said also ‘you mistook me for a woman.’

7After much more information about movements, sounds, touches, etc., Yeats noted that his ‘difficulty in remembering the details’ had shown him ‘that a stenographer is essential at every seance. He should be put somewhere in earshot perhaps outside the door.’ Yeats confessed that he had ‘forgotten all kinds of essential things.’ After signing his record, dating it 6 June (that is, the day after the séance), he added a postscript confirming ‘the impression at my first seance that Leo spoke like a stage Irishman.’ Nevertheless, he concluded, ‘The seance was not the less interesting to me because I saw nothing in it incompatible with its form being a dream fabrication of the subliminal consciousness of myself & the medium.’ Again Yeats was impressed. On 20 June, when he was unable to find his account of this séance, he summarized the record in his Notebook, remembering some details exactly.

  • 8 For details, see George Mills Harper and John S. Kelly, ‘Preliminary Examination of the Script of (...)
  • 9 The Norwegian sitter was Fru Ella Anker, a clairvoyant, who had conducted sittings at Julia’s Bure (...)

8Two days before (on 18 June) he had attended a large séance (eleven sitters) at Cambridge House. Many spirits came, including ‘Stead’ (who had gone down with the Titanic on 15 April), numerous relatives of sitters, and Leo. ‘More natural & friendly in tone’ than he had been before, Leo told Yeats ‘that he would try & write through a medium[.] I fixed my thoughts on (Miss R) when the ‘gates are ajar’.’ (Yeats was thinking of Elizabeth Radcliffe, whose experiments in automatic writing he had been observing at Daisy Meadow, the country home of Mrs Eva Fowler in Kent, near Brasted.)8 Leo informed Yeats that his work would change in 1914 and that he had many guides but should listen to only one – Leo, presumably. Sceptical as usual, Yeats ‘now made a test I had been waiting for.’ Aware that one of the regular Bureau sitters knew Italian, Yeats ‘asked Leo if he would speak Italian.’ After he had spoken one sentence, she ‘asked him about Norway in 1914.’ His evasive reply about the changing of crowns must have disturbed Yeats, though he did not comment. ‘Later on’, he added, ‘several “spirits” spoke Norwegian to the Norwegian sitter.’9

  • 10 The most romantic of all Controls, John King functioned through many mediums. He claimed to have b (...)

9Ten days later (on 28 June) Leo appeared again at a large seance in Cambridge House. Of the thirteen or fourteen present Yeats knew only the medium and the Harpers. Since the seance was long (two and a half hours) and involved, Yeats noted, ‘I cannot write out the incidents in order but will classify them.’ He drew a ‘map’ of the room and described the ‘incidents’ under the headings of ‘Lights’, ‘Touches’, ‘a Flower trumpet’, ‘Sounds apart from voices’, and ‘Voices.’ Reserving most of his discussion for the last, Yeats noted that ‘at one time there were three voices speaking.’ He identified the Controls who gave names or were ‘recognized’ as Cardinal Newman (‘who opened with a prayer’), Leo, Captain Sharko[?] (‘or some such name’), and John King.10 Leo ‘said that he had died at Rome in the ‘Franko Spanish War’[,] that he wanted me to write a play about his youth & my youth.’ When Yeats asked for his Arabic name, Leo ‘said he would tell it later & went.’

  • 11 King disliked Newman because he ‘belonged to a church where priests could not marry. He did not th (...)
  • 12 Sir William Crookes (1832–1919) was a famous physicist. His investigations of psychic phenomena we (...)
  • 13 Yeats refers to the well-known theory that King was head of a band of 160 spirits. According to Fo (...)
  • 14 Sir Oliver J. Lodge (1851–1940), a famous physicist and university administrator, became intereste (...)
  • 15 Yeats referred to Raymond in his discussion of life after death in A Vision (1925).
  • 16 In August 1912 she was in Christiania, Norway, and may have visited other countries before returni (...)
  • 17 See YO 133.

10The remainder of Yeats’s account is devoted to a dialogue with John King, ‘who had a tremendous voice’ and ‘talked a great deal.’ After some ‘incoherent’ rambling about his dislike of Cardinal Newman11 (‘here he was difficult to follow’) and a brief debate with Yeats about the commercial theatre, King criticized him: ‘Presently he said I had a fault all my life. I told my own story instead of letting others tell theirs. This is true enough’, Yeats admitted (perhaps to himself ), but ‘he flowed[?] on to warn me against too much drink & tobacco & when I said he was wrong this time he said his advice was of merely general significance.’ In response Yeats ‘accused him of telling Sir William Crookes12 that there were a tribe of spirits who took the Name of John King. He said he had followers but did not believe they ever took his name – he seemed many he said because spirits could go where they liked in an instant.’ ‘There are many personifications’, Yeats observed, ‘but I think no real evidence of identity.’13 Noting in conclusion that ‘proceedings were as last time closed by a short speech from ‘Julia’, Yeats signed his initials and dated his record ‘June 29’ (that is, the day after the seance). Immediately following – at the same time, most likely – Yeats made two rough sketches of Mrs Wriedt’s ‘jointed trumpet’ and listed three of Everard Feilding’s theories which suggest that both of them were sceptical about the trumpet. Yeats appears even more doubtful about Mrs Wriedt’s methods in a long note on the same page. Clearly puzzled about her personal authenticity as well as that of her spirit voices, he ‘tried to persuade the medium to submit herself to investigation to (say) Sir Oliver Lodge,14 but she said her only interest was to console the afflicted or some such phrase.’ Like members of the SPR, Yeats wanted proof. His comment reflects the fact that a steadily increasing amount of psychical research was being devoted to attempts of the living to communicate with dead relatives and friends. Some three years later Lodge himself found consolation for the death (on 14 September 1915) of a beloved son in World War I, and recorded his experiences and faith in a famous book, the title of which is instructive in this context: Raymond or Life and Death with Examples of the Evidence for Survival of Memory and Affection after Death (1916).15 Although Yeats deplored this preoccupation with a kind of research he surely considered sterile and unenlightening, he was sensitive to the emotions and intentions of others. The concluding sentence of his long note is characteristic: ‘I think owing to the fact that Cambridge House is a centre of devotional spiritual investigation will always require much tact.’ From 29 June 1912 to 12 May 1913 there is no reference in the Maud Gonne Notebook to séances at Cambridge House. Of course, Yeats may have recorded only the séances of special interest – in particular those at which Leo appeared, or he may have lost interest when Mrs Wriedt left London for the continent,16 or he may have discovered a more exciting psychic phenomenon in the automatic writing of Elizabeth Radcliffe, whom he met in the spring of 1912.17 At this time, also, he was strongly influenced by the methods of the SPR, which he became an Associate Member of in February 1913, probably through his friendship with Everard Feilding.

  • 18 Dr John Sharp, one of Mrs Wriedt’s Controls, claimed that he was born in Glasgow in the eighteenth (...)
  • 19 For details see YO 130–71.
  • 20 See CVA xlvii.

11The next recorded seance he attended at Cambridge House occurred on 12 May 1913, at 9.45 a.m. Since Yeats was Mrs Wriedt’s only sitter that morning, he was most likely trying to determine the validity of her mediumship. At one point he asked her to turn up the light. Although he ‘still heard whisperings’ through the trumpet, he recalled ‘what Feilding noticed that whispering sometimes seemed to come not from trumpet but from direction of Mrs Wriedt.’ After a time she invited Yeats to hold the trumpet, and he made out the words ‘ I am Leo.’ Mrs Wriedt, who heard something similar, ‘was told that Leo had carried out a promise made last year & tried to help my theatrical work but ‘a block’ had come.’ She was informed that Yeats ‘would have success in November but would first have to go abroad’ and that ‘some general public depression’ was soon to occur. He concluded that the ‘failure of seance came probably from too little sleep’ or from his ‘running not to be late.’ As a result, he was ‘keeping quiet for the sake of to-morrows seance.’ ‘Second seance also a failure’, he wrote, then added: ‘Welcome in strong voice from Dr Sharp18 & then nothing but a few lights.’ Nevertheless, Yeats concluded his brief entry on a positive and important note: ‘Went on to Daisy Meadow & there began wonderful work with ER[.] May have saved my vitality for this.’19 19 This date, probably 13 May 1913, marks the beginning of a crowded and perplexing but very significant period in Yeats’s psychical experimentation that may be said to terminate, or slack off greatly, with the completion of the first version of A Vision on 22 April 1925.20

  • 21 Two other entries in the Notebook are dated 24 June. The first, about ‘Two Symbolic Dreams’, notes (...)

12Although Yeats was obviously excited over the investigation of Elizabeth Radcliffe’s automatic writing, he did not abandon Mrs Wriedt and Leo. On 23 June he attended a big séance at which ‘Leo came & gave the old impression of unreality. Talked of the theatre as if I had no other interest. Suggested a secondary personality conditioned by the information that he got when first formed.’ Yeats asked ‘if he was satisfied with what I am doing now (I was thinking of a very serious crisis in my private affairs) & he said what I was writing was splendid or some such words.’ Having ‘written nothing for some weeks’, Yeats was clearly disappointed in this response. The crisis for which he needed help was the result of a demand of marriage from Mabel Dickinson, a mistress with whom he had ‘made a truce’ only after a ‘violent scene at parting.’ (Two weeks later, on 6 July, Yeats noted that the ‘Radcliffe script [was] wholly accurate’ in its prophetic reply to the same question about his crisis.) Yeats then interrupted the dialogue with Leo to describe several experiments with the materialization of physical objects and concluded that ‘no human power had done this.’ ‘The seance ended’ at this point, but Yeats had forgotten information he wanted to record. Leo had told him that he ‘would soon go to Germany & seemed anxious lest I should hate the Germans like a simple minded English man ... He also told me to brush up on my German.’ Yeats observed that he did ‘not know a word of German.’21

13For the next few months apparently he devoted much of his intellectual energy to the experiments with Miss Radcliffe at Daisy Meadow. Despite his stated conviction that ‘no human power’ could have achieved results he had observed in recent months, he was puzzled, and as usual he expressed the ‘problem’ in one of his journals:

  • 22 Mem 266–67.

July 1913. Having now proved spirit identity – for the ER case is final – I set myself this problem. Why has no sentence of literary or speculative profundity come through any medium in the last fifty years, or perhaps ever, for Plutarch talks of the imperfect expression of the Greek oracles in which he believes? By medium I mean spirit impulse which is independent of, or has submerged, the medium’s conscious will. I re-state it thus: All messages that come through the senses as distinguished [from] those that come from the apparently free action of the mind – for surely there is poetic inspiration – are imperfect; that is to say, all objective messages, all that come through hearing or sight – automatic script, for instance – are without speculative power, or at any rate not equal to the mind’s action at its best.22

  • 23 Mem 267.

14Although ‘the spirits excel us ... in knowledge of fact’, Yeats concluded, they fail in ‘speculation, wit, the highest choice of the mind.’23

  • 24 G. M. Harper, W. B. Yeats and W. T. Horton, 39.

15Despite the persistence of this reservation, however, the quest continued. On 16 July 1913 he wrote to Lady Gregory from Daisy Meadow that he was ‘getting some wonderful things with the medium. I am getting curious interpretations of the symbols as a preliminary explanation of the language and messages from dead people ...’24 Although he completed the essay about these experiences on 8 October, he did not publish it, perhaps because he needed further proof.

  • 25 For details, see YO 172–89.
  • 26 For Yeats’s essay and details of the circumstances surrounding Yeats’s trip, see George Mills Harp (...)
  • 27 Miss Scatcherd, herself a medium, was an admirer and friend of Stead. Miss Harper describes her as (...)
  • 28 The ‘certain people’ were probably Lady Gregory and Synge. While in America Yeats recorded a séanc (...)
  • 29 See EPS 113, 182 for discussions of Ectoplasm and Ideoplasm.
  • 30 See YO 148 and 152–53, for some account of these two people.

16His continued association with friends in the SPR may have supported his lingering doubts. In May 1914 he journeyed to Mirebeau, France, with Maud Gonne and Everard Feilding ‘to investigate a miracle’: bleeding oleographs of the Sacred Heart.25 Returning to Paris (probably on 13 May), he dictated an essay (to Maud) and wrote excited letters about their experience. Upon learning from an analysis by the Lister Institute in London that the blood was not human, Yeats left his record unpublished.26 While waiting in London for the result of the analysis, he renewed investigations at Cambridge House. On 6 June 1914 he attended a long and very important séance. Besides himself and the medium twelve other people were present. Of these he was well acquainted with only one, Miss Felicia Scatcherd, who was a member of Julia’s ‘Inner Circle’; but he also knew by name Sir Alfred Turner27 and Stead’s daughter, Estelle. Yeats must have spent much of the following day on his recording of the séance and three reflective comments. Although his notes were ‘practically useless’, being ‘partly mixed up with a poem I had been writing’, his recollections and observations required almost six legal-size pages in the Notebook. During the course of some three hours Yeats had managed to ask John King, Leo, and fellow sitters questions about many of his preoccupations. Leo told Yeats that he had prophesied his journey to America (January to April) and had brought him in contact with ‘certain people.’28 Yeats ‘asked for something about ... my visit to the “Bleeding Picture”’, but Leo could only repeat some word ‘over & over again. It was probably “miracle”.’ Later on he spoke about a subject Yeats had discussed at the dinner table with Feilding and Maud Gonne: a possible explanation of the miracle by the ‘ideoplastic theory’29 or by ‘trance cheating’, both common topics of the SPR. Among the ‘many other spirits’ who came during the evening was ‘someone who called herself my mother. She was impressing my father that he might believe in the other world.’ Then came two spirits who were prominent in the Script of Miss Radcliffe: ‘Sister Mary Ellen Ellis’ and ‘Anna Louisa Karsch.’30 ‘Towards the end of the seance ‘Leo’ came again’, and Yeats asked if Miss Karsch ‘was attached to me, or one of the group about Miss X [Radcliffe].’ More importantly, he wanted to know ‘why Miss X’s automatic writing had ceased.’ Learning that ‘it is exhausted’, Yeats asked if ‘for ever.’ Leo promised ‘to tell me the reason [ ? ] ... & then said “she must work once more with her old friends for a time or she will lose her gift”.’

17This discussion of Miss Radcliffe’s Script must have prompted Yeats to re-examine his unpublished essay. At the end of the typescript he made a note dated 7 June 1914 dealing with the topics of the seance he had just recorded:

  • 31 YO 171. He changed ‘is some’ to ‘may be’ in the manuscript.

Another hypothesis is possible. Secondary & tertiary personalities once formed may act independently of the medium, have ideoplastic power & pick the minds of distant people & so speak in tongues unknown to all present ... Yet there may be interdependence of the two worlds.31

  • 32 Cf. n. 22 above.

18Sometime during the day of 7 June Yeats also wrote four notes about his experiences of the night before. Two are relevant here: note 1 contains information about his mother and Leo’s prophecy of ‘my visit to Germany which has not come true’; note 3 is an orderly summary of Yeats’s recent investigations. The first section reaffirms the doubt he had expressed in July 1913 that ‘Nearly all the reflective part at these séances seems less convincing than the matter of fact part.’32 After some observations about the assumptions of names by spirits and their use of foreign languages, Yeats recorded his conviction in six important propositions:

  • 33 Mme Alexandre Bisson was a well-known psychical investigator. Over a period of several years (from (...)

To sum up I am sure of these conclusions
(1) Minds of some kind can write or speak through a medium in tongues unknown to all present (see general testimony in case of Mrs Wriedt & my own work with Miss X & elsewhere)
(2) These minds know the private affairs of sitters
(3) These minds have strange power over matter (‘movement without contact’)
(4) They have power of creating luminous substances which can take the human form (Have seen luminous substance under good conditions – Bisson medium33 – I must accept ‘materialization’ as evidence of other. Those I have seen were not under test conditions.
(5) The abstract reflective power of these beings is generally slight [WBY] or rather of their manifestation is slight as a rule
(6) Their practical wisdom is often very great (Private case Miss X mediumship)

  • 34 Quinn’s letter to Yeats dated 24 April 1915 contains a long discussion of ‘his philosophy about wa (...)
  • 35 This visit from ‘Hugh Lane’ prompted Lady Gregory to have a seance with Mrs Wriedt on 24 July. Bot (...)

19Yeats recorded no further séances in the Maud Gonne Notebook until 20 July 1915, when he attended a ‘Remarkable seance at Mrs Wriedts.’ The only other person present was Dr Abraham Wallace. After considerable discussion with John King about George Pollexfen, Yeats’s sisters, a letter about the war ‘from the old man over the water’ (probably John Quinn),34 the codicil to Hugh Lane’s will,35 and Sister Mary Ellen Ellis, Leo came. He spoke first of the Abbey Theatre, of its financial problems in particular. ‘He then shifted to a discussion of the war’, reminding Yeats that he had foretold it, and he predicted that ‘it would be much longer than we thought.’ Finally, speaking in ‘what seemed Italian’, which Yeats ‘could not follow’, Leo translated (‘perhaps’) into an exciting prophecy of Yeats’s future: ‘When you were young you were a contented man. Life is like that. Then came the thistles, but now you will have the roses. I was to have much recognition [.] I had done much that would be famous in the record.’ Since Yeats signed and dated his account 20 July, it was most likely written that night after he returned to his flat.

20Two days later (on the evening of 22 July) he was visited by three people, including Sturge Moore and Miss Scatcherd. We may conjecture that Yeats recalled for them details of the ‘remarkable seance’ of 20 July and that Miss Scatcherd offered to call up the spirit of Leo. Leo ‘asked’ him to compose the exchange of letters preserved in the unpublished essay entitled ‘Leo Africanus.’ Here is the account as Yeats recalled it three weeks later.

  • 36 Following ‘me’ Yeats first wrote ‘if he could’, then marked through it.

Miss Scatcherd did automatic writing (see File) & this seeming to come from Leo I got her to surrender to what seemed impressions from her control. I had a conversation with the control. He said that I was more inclined to believe some secondary personality theory than I myself believed. He was no secondary personality, with a symbolic biography as I thought possible but the person he claimed to be. He was drawn to me because in life he had been all undoubting impulse, all that his name and Africa might suggest symbolically for his biography was both symbolical and actual. I was doubting, conscientious and timid. His contrary and by association with me would be made not one but two perfected natures. He asked me to write him a letter addressed to him as if to Africa giving all my doubts about spiritual things and then to write a reply as from him to me. He would control me36 in that reply so that it would be really from him. (Miss S did not know that I had several times thought of using him in some such way in some imaginary dialogue but vaguely)

  • 37 Yeats refers to this meeting in the first line of his essay as ‘some months ago’.

21Whether or not Yeats composed ‘Leo Africanus’ soon thereafter can only be conjectured,37 but if so the writing did not lay Leo’s ghost to rest. On 4 November 1915 Yeats recorded that ‘on Sunday last’ (31 October) Leo had talked with him and Olivia Shakespear while they and Feilding were conducting experiments with Tatwa cards:

... she had a long conversation with ‘Leo’ who seemed caught in a stream of prithivi Tatwa. ‘Leo’ said he created isolation & would agree[?] [with] me certainly. He would [help] me next time I was with Miss X to banish the other controls, said a banishing ceremony would do & that he could get in. He said Isabella of Ferrara[?] was a non-entity & evidently thought little of the others – he had intellect & precision. I said I do not like to interfere with their control of Miss X in fear of harming her. He said something about it being needful to take sides. OS was not sure that he really was Leo though he himself seemed very real, so I asked him to try with some medium & get Arabic through to me. He said he was most anxious.

22Leo is also mentioned in the last entry of the Maud Gonne Notebook. On 23 March 1917 Yeats described an experience of the night before when he, Denison Ross, and Edmund Dulac had travelled to St Leonards-on-Sea to investigate David Wilson’s Metallic Homunculus, about which all three wrote still unpublished reports. Late at night, after Ross and Dulac had gone, the machine began to talk: ‘Incoherent words from an alleged “Leo” who presently said he did not know who he was & that he might be “Yeats”. When I said I was “Yeats”, He said “no Yeats has gone”.’ Leo had been more coherent on a previous occasion. After a visit to St Leonards on 30 January Yeats composed a careful account of facts and impressions in which he recorded that ‘Leo Africanus ... came because I asked for him.’ Still later Yeats sought ‘to get Leo’ by evoking the sun. Finally he ‘came and spoke to me, but before he came the machine said, a greater than Leo is here and this proved to be Paracelsus himself and while Leo was speaking we were interrupted by Karl of Janina who wished to speak to Leo and could only do so at a seance.’ Yeats concluded his account with a significant observation: ‘... all seemed anxious for us to know that there was a universal mind and that if we spoke to them, it was as but links with that mind.’ David Wilson himself had become interested in Yeats’s alter ego, writing on 3 April 1917 to ask ‘what activities during the past few weeks L Africanus has been indulging in.’ Since the full name of Leo Africanus is used in the Wilson materials but not in the Notebook, we may conjecture that the essay was written before the investigation of the Metallic Homunculus.

  • 38 For Yeats’s account see CVA 8.

23A much more important problem is what happened between April and November 1917 to change Yeats’s conception of Leo. As all students of Yeats know, his wife ‘surprised’ him ‘by attempting automatic writing’ on 24 October 1917, four days after their marriage.38 But they did not begin to preserve the Script until 5 November. On that day Leo appears as a malignant and untrustworthy spirit, and he remains ‘dishonest’ when he reappears occasionally (twenty-five times or more) throughout the Script. He becomes, in fact, the most difficult of a category of spirits called Frustrators (that is, those who deliberately impeded or hindered the psychic investigations). On the evening of 5 November Yeats and his wife were informed by Thomas of Dorlowicz, the most important of the Controls in the Script, that Leo was not to be trusted. The following answers to unrecorded questions will illustrate the new role Leo was to play:

Yes
alright but dishonest
one of several who are Leo
misuse – Leo but does not come himself to you
reflection
cant tell Better not to act by Leo ever but
may give good information
yes – a reflection – subsidiaries – yes
not always sent – sent sometimes
malignant sometimes – not to be trusted in
never believe his prophecy

24Another comment by Thomas (two days later) casts some light on these ambiguous suggestions: ‘... most of us are only forms under the reflection of real spirits & therefore do not come from those regions but from the lower intermediate [,] no the real causes a reflection through evil work.’ Yeats was surely confused, but he was also impressed. In the alphabetized Card File which became a record for quotations from and observations about the Script, Yeats made an entry under ‘Guides’ repeating part of Thomas’s advice about Leo verbatim. One other entry under this heading is significant: after a brief discussion of ‘spiritual guides of the soul’, Yeats added, ‘but there are illusionary guides to mislead & are short lived.’ Convinced by Thomas apparently that Leo was one of those ‘illusionary guides’, Yeats had no further use for him. But Leo was not easily banished. More than once in the course of the next few months he interfered with George Yeats’s writing. For example, on 23 January 1918, she made Leo’s sign several times near the end of the evening to indicate that she must ‘stop writing now.’ ‘After ‘Ω yes Ω’ she wrote: ‘Thomas much better wait no good going on in this moment only misleading.’ Following some unrecorded question from Yeats, she replied: ‘Yes could not tell you till you discovered it yourself Ω.’ More than six years later Yeats noted at the bottom of this page: ‘all about Tarot etc frustration WBY. May [?] 1924.’ On the next page Thomas had told him to ‘stiffen your logical mind.’ These exchanges are part of a serious but rather one-sided debate about Leo’s function which extended over a period of several days beginning 21 January and culminating on 30 January.

  • 39 This is probably a reference to Yeats’s position in the Stella Matutina, the Inner Order of the Go (...)

25It is significant that throughout the Script Leo’s sign and most of the discussion about him are in the hand of George, who may have been trying to displace him as a benevolent or useful Guide to Yeats. Especially revealing, though not perfectly clear, is a dialogue – all in George’s hand – on 22 January. The phrase ‘Spiritual growth’ is followed first by several of Leo’s signs then by George’s comment: ‘an evil genius but who has attached himself to you – not yours especially – no spirit.’ When Yeats asked, ‘ To me’, George replied: ‘Yes I think so but could not be absolutely sure – Hates medium wants to displace your mind no sheer malevolence about 6 years ago I think – not really Leo – knew Leo in life probably.’ The period of ‘about 6 years’ suggests that George is recalling Leo’s first appearance, on 9 May 1912. After a brief discussion of ‘four Signs of malevolence’ which are ‘poised to sting’, George continued: ‘He hates you for your learning knowledge about spirits & because you have a degree of initiation39 – They have to try to prevent – it is their duty & they sometimes become malevolent in that duty.’ Following the assertion that ‘he will try medium’ and the revelation that the ‘form of spiritual knowledge’ to be sought is ‘not your formula but both Q & R.’ George suggested that ‘he is a guide & therefore Leo Africanus nothing to do with him.’ Since Yeats had been told repeatedly over the past six years that Leo was a Guide, he must have been puzzled by George’s statement.

26Whatever his classification and whether or not he was the real Leo Africanus, some malevolent spirit using Leo’s astrological sign disturbed and deluded the Yeatses for many months: he created illusions, he was probably responsible for ‘a disturbance which might have resulted in stopping this work’ (30 January 1918), and he once led Yeats to record that an entire evening’s investigation was ‘all wrong Leo’ (12 April 1918). Although he appeared less often after June 1918, he continued to cast a malicious shadow over the Automatic Script well into 1919. At the first séance after the birth of Anne Yeats, Leo is named and his sign is superimposed over crude drawings of a hand and some sticks followed by two strange sentences: ‘ – has dropped the rods[.] The hand strikes but cannot hurt’ (20 March 1919). Is the unstated subject of the first sentence Leo’s hand, and does George mean to suggest that it can no longer hurt? Whatever comfort, if any, Yeats found in this enigmatic assurance, we may be certain that he had mixed emotions over the loss of a Communicator who had been hovering around for more than seven years.

27Appendix A

28Circle Sitting in the Library at Cambridge House, Wimbledon, 6.30 in the evening. 9th May 1912. Mrs Etta Wriedt of Detroit, U.S.A., Medium.

29Sitters were: Mrs Gillespie and three friends: Mr and Mrs Browne: Miss Ashby: and Mr W. B. Yeats. Also Mrs and Miss Harper.

30(Miss Harper’s notes.)

31Miss Ashby was a personal friend of our own, the other sitters were strangers. Musical box played for a few minutes. Then some sitters felt themselves sprinkled with drops of water (the séances often began with this ‘sprinkling’. Sometimes a Latin Benediction followed).

32In a little while a very deep voice spoke through the trumpet, evidently for Mr Yeats, whom it addressed as ‘Mr Gates’. Voice spoke loudly and distinctly. When asked ‘Who are you?’ replied ‘Leo, The Writer!’ Went on to say he was the Guide of Mr Yeats, had been with him a great many years, and impressed him and worked through his brain. Pressed for identification said he was a Writer and Explorer, and added ‘You will find me in the Encyclopedia, ... at Rome’, or words to that effect. The words Encyclopedia, and Rome, were both certainly used, but I am not certain whether he meant he had lived in Rome, and would be found ‘in the Encyclopedia’, as one would speak of finding a word ‘in the Dictionary’, or whether he referred to some special Roman Encyclopedia. He said more, to the effect that he was helping and working through Mr Yeats, but the manifestation was interrupted by one of the sitters – a woman – becoming afraid and suddenly insisting on leaving the room. The voice of ‘Leo’ had a slight Irish accent, not unlike Mr Yeats’s own. It was deep and resonant, somewhat of the quality of John King’s but without the latter’s abrupt manner of speaking.

33‘Leo’ was followed by another voice, much fainter and not very distinct, and did not seem to be definitely recognized. This was suddenly interrupted by a loud, deep voice telling Mr Yeats to ‘Sit up in your chair!’. Mr Yeats had apparently been leaning forward, but the room being pitch dark it was impossible for anyone to see this, and there were then two other sitters between Mr Yeats and the Medium.

34Two other women then insisted on leaving the room, evidently in a state of terror, which utterly spoilt the conditions and we got practically nothing more, altho we sat for a long time in the hope of further manifestations. Once I saw a faint luminous globe or disc appear near where Mr Yeats was sitting. It appeared to me to be about the size of a large dinner plate, and was of a faint silvery glow, like misty moonlight.

35To those who have often sat with Mrs Wriedt either privately or in Circle, this was only a very mediocre seance, in comparison with the general order of results, and we blamed the disturbance caused by three sitters leaving the room, breaking the circle, and interfering with the conditions, which were otherwise quite harmonious and peaceful.

36Edith K. Harper: Sec. Julia’s Bureau

37S. A. Adela Harper

38Appendix B

39Report of Seance

40held at Cambridge House, Wimbledon

41at 6.30 on May 9th 1912.

42Present besides Mrs.—the medium, Mrs. Harper, Miss Harper

43and eight others.

44The room had a dark cabinet, but this was not used as the room was entirely darkened. A long tin trumpet was handed round. I did not notice at the beginning of the Séance where it was finally placed, but noticed at the end that it was standing on its broad end in the middle of the room. The Medium had a strong American accent. When the room was darkened, a musical box started playing. After about three minutes or so, the box stopped. We were then suddenly sprinkled with some liquid. I felt this on my hands and face. The Medium when questioned said it was the way her control had of showing he was present and that it was a kind of baptism. A little later there came an exceedingly loud voice through the trumpet. I could not understand what was said. The Medium interpreted that it claimed to come for ‘Mr. Gates’. I said this was evidently me. It then said in a more distinct voice which I could follow and still very loud, that it had been with me from childhood. Shortly after it had begun speaking, a terrified woman got up and went out. It went on saying ‘that they wanted to use my hand and brain’. I was a little impatient. I had this kind of spirit once before, and was repelled by what I considered an appeal to my vanity. But for this I would have listened more carefully. The voice said something about my possessing the key or the key-mind they wanted. I asked who was speaking and was told that it was ‘Leo, the writer and explorer’. I couldn’t understand the answer. I asked when he lived. I got no answer I could understand. I said did you live in the 18th century? Then came some sentence beginning with ‘Why, man?’ or some such phrase implying impatience, certainly containing the word ‘man’ and adding ‘Leo, the writer, you know Leo, the writer.’ When I said I knew no such person the voice said: As I thought, ‘you will hear of me in Rome.’

45The Medium had however heard the words as ‘You will find me in the Encyclopaedia.’ Both may have been said, but there were a number of sentences I could not follow. I noticed that ‘Leo’ had a strong Irish accent, whereas the Medium had a strong American accent. I had also the impression that the Irish accent was not quite true. The kind of accent an Irishman some years out of Ireland, or an Englishman who had a fair knowledge of Ireland, might assume in telling an Irish story.

46One of the sitters, however, told me that she considered the accent like my own, and not stronger than mine. I had thought it stronger. I asked the Medium the meaning of this Irish accent. She replied that the control had to get its means of expression from my mind. With a click, possibly the putting of the trumpet on the ground, the control finished. It was followed by a very low voice, very difficult to understand and from which little could be made out, except a Christian name, and the first letter of a surname. It had seemingly come for one of the other sitters. Suddenly this low voice was interrupted by the loud voice again telling me to sit up straight on my chair. I was leaning forward with my elbows on my knees. I consider this sentence as proof that there was no conscious jugglery on the part of the Medium, for the room was in entire darkness. No gleam of light, however faint, from under the door or through the keyhole, or from the crack of a shutter. And in all this part of the Séance there were I think two, certainly one, sitter between myself and the Medium. At this point the Séance practically ended, for two terrified ladies went out, which broke the influence, or at any rate brought all satisfactory manifestations to an end. We sat for nearly an hour longer, with no result except that I was touched twice towards the end of the hour upon the top of my head as if by the thumb and forefinger of a hand, and that while I was doubting whether a faint gleam of light which seemed to come at intervals where the medium was at my right hand – she was sitting next me since the last two went out – I saw a light very distinctly and without any possibility of being mistaken straight in front of me. It was not bright; it was the usual phosphorescent glow and about the size and shape of a sixpenny loaf.

47I set down here for my own guidance that I wish to observe whether there is any tendency at a Seance for a faint voice through a dramatising instinct unconsciously to follow a loud one. Miss Harper looked up Leo in Lempriere and found these words: ‘An author of Pella who wrote on the nature of the Gods, etc.’ Lempriere gives references, but unless one found that this Leo was also an explorer, there is very little to decide on.

48Note – Not to look up the references till after next Seance as they might become a suggestion to the control.

49It is possible that Leo may turn out to be a symbolic being. Leo, the constellation, the house of the sun, and if this is so, it would account for the arrogance implied by his impatience when I did not know his name & by the appeal to my vanity of his address. Further if it be true as I have always supposed, that the influence under which I do my work and think my most profound thoughts, is what an Astrologer calls solar, this being or state like the previous control which said to me very similar things some 12 years ago, may be a dramatization of a reality.

50It is even possible that the domineering jocular type of half-Irish, or English-Irish storyteller, suggested to me not only by certain intonations of the voice but by such an expression as ‘Why, man?’ may be a lower solar form, arrogance being always [WBY] mirth & a kind of unreality belonging to the perversion of the solar power, speaking astrologically. I have never been quite certain that certain controls who give themselves names of great antiquity, do not really select by some process of unconscious affinity from the recorded or unrecorded memories of the world, a name and career that symbolizes their nature.

51W.B.Y.

2. TEXT

52[Although the text of ‘Leo Africanus’ (consisting of forty manuscript pages plus inserts) was much revised, Yeats did not prepare it for publication or for any kind of public distribution. The ‘foul copy’ (one of the most difficult in the Yeats canon) from which we have derived our transcript contains more than 450 cancellations and emendations as well as many uncorrected irregularities in syntax, punctuation, and spelling. We have attempted to reproduce the text as accurately as possible, correcting only occasional irregularities in spelling and inserting punctuation when logic seems to require it. Our notes record only the most substantive textual alterations. For a complete record, see Steve L. Adams, ‘W. B. Yeats’s Leo Africanus’ (M.A. thesis, Florida State University, 1979), in the Robert Manning Strozier Library.]

LEO AFRICANUS40

  • 40 Leo, Johannes (c.1492–1552), in Italian Giovanni Leone, and properly known as Al Hassan Ibn Mahomm (...)
  • 41 See n. 27 above.
  • 42 A cancelled passage follows in the manuscript: ‘If I would write out my difficulties in a letter a (...)
  • 43 Little is known of John Pory. In a footnote to the 1896 edition of The History and Description of (...)
  • 44 Yeats obviously intended to search for this name. He may refer to Angelo Mai (1782–1854) of Milan, (...)
  • 45 Yeats writes in ‘Swedenborg, Mediums, and the Desolate Places’: ‘Nor should we think of spirit as (...)
  • 46 See n. 5 above. At this point in the manuscript Yeats crossed out two sentences: ‘Dr Abraham Walla (...)
  • 47 The preceding sentence was an insert written on a separate page.
  • 48 According to Robert Brown, in his edition of Pory’s translation, ‘the divers excellent poems’ of L (...)
  • 49 These séances probably occurred on 5 and 18 June 1912. See 292–94 above.
  • 50 See n. 9 above.
  • 51 Mrs Wriedt spoke only English, but the voices that spoke through her were many and varied, includi (...)
  • 52 See n. 7 above.
  • 53 See 292–94 above. Yeats recorded these details on 20 June 1912 of a séance which had occurred on 5 (...)
  • 54 The long passage beginning with ‘Many faces had shown themselves ...’ and ending with ‘I was neces (...)
  • 55 See nn. 10, 18 above.
  • 56 See EPS, 279, for a discussion of ‘secondary personality’.
  • 57 Dr Julien Ochorowicz (1850–1918), distinguished psychical researcher and codirector of the Institu (...)
  • 58 Ochorowicz recorded his experiences with Mile Tomczyk in Annales des Sciences Psychiques from Janu (...)
  • 59 James Hervey Hyslop (1854–1920), one of America’s most distinguished psychical researchers and Pro (...)
  • 60 The passage beginning ‘Once we grant’ and ending with ‘decided on English’ originally followed the (...)
  • 61 William Stainton Moses (1839–1892) was a remarkable English medium and religious teacher noted for (...)
  • 62 J. J. Morse (1848–1919), a distinguished trance speaker and noted as the ‘Bishop of Spiritualism’ (...)
  • 63 Yeats writes in A Vision that this ability to draw from many sources is indeed within the capabili (...)
  • 64 In a cancelled sentence following ‘in space’ Yeats wrote: ‘Moyenne has spoken to Mr Feilding throu (...)
  • 65 The personality created by Ochorowicz was not named. The conversation Yeats refers to was reported (...)
  • 66 Mrs Leonore E. Piper (1859–1950), of Boston, was ‘the foremost trance medium in the history of psy (...)
  • 67 According to Professor Theodor Flournoy and Dr Joseph Maxwell, Yeats’s opponents in the battle of (...)
  • 68 Yeats refers to Robert Kirk’s The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, & Fairies (1691). The sugge (...)

53Some months ago a medium Miss S—and one or two other friends were at my rooms.41 Presently Miss S—who had heard my account of you seemed to be controlled or perhaps I should say overshadowed. She began to speak rapidly speaking whatever came into her head. You were as it seemed the speaker.42 I have had but little experience of Miss S—as a medium. Once, the only other time in fact when I had consulted her[,] ‘William Morris’ had written through her hand[,] & as he had written through the hand of another medium in my presence I assumed that she possessed telepathic power at least. What impressed me more was a curious doctrine. You were my opposite. By association with one another we should each become more complete; you had been unscrupulous & believing. I was overcautious & conscientious. Then you said if I would write a letter to you as if you were still living among your Moors or Sudanese, & put into it all my difficulties and afterwards answer it in your name you would overshadow me in my turn & answer all my doubts. I have beside me as I write the translation of the only work of yours extant today – from this one assumes that you still exist – It was published in London in 1600 & was translated by John Pory ‘lately of Goneuill and Caius College in Cambridge’ & called ‘A Geographical History of Africa written in Arabicke & Italian by John Leo, borne in Granada and brought up in Barbarie’.43 There is also a long subtitle announcing that it contains descriptions ‘of the regions, cities, towns [,] mountains [,] rivers & other places throughout all the north & principal partes of Africa’ & other matters ‘gathered partly out of ‘ your own ‘dilligent observations & partly out of the ancient records & Chronicles of the Arabians & Mores’. When you first came to me I had to the best of my belief never heard of you nor of your work, but now I have read a good part of it & picture you with some clearness, especially as a young man studying & making verses in the town of Fez you have described with such minute detail – at this moment I imagine you as a student of this college where there were ‘three cloysters to walk in, most curiously and artificially made with certain eight-square pillers of divers colours to support them – And between piller & piller ‘arches’ overcast with golde, azure & divers other colours’ walking perhaps where ‘runneth’ through the college ‘a little stream in a most clear & pleasant channell the brims & edges whereof are workmanly framed of marble & stones of Majorica’ or perhaps with your fellow poets whose songs on all other days of the year ‘entreat of love’ going ‘betimes in the morning’ upon Mahomets birthday ‘unto the palace of the chiefe judge or governour’ that from ‘the tribunal seat’ you also may read some ‘elegant & pithie’ poem in the Prophets praise ‘to a great audience of people’. It is said that a shade can elect to appear as young or old when it would speak to men & it may be you will prefer me to imagine you as you were after your capture by Venetian pirates & your liberation from slavery by Pope Leo the tenth whose name you took. You have spoke to me so much of the drama, that I am ready to imagine you as attending those performances of Plautus arranged [in] Rome by Cardinal–.44 You saw indeed the beginnings of one drama & may indeed watch through our eyes today its corruption & decline. You wish me to [tell] you what leaves me incredulous, or unconvinced. I do not doubt any more than you did when [among] the alchemists of Fez the existence of God, & I follow tradition stated for the last time explicitly in Swedenborg & in Blake, that his influence descends to us through hierarchies of mediatorial shades & angels.45 I doubt however, though not always, that the shades who speak to us through mediums are the shades they profess [to] be. That doubt is growing more faint but still it returns again & again. I have continually to remind myself of some piece of evidence written out & examined & put under its letter in my file. How can I feel certain of your identity, when there has been so much to rouse my suspicion. You came to me first on—at Mrs Wriedts at Wimbledon.46 The lights were no sooner out than I heard your voice very loud, & with what seemed to me a slight Irish accent as though you drew your expression from my memory, or my habit of speech. I thought the accent a little more marked than my own. You told me that you were Leo my guide & seemed astonished that I had never heard of you. ‘I am Leo the writer’ you repeated, & I would find you in the books or hear of you at Rome. You spoke too of your travels & said that you had been with me from childhood. I was to attend much to spiritual experiences for I had a key mind & would make great discoveries.47 Before the next seance I read in Chambers biographical dictionary about Leo Africanus & saw that beyond question the voice claimed to be his voice. I was not at all impressed & thought Mrs Wriedt who is perhaps a ventriloquist of some kind looks up guides for her visitors in Chambers when [she] knows nothing of their [dead] friends & relatives. In this chance she may have been in a hurry for plainly Leo Africanus a geographer & traveller is for me no likely guide. However upon looking [up] a reference to the proceedings of the Hakluyt society at the end of the biography I discovered that Leo Africanus was a distinguished poet among the Moors.48 On—I had another seance, & then on—still another & more details were added including a correction of the statement in Chambers that after twenty years in Rome you had died in your own country in ? 1543.49 Leo had died the voice said in a battle of the Franco Spanish war, but it was something that happened on—that made me begin to think that perhaps you still lived, & were really speaking to me. A woman sat next me I discovered who knew some Italian. I know something of her. She belonged to a well known Scandinavian family & was certainly no confidante of the medium.50 I said if a spirit who calls himself Leo comes speak to him in Italian. A little later she had a copious conversation in Italian with the voice. She did not understand a great deal for her Italian is not very abundant, & the speech was rapid but Leo’s Italian she said was excellent. A little later she was talking Norwegian to a different spirit, & certainly we had got beyond the Mediums knowledge, & the problem had become psychological.51 I had already felt when I noticed the slight Irish accent which had now vanished that perhaps it would be necessary to look for part of the explanation whether I accepted or rejected the spirit theory in my own mind & this became more probable when Dr Wallace who is Scotch told me that at one [of ] his séances the habitual control of the medium had spoken with a Scotch accent. I was reminded too of certain earlier experiences. The name Leo recalled the one of the only two other séances I had ever attended. It was fifteen or twenty years earlier & Mr Williams was the medium I had not begun to take notes but my memory was very distinct.52 Many faces had shown themselves by the light of a phosphorescent slate that shades seem to carry from place to place & one of these had whispered very faintly at my ear words which I had thought to be ‘Leonora Arguite’ but the medium declared them to be ‘Leonora your guide’.53 I have been always conscious of some being near to me & once when I was a young child I heard its voice, as though someone were speaking in the room but something in your tone which was a little commanding and boisterous always prevented me from recalling that faint voice. I remember instead how a little before that seance with Williams I had called one evening on an old Dublin Doctor. I found a dozen people in his drawing room & among them a girl telling fortunes by Chiromancy, & she was new at her subject & had a book on Chiromancy open on the chair beside her. I had known her some years before, & had found her a sensitive [girl] & though I had never knowingly hypnotised her, had discovered that she was a hypnotic subject. That it was easy to call up visions before her mind. I asked her to tell my fortune – I am copying my full notes made at that time – but saw she must come through the folding doors into the next room. She brought the book with her & spread it open upon the table, & began explaining the lines. Suddenly her voice changed & another personality spoke through her of my most private affairs & charged me to attend more than ever to visions & dreams & I would bring a closer relation between this world & the next than ever before. After some more of a like sort a step in the passage caused the clairvoyant to awake from her trance dazed & ignorant of all that had passed. I had felt I was being tempted with a childish temptation with a crude appeal to my vanity. Now here was a new appeal though less crude. I had ‘a key mind’. I was necessary & so on.54 Since that first seance your voice if yours it is has come often, at Mrs Wriedts séances when I have been present. I will not discuss this in detail. The main result has been that with the fading of the effect upon me of the Italian conversation I have found myself more & more sceptical. Your voice does not suggest, an actual man. The voice has something artificial, which if I had to describe, [is] a rise and fall as of a practiced speaker who is speaking however under conditions we do not understand & the mind behind is vague & indefinite. I have only once & that was when you first spoke to [me] in Italian noticed an emotional intonation. The voice in fact is like that of the habitual controls John King[,] Dr Sharpe & so on & I am suspicious of it as I am of them & suspect it, as I but seldom at the moment suspect those who claim to be men & women but lately dead of being a secondary personality.55 Perhaps you found those Italian sentences in the memory of [my] Scandinavian neighbor & for that reason I have asked you to write to me through some mediums hand a sentence of Arabic. I may bring an Arabic scholar to see Mrs Wriedt when she returns from America but that will be inconclusive, for you would find all you needed in his memory. But if you are a secondary personality56 you can create for yourself a solid body for I am satisfied with the evidence that you have lifted a metal trumpet, carried flowers & touched me upon my hands, my knees & my face. That would not be any difficulty to most continental investigators for they argue that if we are ready to grant such powers to the dead, there is no reason why we should deny them to a portion of the mind of a living man. Dr Ochorowicz has even created a very patient & satisfactory secondary personality while working with his medium Madame Tomczyk57 endowing it by suggestion with all these powers, as well as with the reliable mental habits necessary for his experiments. He had been annoyed by the charming but unreliable Moyenne, & that still more unreliable Little Stasia, who though Moyenne describes her as a naked girl one foot high & with long hair is but he tells us some tertiary or quaternary state of the mind of his medium.58 Certainly one cannot any longer it appears say with Prof Hyslop59 that the secondary or tertiary personality lacks super-normal powers. With the granting of certain phenomena – materialization for instance, the ‘telepathic theory’ which the English Society for Psychical Rese[arch] has used so energetically grows but a light thing. If you Africanus, can materialize, or half materialize a body & at some point of space outside the mediums body & there move & speak, & carry solid objects, we have the same evidence, for a separate mind, that I have for my own mind, & no vibration in the cells of my brain rousing sympathetic vibration in the mediums mind will account for its activity. It may learn historical facts of Leo & the Franco Spanish War by the vibration of our cells, but there is a third mind to twist that knowledge to its own end. For the time being that secondary personality has become primary, once I have granted to you that independence, & what limits can I set upon your freedom. Limits there must needs be but do I know them. Once we grant the power what limit shall we set to it. Why should I grant you let us say only the power to borrow my thoughts – and of that you have given me evidence. Why if you wished to deceive & had decided on English60 [birth] & death [not] go to Somerset House, & choose a name among the certificates of birth & death. Why may not those ‘spirits’ who have reported themselves to Stainton Moses[,]61 J . Morse62 or lately in my own presence & told of their deaths, dates & circumstances, & or run through the chief facts of their lives have made up these obscure histories from old newspapers. You a secondary personality of my own mind or of Mrs Wriedts have upon the theory consulted perhaps Chambers biographical dictionary. Can I make the distinction that I or Mrs Wriedt may have very likely turned its pages, but the mediums those more obscure persons have come to, are less likely to [have] rummaged Somerset House, or among the old newspapers in the British Museum, still less to have combined several such sources. But if you can read my mind or the Scandinavian womans mind, why not some distant mind for we have no proof that distance affects the faculty. Can in fact a secondary personality draw from many sources & so build up a complex knowledge, & even of different languages.63 Certainly I am incredulous, but maybe that is only a dolts reason abashed by the unknown. [Have] I not after years of investigation accepted the most incredible facts. You may have built up a being as complex as my own & yet require from me an intermitted attention, & a measure of belief to keep you from dying, or for upon this point we lack evidence only needing this at the hour of your birth. I cannot be even certain that you may not survive me, for you can be independent of me in space64 & as it appears perhaps you may be independent in time. – the personality created by Dr Ochorowicz suggested when asked if he would die with the medium said no not if he could attach himself to someone else.65 On this subject we have had no investigation. We have some evidence not yet very complete that the personality in passing from medium to medium while the first still lives does not altogether break its memory. Dr Phinuit, or was it just a secondary Personality of Mrs Pipers [said that] the suggestion that gave him shape has been traced – yet Prof Hyslop tells how he promised to influence an old man in England in the making of his will & that a little later when this man was on his deathbed in England he complained of an old man who annoyed him by talking to him of his private affairs.66 Mrs Piper was still in America so if that was indeed Phinuit he had crossed the Atlantic, & one imagines that he might not be greatly inconvenienced, by the death of so distant a lady. This vague evidence is strengthened when we compare it with the stronger evidence of those beings we have agreed to call ‘spirits’ for the passage with almost unlinked memory from medium to medium – I have had several cases in my own investigation, & there are several in the published accounts of the mediumship of Mrs Wriedt – & this is some evidence of a control remembering certain details many years after the death of its medium. It may not have been in my mind or Mrs Wriedts that you discovered a memory left after turning the pages of Chambers Biographical dictionary & when you first appeared you may have been a dissociated fragment of some mind unknown both to her & to me.67 Does in fact the human mind possess a power like that of the amoeba of multiplication by division? Perhaps every mind has originated at conception so, & the seance room but uses in a new way, a faculty necessary to nature, & thereby looses upon the world a new race of bodiless minds, who after they are first created grow & change according to their own will & continually seek a more solid & hard being [&] are in the end dependent not upon an individual body, but upon the body of the human race as a whole. The thought has some support from Antiquity. Kirk who reflected the platonism of his time as well as the beliefs of highland seers & wizards among whom he lived explains that when we eat & drink we eat & drink not only for our own benefit but for that of an invisible race.68 As we live we define our personality less by thought, than our occupations, & our possessions but the invisible, can only do so, by thoughts & images & is therefore, one suggests perpetually compelled to personify itself, & create or discover biographies, & discovered biographies will always possess the advantages or corroboration of its ramifications through other biographies & facts, & the being who seeks by its means its own definition is enriched by our labours, perhaps by our increasing belief. Does he ever know that he deceives, when the definition has gone so far, that he has divided himself, from the thoughts & activities of the mind where he was born. Are you not perhaps becoming a second Leo Africanus a shadow upon the wall, a strong echo, & yet made subtle by powers that old traveller had known & wise with knowledge & faculties reaped from many minds.

LEO AFRICANUS TO W B YEATS

  • 69 Theodor Flournoy, Professor of Psychology at the University of Geneva, was the ‘author of perhaps (...)
  • 70 At this point Yeats cancelled the following variation: ‘that tradition enforced by the experience (...)
  • 71 Henry More (1614–1687) the Cambridge Platonist remained one of Yeats’s favourites for many years. (...)
  • 72 The gist of this quotation is indebted to a stray sheet of automatic writing (probably Miss Radcli (...)
  • 73 Bradford thought that Yeats intended to quote from a passage he had identified in one of his manus (...)
  • 74 Yeats writes in ‘Swedenborg, Mediums, and the Desolate Places’: ‘Swedenborg has written that we ar (...)
  • 75 Yeats paraphrases from book 11, chapter 24, of Rabelais’s Five Books of the Lives, Heroick Deeds a (...)

54I understand enough of the thought of your age to understand your difficulty, on philosophical grounds, & because of certain experiences you believe as still do the majority of your contemporaries that [there] is a god, & happy or unhappy spirits, but when you examine appearances you are mastered by a formula. I must not pre-suppose a new cause, till I have exhausted the known causes & you reject from known causes all that has come to you from philosophy, & religious tradition. You only recognize what in the best opinion of your time has been proved by deductive science. You will not assume, even for purposes of reasoning the existence of a spirit till you find if you can explain everything though your own explanation fills you with incredulity, by some faculty of the living mind. You insist on considering spirits as unknown causes, though they have interfered in your own life often enough. Like the Swiss Professor M Flournoy from whom I find an instructive quotation in your memory you are prepared to believe as a man what you reject as a man of science.69 Yet, the formulas of science, though necessary as a mechanism of much reasoning, precisely because the known is much less than the unknown, ensure that a scientific exposition can but have temporary value. In your heart you know70 that all philosophy, that has lasting expression is founded on the intuition of god, & that he being all good & all power it follows [as] Henry More the Cambridge Platon71 so wisely explains that all our deep desires are images of the truth. We are immortal & shall as it were be dipped in beauty & good because he cannot being good but fulfill our desires. Yet desire is not reason & that intuition, though it can arouse the intellect to its last subtlety, is but the deep where reason floats, or perhaps the light wherein the separate objects of our thought find colour & definition. You are sympathetic, you meet many people, you discuss much, you must meet all their doubts as they arise, & so cannot break away into a life of your own as did Swedenborg, Boehme, & Blake. Even the wisdom that we send you, but deepens your bewilderment, for when the wisest of your troop of shades wrote you through the ignorant hand of a friend ‘Why do you think that faith excludes intellect. It is the highest achievement of the human intellect, & it is the only gift that man can offer to god. That is why we must leave all the winds of time to beat upon it’[,]72 you but sought the more keenly to meet not your own difficulties but the difficulties of others. Entangled in error, you are but a public man, yet once you would put vague intuition into verse, & that insufficient though it was might have led you to the path the eye of the eagle has not seen. I will speak to you & not your friends, & will therefore begin by assuming the existence, of myself & of the shades that are my fellows. Plutarch has written………..73 In my life I travelled over much of the known earth & made many sudden decisions, & was often in danger & all but always in solitude & so became hard & keen like a hunting animal, & now for your good & my own I have chosen to linger near, your contrary mind. There are other shades near you but with them I have no companionship, for they are cold pale minute distinct whereas I am impetuous & hot. All living minds are surrounded by shades, who are the contrary will which presents before the abstracted [?] mind & the mind of the sleeper ideal images.74 The living mind could [not] exist for a moment without our succour, for god does not act immediately upon the mind but through mediatorial forms. These forms, however are not messengers as you understand the word. They do not carry a letter in their hands, even in their memories for being plastic images, changeable as the will they can clothe one anothers thought, the subtle mind within the more gross, the coarser body enfolding as it were the more delicate. ‘Let us shave his head’, says somebody in Rabellais of a too careless messenger, ‘& see if his message is written upon his pate with invisible ink’.75 That could not be said of us for our message [is], as it were built in the whole structure of our body & our mind. If I have been sent to give you confidence & solitude it is because I am a brooding & braggart shade, & even in this I am not wholly stable, for at times I am aware of a constraint upon my thoughts or my passion deepens because of one who is remote & silent & whom while I lived in Rome I was forbidden to call Mahomet. To expound our nature & lay your doubts I shall begin not from secondary personalities, which are obscured, but with your dreams, your experiences. Let science build upon obscurities, she has her necessary labour. Wisdom, like all the greater forms of art[,] is founded upon experience. Sometimes when you are dreaming you will imagine you will dream that you witness or take part in a dispute, & afterwards when [you] examine the opinions discover that both disputants have made use of thoughts, that are a part of your daily mind, but should that make you believe you have not reasoned with yourself, whose was that other that opposed you, & when you lie in bed after fencing you see for certain minutes, a foil darting upon you from the darkness & whirling its point hither & thither? What hand holds the point upon you. So too when you write a play, the characters seem to move & live of themselves. Is your own mind broken, & your will doubled. Is this too a beginning that might grow with a little stress upon the nerves into one of those secondary personalities which it may be, you believe perhaps, animates us till it be [indecipherable word] & yet be but a moiety of our mind. Was Dante wrong when he said expressing the traditional wisdom of his age that the human mind cannot be divided.

quote76

  • 76 Yeats may have intended to quote from Dante’s Il Convito. One passage is particularly apt in this (...)
  • 77 Cf. the following passage from Au 379: ‘I woke one night to find myself lying upon my back with al (...)

55You at any rate cannot with confidence affirm that those images of dreams are never your divided will. Certain sentences that they have spoken have only displayed their full meaning after many years, that spoken twelve years ago for instance ‘We make an image of him who sleeps & it is like him who sleeps but it [is] not him who sleeps. We call it Emmanuel’.77 & certain others, that were no jetsam from your more hidden thoughts have showed you distant & even future events. For you as for tradition dreams drift among the thickets, upon the slope of Sinai, or cling [to] its rocky clefts, staring [at] the buzzard & the hawk. You know that the pre-existence of those interlocutors can be debated with all the arguments your favorite More used to prove the immortality of the soul. Swedenborg, however, who perfected under our guides, so much that More half knew said that we accompany man always, waking when he wakes but many times mixing with his dreams, because we have gone so close that we can but sleep when he sleeps. You too have felt us by your shoulder when awake, & seen that much must be explained together, the confused dream, the wise dream, the counsellors, whose noonday thoughts [?] cannot be heard [,] the vision at Patmos[,] the ghosts in the corridor or the rap perhaps on the wood of the table [ – ] nothing but lies. In the seance room the table will sway to & fro, then there will come a sound of wind & rain & trampling feet, & presently when the table has rolled over somebody will discover, that a dead sailor would let us know of his ships foundering. Can one separate that from the dream that tells in some way[?], or in allegorical form of some coming disaster. In all alike you see, as Henry More has written the gods or the dead fishing for men with dreams, or as men do, for perch [or] mackerel with glittering metal, or a tag of cloth. It need not be too hard to imagine that [they] also fish for the gods, that dream entangles dream.

II

56After my death in battle I was for a time unconscious & then confused in mind. At first I thought myself still living & fighting – giving blows & taking them – & afterwards I saw as in dream certain glimpses of water & afterwards I found myself at Fez where I had lived as a young man. I passed among crowded streets & more than once spoke to some passer-by & it was only when none spoke to me, & when no one turned to look at me, & I was still dressed like an Italian, that the memory of my death returned. I wandered much here & between the houses of the basket-maker & the saddle-maker drawn there, it seems by some magnet of memory [;] it was there I had lodged in my student years. Presently I began to meet faces I had known & it did not seem strange to me, that they were not changed or aged – I had drifted back to an old Fez & I began to relive there as a dream, a tragic event. When a student I had won to me a friends mistress, & afterwards the friend had fallen in melancholy & neglected his studies. One day I met him by the river [&] answered his reproaches with mockery. I lived it all again but now I judged all. I judged myself & yet the old pleasure & triumph returned also but in a nature rent in two. When I awoke I was among strange faces, who passed me as before without notice or recognition. I had [turned] towards the palace of [the] prince, & saw by the sun dial in the square that it was a little after six in the evening, & remembered that it was a little before six that I had met & mocked my rival forty years before. I remembered now the date of my death & soon discovered that this was the fortieth anniversary of my cruelty. My life as a shade seemed to move more slowly than that of the living whose movements seemed to me incredulously quick, as the movements of flies over a river had seemed to me when alive. Presently I began to dream again, I was in a desert, & quarreling with a bedouin I killed him. And so I passed from dream crisis to crisis [,] the same dreams returning again & again, but some power that seemed from beyond my mind seemed working with them & changing their form & colour. At Rome I had seen Michael Angelo at work upon the scaffolding in the Sistine Chapel, & once I had been in his studio & watched him drawing from the model. The events in life & the earlier dreams were like that model but gradually were so changed, that [they] resembled more what I saw in Adam or Sybil when the scaffolding was taken away. But now in my state of waking I did not seem to wholly wake, for side by side with the streets of Fez, or desert I seemed to see another world that was growing in weight & vividness, the double of yours, but vaster & more significant. Shades came to me from [that] world & returned to it again. Some of them I recognized. Those who were dead a long time I recognized for the most part with difficulty some because they were handsomer & some because they were terrible to look at like some strange work of art. I noticed that those who [had returned] after many years & those who were terrible seemed to linger about the streets. I have one vivid memory. I am standing with a shade who has altered, though less than others. I am not sure who he is but he is like that student & I have begun suddenly to talk of wine. He a devout Mahometan had never drunk wine. While I am talking I see among the living a group of – who have just come into the city. I feel a longing to be near & taking that other shade by the hand lead him with me. We followed the troop of them – Some dozen or more leading four or five asses – to a narrow passage through a door they locked after them. One lighted a fire & began to cook some fish, while a fat old man, who seemed to have authority, drew [from] the basket, which he had taken from one [of ] the asses a skin of wine. They began to pass it round drinking out of the skin. I felt an excitement at the smell of the wine I could never have foreseen, a longing which seemed to contain within itself all my longing for life. It seemed to me that I could pass into the old mans ribs – I felt something vague & ductile in his flesh, & [could] taste the wine he was about to swallow for his turn was come again. I prayed to Mahomet for help & lost consciousness. When I came to myself again the old man swayed as if faint with dazed & open eyes & all about were the – prostrate, some striking their breasts & some weeping. I said to the other shade ‘I have no taste of wine in my mouth’. He replied ‘you have not drunk. The old man has not drunk. When you took possession of him [he] spoke in the person of Mahomet & reproved them all for their dissipation & their evils’. I answered ‘but I have [no] such thought’. [He] answered ‘I am the older shade & I understand. When he raised the skin his conscience troubled him, & you who were now part of his mind dreamed that you were Mahomet, & now you may be sure that neither the old man, who will leave all presently nor those others will ever taste wine again’. Once I was alone in the desert, watching a – rabbit rolling in the hot sunlight, & began to wonder how he felt, for all forms of physical sensation were an excitement to the imagination & presently my shape resembled his, though the sun remained but as a picture of sunlight & the desert sand still seemed a pictured thing. The – went on licking its paws neither smelling nor hearing nor seeing me. I was a shade in the image of – & from that I began to amuse myself by taking various shapes, sometimes as I passed some man or woman I allowed myself to drift as it were [with] that [which] seemed to come to me from their minds, for as my link with sensual earth loosened these images became more & more apparent. At other times I would deliberately call up a form from my own memory, my image as I was at – or at Rome or in my childhood, & became at once that image. My body was plastic to every impulse of my will returning when the impulse ceased an habitual form, which no old comrade could have recognized. It has come to correspond with my character & my passions but I gave it little thought. I longed for my old activities.

III

  • 78 Yeats may have been thinking of book 11, chapter 11. In section 5 of this chapter, More writes tha (...)
  • 79 Yeats discovered the usefulness of this and related terms when he read The Immortality of the Soul(...)
  • 80 Eusapia Paladino (1854–1918) was the first physical medium to undergo extensive investigation in E (...)
  • 81 Mme Elizabeth d’Esperance (1855–1919) is best known for her experiments with the materialization o (...)
  • 82 Yeats may have discovered this idea in Henry Morley’s The Life and Times of Henry Cornelius Agripp (...)
  • 83 Yeats is here referring to what he later called a ‘complementary dream’ in the Automatic Script. F (...)

57But while I try [to] impress upon your brain events I am full of doubt. I am not even certain, that I am not certain that I did not mistake the images I discover there for my own memories & all circumstances – as it were hearing. Once you begin to describe a picture your hand runs on, it is hard to influence. Besides I am conscious of those in my own world who are ready to [hold] it against me for I have few friends. It is better for me to speak in more general terms for in most men the brain is only the most sensitive of our instruments – more sensitive than the ouija or the planchette, when its thoughts are abstract & general. There only can I often turn it away from one logical necessity to another premise & another necessity, & there it can perhaps even at times know that it is influenced. Henry More who has gathered up so much of the Platonism of the Renaissance insists in his essay upon the Immortality of the Soul – Chapter – that memory is not seated in the physical body as Saducees had begun to insist, but in a more delicate body.78 This body was he wrote what medical writers called the animal spirits a fine luminous & fluid substance defined by the channels of the nerves throughout the blood & the flesh. These animal spirits are but a coagulation, of what he called the ‘Spiritus Mundi’.79 When the animal spirits withdrew from the man in trance or in death, this formed his airy body, & was in one state as in the other plastic to his or anothers fancy. The witch could reshape it to cat, or hare, & a separated spirit, as his spirit called those that had no body could shape itself in a horned devil, or clothe itself with ruff & sword, that it might be recognized by child or grandchild. He called it the airy body because flame & air being the purest & least heavy of the elements must stand for still purer & less heavy elements within. Of the old body of flame I shall not speak because for all my hundred years of toil & discipline, & I have [not] so greatly attained. I recognized that the Spiritus Mundi gave more to witch or ghost than pliant substance, for if the vague imagination of an old woman moved perhaps but by a traditional rhyming spell was to procreate a hare that might deceive the hounds it must give a whole image. You need however be no Witch or Witch Finder to come to his opinion, for as you lie between sleeping & awaking elaborate patterns, scenes of [all] kinds, that would take you perhaps many hours to conceive form themselves before you. Every hashish eater can see the like, & the psychologist can scarcely press the argument that [the] patterns [are] made out of flies wings, or by elephants playing with billiard balls, & memories of some scenery [from] forgotten pageants nor do they resemble the designs of some imaginary wallpaper, for no craftsman could in all like[lihood] make [as] many as will emerge in the course of some few minutes, & become in the winking of an eye complete in all their delicate detail. The same problem confronts you [in] the seance room & you ask perpetually whence are those grotesque heads impressed suddenly upon the soft parafin, during the trance of Eusapia Palladino,80 & any one of them a good hours work for an excellent sculptor, or those arms, complete in all muscles, moulded as rapidly, during the trance of Madame D Esperance.81 Henry More saw but the like problem in the formation of a child in the womb, believing [that] the imagination [of ] the unborn but gave an impulse towards form completed by ‘Spiritus Mundi’ which is perhaps that world, your century has named the unconscious, by that air which is so full of images that Cornelius Agrippa believed sensitive men passing by where some unknown murder had been committed could not help but shudder.82 The Spiritus Mundi is indeed the place of images & of all things [that] have been or yet shall be, & all these begin with you & are taken in daily by mens eyes, for all separate & discrete forms, all that is separate is a work [of ] force, & force is the principle of the living. When we die [we] have nothing but our memories: we can [no] longer procreate, but those memories our punishment and our reward arrange & measure, & transform in pattern. We are not indeed solitary for we can share each memory like souls drifting together – & build a common world, just as it sometimes happened that two sleeping men, [or] a sleeping man & woman will share the same dream.83 But these associate in the action or in the thoughts of life & if there are marriages among us, not ours the betrothal kiss. We cannot handle [the] ropes of the belfry, nor [hear] the loud tongue of our metal, but the echoes of [it reach] us, & it grows sweeter & softer in our vapoury distance.

IV

  • 84 The passage beginning with ‘but in waking reverie’ and ending with ‘to the cistern’ was written on (...)

58Yet simile of bell, nor yet that other of betrothal, & there I mean more [than] simile is not all the truth, for our images return to you & not only in dreams, those even of centuries ago exalting, or troubling the slumber that is deep & secret, but in waking reverie, & most when so crystalline & excellent the image, that claim[?] it for glory. It would indeed be a reproach upon the power, or the beneficence of god, if the Caesarian murdered in childhood, whom Cleopatra bore to Caesar or that so brief-lived younger Pericles Aspasia bore could not being so nobly born add their urnful to the cistern.84 You are in the presence of the dead more than you can know because you are never out of it. At some moment of crisis, your movements are automatic almost unconscious, & your mind is visited perhaps by alert scruples & compunctions. Instinct but made the assertion, & [a] more remote spirit bound to [your] mind by some ligature of sympathy; who knowingly or unknowingly has folded you up into the thought. You look at a child & say I can see his father in his face not understanding] the father is as much there as even in his own body for a separated soul has many collaborators when at the supreme crisis of its being, [it] seeks to shape for itself a body in the womb. Nor are the birds constrained by any different mind when for the comforting of the eggs they gather, twig & feather, cobweb & lichen, nor is any moment of the bees elaborate lives liberated from those that suck and tumble in our clover flowers.

V

  • 85 This is a reference to the spirit of an American Indian who came occasionally to Mrs Wriedt. An en (...)

59This communion, which [is] but the normal life of man, eludes my thought, passing as it does through your brain, which understands of any generalization but so much as can be arranged in broken pictures. If I but try to define my terms, to explain what I mean by memory or to define that Spiritus Mundi, that all spreading modelling clay where every thought is moulded I would be overpowered by the weariness of mind that gathers images about it, a child playing with dolls. Sometimes indeed when we made those images you have been so startled, that you have tried to throw threads of reason between them but I cannot hold to a cobweb. I must [hold] to that abnormal communion, which is indeed a perversion of the other a strained & fragmentary thing compared [?] to this by us, who run into danger, too much allured by the human honey pot. Our airy bodies, which take in repose the shape impressed through them upon the physical body or that shape modified by the ruling passion, can be changed at will whether that will by your will or that of their own or some other spirit. When they approach a man in whom the animal spirits are not wholly inseparable from blood & nerves they draw those animal spirits about them, & suck up into this new form enough of the atomies of flesh & bone to become visible to one or more of the human senses. This form, & its mental capacities which are but a moiety of the mans mind, as are those atomies [of ] his body are strained fragmentary & imperfect. It will be sometimes unscrupulous, & more often mischievous as a child is, & not because [of ] evil motive, but because [as] a fragment it understands but dimly the consequences & relations of events, & because it may contain some strong desire now at last freed [from] the mind or concentrate other hundred desires & purposes. We cannot often transfuse a form, still less often make it conscious of any memory, but that of the man or woman who has breathed it out[,] [&] often indeed [we] lose our own identity, & believe that we have had no life but those few hours or minutes of a darkened chamber; & when we do impose a form it is but seldom our own. We choose that appearance, finding shape & dream perhaps from some family portrait, that we may be recognized, or selecting one from some near or distant mind. Yet what you see & hear is always a dream. There is a continual substitution of the familiar image, for the difficult & the strange as when the mind of [a] sleeper slips from a deep to a shallow dream. In the Middle Ages when we were not questioned about the immortality of the soul & had no need to prove our identity, we were conjurors & amused ourselves by casting illusions, with little aim but to make them strange and powerful. Sometimes even in your world we make you remember the Middle Ages as when a sailor to give proof of his identity will make the table sway to & fro, & cause the sound of trampling feet & dragging ropes, & the noise of water & wind. Just as crystals split according to certain lines – ’lines of cleavage’ – so we soon discover that a mediumistic mind splits in a half a dozen easy dramatizations – a child always in high spirits, a gruff deep-voiced man, an American Indian85 perhaps whose simple dialect in which you hear constantly ‘big water’ ‘great chief ’ ‘squaw’ & so on. We amuse ourselves by moving the puppets, choosing the one that comes easiest, & yet I should not say choose, for you take us in your snare & we too begin to dream. We have a troop of thoughts & mental [pictures] gathered from the mediums mind & minds in association with it, that correspond to our own thoughts & mental pictures, but are altogether different. We have changed all your symbols & expressions as you would if you were reborn in the narrow streets of Fez & yet we are the same spirits. When the medium is ‘pure’ – you will remember the ancient insistence upon that – which means it is empty & yet sensitive – sceticism & ceremony could once make such minds – the change is the less & at times we keep our memories.

VI

  • 86 Yeats is recalling an extended passage (118–53) in the Private Memoirs (written 1628, published 18 (...)
  • 87 We cannot identify the character Ochorwicz created ‘by suggestion’.

60But if we can draw forms out of your mind – by as it were mirroring ourselves in a distorting glass – we can call to souls by calling up some associated form. Sir Kenelm Digby when travelling from Italy into Spain had for [fellow] traveller a Brahman, who seeing in what poor spirits he was offered to find a remedy.86 Sir Kenelm Digby who had heard that the woman he loved was faithless & immoral said there could be none. The Brahman Persisted [,] at last took a little book out of his pocket & began reading in a low voice from the book. Presently Sir Kenelm Digby saw a lady sitting upon a fallen tree & as they came nearer saw that she was his own sweetheart. He pointed her out to the Brahman, who made no answer but went on reading. Sir Kenelm Digby ran to the fallen tree & there questioned the phantom & had answers that put his mind at rest. Presently the Brahman closed his book & as he did so the shape vanished. You yourself at the seance at Mrs Wriedts, when I first spoke to you heard the voice, of one who was no dead woman, but a distant friend, & she gave you proof of identity, & yet neither she nor Sir Kenelm Digbys lady as it seemed knew that she had crossed so wide a sea. With us souls & objects are not divided, so greatly by space, as by unlikeliness, & all things are drawn to their like. The Cabalists had a method of creating a mental image of an angel or other spirit, by considering the first letter of the name the head & the last letter the feet, & giving to the form the shapes associated with the letters. One letter, that at the head let us say might correspond to the sun & so have a lions head to represent it, while this might be a mans body & so on. It was very much like the childs game, where one player draws the head & folds down the paper, & hands it to the second player who then draws head & shoulders & so on & yet these forms spoke and gave oracles. It is not more difficult & perhaps more effective to build up a form by suggestion, giving it the qualities you require, as Ochorowicz has done with D—87 for these qualities will draw some similar soul. In fact we would never be at peace from you or would be compelled to terrify you & perhaps kill you as we used to do with the more inexperienced & mischievous conjurors, were it not that your mind has grown curiously, so full [of ] shining images of all kinds, that you have become almost incapable of hearing & seeing us. We shall certainly – noticing certain characteristics of your experiments – be very careful that no body shall rend the veil.

VII

  • 88 Yeats is thinking of a quotation from St Thomas Aquinas cited by Villiers de l’Isle Adam: ‘Eternit (...)

61Many of us pass on into the possession of [our]selves in a single eternal moment St Gustus88 speaks of, disappearing in that world which still indeed opens up many affections but is hidden from his thought. I am of those who feeling their imperfections risk losing our identity by plunging into the human sea. Your senses become ours for more than one mind can look & touch & see & hear in the one body, & by sharing in your desires, we can once more originate, and escaping from pattern come close again to accident and event. We can even meet in your bodies, which are eddies drawing the distant near, & we can amend old errors in ourselves. Our hold is upon your mind & body when your conscious mind is least clear & active, we can deceive by the shuffling of cards, when you have abandoned your hands as it were to chance, & when we would make ourselves visible & audible we clothe [our]selves in your unsatisfied desires and in all that you have been driven out of sight [of ]. We rose before the eyes of St Thomas upon his pillar as of lascivious images, we are the blasphemous & obscene spirits that speak through the gentle lips of chloroformed women & we are the visions & voices that convert sinners. We are the unconscious as you say or as I prefer to say the animal spirits freed from the will, & moulded by the images of Spiritus Mundi. I know all & all but all you know, we have turned over the same books – I have shared in your joys & sorrows & yet it is only because I am your opposite, your antithesis because I am in all things furthest from your intellect & your will, that I alone am your Interlocutor. What was Christ himself but the interlocutor of the Pagan world, which had long murmured in his ear, at moments of self-abasement & defeat, & thereby summoned.

VIII

62Yet do not doubt that I was also Leo Africanus the traveller, for though I have found it necessary, so stupifying is the honey pot to reread of my knowledge of self through your eyes & through the eyes of others, picking out biographical detail through the eyes of those, who are not conscious of ever having heard my name[,] I can still remember the sand, & many Arab cities, & I still as you have reason to know remember Rome & speak its language, & could I but find fitting medium, I could still write my Arab Tongue. Yet even that may not seem true enough, for you could say that I had but tapped some scholars mind though [there is] no proof [such] a faculty can be carried from one mind to another like a number or a geometrical form.

63Leo Africanus

TO LEO AFRICANUS

  • 89 Yeats first wrote ‘I think probable.’

64I am not convinced89 that in this letter there is one sentence that has come from beyond.my own imagination but I will not use a stronger phrase. The morning I began it I found my mind almost a blank though I had prepared many thoughts. I could remember nothing except that I intended to begin with an analysis of the axiom that one could not seek an unknown cause, till one has exhausted the known causes. I wrote till I came to line—page—& finding that that page was but a plea for solitude I remembered that an image that gave itself your name said speaking through a certain seer that your mission was to create solitude. At one other moment I felt that curious check or touch in the mind that sometimes warns me, that a line of argument is untrue. Yet I think there is no thought that has not occurred to me in some form or other for many years passed; if you have influenced me it has been less to arrange my thoughts. I am be[ing] careful to keep my [style] broken, & even abrupt believing that I could but keep sensitive to influence by avoiding those trains of argument & deduction which run on railway tracks. I have been conscious of no sudden illumination. Nothing has surprised me, & I have not had any of those dreams which in the past have persuaded me of some spiritual presence. Yet I am confident now as always that spiritual beings if they cannot write & speak can always listen. I can still put by difficulties.

Notes

1 The first to discuss the manuscript was Richard Ellmann, in Yeats: The Man and the Masks (New York: Macmillan, 1948), 195–97. See also Birgit Bjersby, The Interpretation of the Cuchulain Legend in the Works of W. B. Yeats (Upsala: A. B. Lundequistska Bokhandeln, 1950), 141–44, and Virginia Moore, The Unicorn (New York: Macmillan, 1954), 225–26. The first to transcribe ‘Leo Africanus’ was Curtis Bradford. His unpublished transcription, upon which we have relied heavily, is now in the possession of Senator Michael B. Yeats, who has permitted us to publish the essay and to make use of much unpublished material cited herein (©1981 Michael and Anne Yeats). We are also indebted to the Yeats Archives at the State University of New York at Stony Brook for the copy of the manuscript upon which our transcription is based.

2 As a result of his continued correspondence with Julia, Stead founded Julia’s Bureau, which was dedicated to the exchange of knowledge between the living and the dead. Stead kept his library of psychic books at Mowbray House in London but the Inner Sanctuary of the Bureau at Cambridge House, his home in Wimbledon. For further details about Stead’s life and work, see Edith K. Harper, Stead: The Man: Personal Reminiscences (London: William Rider and Son, 1918). Yeats may have developed orderly habits from observing Miss Harper, who as Secretary of Julia’s Bureau recorded hundreds of séances: ‘A record of all sittings was kept, whether of Julia’s “Inner Circle” at Cambridge House, or of others at Mowbray House or with psychics at their homes. The notes were carefully written out within a few hours, dated, docketed, and placed in the Archives, and the “pros and cons” of each one carefully considered on its own merits, without prejudice’ (135).

3 Transcribed and edited by Denis Donoghue, this Journal is reproduced in Memoirs (London: Macmillan, 1972). See 264 for the entry (apparently misdated) on Leo.

4 See Appendices A and B for reproductions of the typescripts.

5 Mrs Etta Wriedt (1860–1942), a well-known medium from Detroit, Michigan, visited England five times, the first in 1911 at the invitation of W. T. Stead. Miss Harper recorded some 200 sittings with Mrs Wriedt at Julia’s Bureau. For further details see Nandor Fodor, Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science (Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press, 1974), 409. Hereafter cited as EPS.

6 See E. K. Harper, 121.

7 See EPS 405–6.

8 For details, see George Mills Harper and John S. Kelly, ‘Preliminary Examination of the Script of E[lizabeth] R[adcliffe]’ (YO 130–71).

9 The Norwegian sitter was Fru Ella Anker, a clairvoyant, who had conducted sittings at Julia’s Bureau. Miss Harper quotes from one of these sittings in which a ring appeared in the palm of a sitter’s hand (202). In concluding his account of the seance of 18 June, Yeats spoke of a finger going into ‘a large ring which might be symbolic.’

10 The most romantic of all Controls, John King functioned through many mediums. He claimed to have been, in one incarnation, Henry Owen Morgan, the notorious pirate. King ‘communicated in direct voice through a trumpet’ (see EPS, 190–91).

11 King disliked Newman because he ‘belonged to a church where priests could not marry. He did not think he could be sincere.’

12 Sir William Crookes (1832–1919) was a famous physicist. His investigations of psychic phenomena were well published and hotly debated in scholarly journals and elsewhere. President of the Society for Psychical Research (hereafter cited as SPR) for four years (1896–1899), he insisted to the end of his life ‘that a connection has been set up between this world and the next’ (see EPS, 69–71).

13 Yeats refers to the well-known theory that King was head of a band of 160 spirits. According to Fodor, King ‘claimed descent from a race of men known by the generic title Adam’ (EPS, 190).

14 Sir Oliver J. Lodge (1851–1940), a famous physicist and university administrator, became interested in psychical research soon after the formation of the SPR, of which he was President (1901–1903). ‘Absolutely convinced not only of survival but of demonstrated survival’, he wrote numerous books about his theories and observations. See EPS, 204–05, and W. P. Jolly, Sir Oliver Lodge (London: Constable, 1974) passim.

15 Yeats referred to Raymond in his discussion of life after death in A Vision (1925).

16 In August 1912 she was in Christiania, Norway, and may have visited other countries before returning to America. Admiral W. Usborne Moore, who arranged for her to visit England in 1912, arranged for her return in 1913 (EPS, 409).

17 See YO 133.

18 Dr John Sharp, one of Mrs Wriedt’s Controls, claimed that he was born in Glasgow in the eighteenth century but had lived all his life in the United States (see EPS, 409).

19 For details see YO 130–71.

20 See CVA xlvii.

21 Two other entries in the Notebook are dated 24 June. The first, about ‘Two Symbolic Dreams’, notes that W. T. Horton and Audrey Locke had ‘got automatic writing’ when they ‘dined here’ a week ago. The second entry records ‘another sitting with Horton & Miss Locke a few days later.’ For further details of this relationship, see George Mills Harper, W. B. Yeats and W. T. Horton: The Record of an Occult Friendship (London: Macmillan, 1980) especially 36–39.

22 Mem 266–67.

23 Mem 267.

24 G. M. Harper, W. B. Yeats and W. T. Horton, 39.

25 For details, see YO 172–89.

26 For Yeats’s essay and details of the circumstances surrounding Yeats’s trip, see George Mills Harper, ‘“A Subject of Investigation”: Miracle at Mirebeau’, in YO 172–89. When Feilding wrote to Yeats that the report from the Lister Institute was negative, he made a note at the end of Maud Gonne’s manuscript of his essay: ‘Analysis says not human blood. July 11. 1914.’ He was obviously convinced that the bleeding picture was a hoax.

27 Miss Scatcherd, herself a medium, was an admirer and friend of Stead. Miss Harper describes her as ‘an extraordinarily good “receiver”’ of telepathic messages and quotes extensively from ‘a special, verbatim report’ she took of an address by Stead at the Spiritualists’ National Union Convention in July 1909 (157–61). Sir Alfred E. Turner, also ‘a close and intimate friend’ of Stead, wrote the ‘Introduction’ to Miss Harper’s book.

28 The ‘certain people’ were probably Lady Gregory and Synge. While in America Yeats recorded a séance with Mrs Wriedt in Detroit on 19 February 1914. A voice professing to be Synge ‘was very anxious to speak to Lady Gregory. The speaker was greatly indebted to her.’ After some further references to the Aran Islands, Sara [Allgood], and The Rising of the Moon, the spirit informed Yeats that ‘“Leo does not want to make a spiritist of you, but an orator”. Said he and Leo would help me.’ (We are indebted to Bradford’s transcription from one of Yeats’s manuscript books.)

29 See EPS 113, 182 for discussions of Ectoplasm and Ideoplasm.

30 See YO 148 and 152–53, for some account of these two people.

31 YO 171. He changed ‘is some’ to ‘may be’ in the manuscript.

32 Cf. n. 22 above.

33 Mme Alexandre Bisson was a well-known psychical investigator. Over a period of several years (from May 1909 through June 1914) she and a circle of friends conducted hundreds of sittings which were observed and recorded by Baron von Schrenck Notzing in Materialisations Phaenomene (1914), cited herein from the English translation, Phenomena of Materialisation (1920 and 1923). Primarily these investigations were devoted to materialization through the mediumship of Eva C. (Marthe Beraud). When Yeats was in Paris immediately after the investigation at Mirebeau, he attended séances at the home of Mme Bisson on 19, 22, and 26 May (314–17). Maud was not present. In one of his notebooks, partially transcribed by Bradford, Yeats wrote much fuller accounts of the séances on 22 and 26 May. He also wrote a detailed account of a séance of 17 May not recorded in Schrenck Notzing. All these séances experiment with ‘luminous forms’.

34 Quinn’s letter to Yeats dated 24 April 1915 contains a long discussion of ‘his philosophy about war’. He was violently anti-German.

35 This visit from ‘Hugh Lane’ prompted Lady Gregory to have a seance with Mrs Wriedt on 24 July. Both Yeats and Lady Gregory were sceptical about the validity of the information received.

36 Following ‘me’ Yeats first wrote ‘if he could’, then marked through it.

37 Yeats refers to this meeting in the first line of his essay as ‘some months ago’.

38 For Yeats’s account see CVA 8.

39 This is probably a reference to Yeats’s position in the Stella Matutina, the Inner Order of the Golden Dawn, in which he and George maintained an active interest though they were living in Oxford at this time. Yeats achieved the Degree of 6 = 5 on 16 October 1914, and he composed a brief prose poem ‘For initiation in 7 = 4’, the next Degree (in Notebook following entry dated 4 November 1915).

40 Leo, Johannes (c.1492–1552), in Italian Giovanni Leone, and properly known as Al Hassan Ibn Mahommed Al Wezaz Al Fasi, was the author of Descrizione dell’ Affrica or Africae descriptio, which was for many years the best authority on Mahommedan Africa. As a Moor from noble heritage, he received his education at Fez and traveled widely in the Barbary States. After returning from one of three Egyptian journeys in 1520, he was captured by pirates near the island of Gerba and was later presented as a slave to Leo X. Recognizing his scholarly merit, the Pope persuaded him to adopt Christianity and bestowed on him both of his own names, Johannes and Leo. Leo’s description of Africa was first written in Arabic, but the text that remains is the Italian version which was issued while Leo was in Rome. He returned to Africa and renounced Christianity before his death in 1552.

41 See n. 27 above.

42 A cancelled passage follows in the manuscript: ‘If I would write out my difficulties in a letter addressed to you as though you were still living in the east & then wrote another letter in your hand you would see to it that the second letter was but in seeming mine. I should be overshadowed in my turn.’

43 Little is known of John Pory. In a footnote to the 1896 edition of The History and Description of Africa and of the Notable Things Therein Contained translated by Pory and edited by Robert Brown, Brown notes that ‘in the Register of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, he is entered as “John Porye”, who became an undergraduate in 1587.’ The full title of the 1600 edition may be found above, 32 n. 58. The edition by Robert Brown contains three volumes, which were published by Bedford Press at the suggestion of Richard Hakluyt.

44 Yeats obviously intended to search for this name. He may refer to Angelo Mai (1782–1854) of Milan, who worked in the Ambrosian Library in the early nineteenth century. He discovered the Ambrosian Palimpsest (Ambrosianus G 52 sup.), which he tried to decipher in 1815. We are indebted to Professor Walter E. Forehand for this information.

45 Yeats writes in ‘Swedenborg, Mediums, and the Desolate Places’: ‘Nor should we think of spirit as divided from spirit, as men are from each other, for they share each other’s thoughts and life, and those whom he [Swedenborg] has called celestial angels, while themselves mediums to those above, commune with men and lower spirits, through orders of mediatorial spirits, not by a conveyance of messages, but as though a hand were thrust with a hundred gloves, one glove outside another, and so there is a continual influx from God to man.’ See VBWI 316. Yeats’s essay, dated 14 October 1914, casts considerable light on ‘Leo Africanus’.

46 See n. 5 above. At this point in the manuscript Yeats crossed out two sentences: ‘Dr Abraham Wallace was the only other sitter. It was at 3 in the afternoon.’ Neither Yeats nor Miss Harper records that Wallace was present on 9 May.

47 The preceding sentence was an insert written on a separate page.

48 According to Robert Brown, in his edition of Pory’s translation, ‘the divers excellent poems’ of Leo have ‘vanished’.

49 These séances probably occurred on 5 and 18 June 1912. See 292–94 above.

50 See n. 9 above.

51 Mrs Wriedt spoke only English, but the voices that spoke through her were many and varied, including Dutch, French, Spanish, Norwegian, Arabic, German, Serbian, and Croatian.

52 See n. 7 above.

53 See 292–94 above. Yeats recorded these details on 20 June 1912 of a séance which had occurred on 5 June.

54 The long passage beginning with ‘Many faces had shown themselves ...’ and ending with ‘I was necessary & so on’ originally followed a passage on the preceding page ending ‘You spoke too of your travels ...’

55 See nn. 10, 18 above.

56 See EPS, 279, for a discussion of ‘secondary personality’.

57 Dr Julien Ochorowicz (1850–1918), distinguished psychical researcher and codirector of the Institut General Psychologique of Paris, investigated Eusapia Paladino and concluded that there was no substantial support for the spirit theory. He felt that the phenomena in the seance room were ‘due to a fluidic action and are performed at the expense of the medium’s own powers and those of the persons present.’ The fluidic double can detach itself from the medium’s body and act independently. He discovered Mile Stanislawa Tomczyk, a young Polish medium, and achieved ‘conspicuous success’ with her during experiments in psychic photography. She was controlled by an entity called ‘Little Stasia’, and was able to produce movements of physical objects without contact. She married Everard Feilding in 1919. See EPS, 268, 386.

58 Ochorowicz recorded his experiences with Mile Tomczyk in Annales des Sciences Psychiques from January 1909 to August 1912. He concluded that Mile Tomczyk’s personality had three aspects: waking (la grande Stasia), entranced (la moyenne Stasia), and astral (la petite Stasia). Moyenne here refers to the entranced secondary personality. Little Stasia, a mischievous spirit who played many tricks on Mile Tomczyk, confessed that she had never been an incarnate. She was described as a naked girl one foot high. Yeats wrote to Feilding in 1933 asking about Ochorowicz’s experiments in ‘psychic photography.’

59 James Hervey Hyslop (1854–1920), one of America’s most distinguished psychical researchers and Professor of Logic and Ethics from 1889 to 1902 at Columbia University, reorganized the American SPR in 1906 and wrote extensively about the survival of the spirit after his investigations into the mediumship of Mrs Leonore E. Piper, a noted American medium.

60 The passage beginning ‘Once we grant’ and ending with ‘decided on English’ originally followed the passage above ending with ‘super-normal powers’.

61 William Stainton Moses (1839–1892) was a remarkable English medium and religious teacher noted for his experiments with automatic writing. He was a founding member of the SPR in 1882, President of the London Spiritualist Alliance from 1884 to 1892, and editor of Light (see EPS 248–50). Among the papers Yeats left at his death is an extensive typescript (some 260 pages) recording Moses’ conversations with spirits.

62 J. J. Morse (1848–1919), a distinguished trance speaker and noted as the ‘Bishop of Spiritualism’ in the epithet of W. T. Stead, was editor of The Banner of Light (1904) and The Two Worlds of Manchester. He founded The Spiritual Review and was an important force in the spread and growth of spiritualism in England. See EPS 246–47, and E. K. Harper 157n.

63 Yeats writes in A Vision that this ability to draw from many sources is indeed within the capabilities of the spirit: ‘The Spirit can even consult books, records, of all kinds, once they be brought before the eyes or even perhaps the attention of the living ...’ (CVA 228).

64 In a cancelled sentence following ‘in space’ Yeats wrote: ‘Moyenne has spoken to Mr Feilding through a medium who had never heard of him.’

65 The personality created by Ochorowicz was not named. The conversation Yeats refers to was reported in Annales des Sciences Psychiques (August, 1912), 237.

66 Mrs Leonore E. Piper (1859–1950), of Boston, was ‘the foremost trance medium in the history of psychical research.’ She was credited with the conversion of Lodge, Hodgson, Hyslop, and others ‘to a belief in survival and communication with the dead’ (EPS 283). Phinuit, who claimed to be a French doctor from Metz, was the earliest ‘permanent control of Mrs. Piper’ (EPS 282). Because he was often caught in falsehoods, many investigators thought he was merely a secondary personality of Mrs Piper. For fuller details, consult M. Sage, Mrs Piper & the Society for Psychical Research, translated by Noralie Robertson with a Preface by Sir Oliver Lodge (London, 1903). For an excellent summary discussion of Yeats’s interest in Mrs Piper and other mediums, see also Arnold Goldman, ‘Yeats, Spiritualism, and Psychical Research’, YO 108–29. Yeats referred to Mrs Piper in The Words upon the Window-pane.

67 According to Professor Theodor Flournoy and Dr Joseph Maxwell, Yeats’s opponents in the battle of the spirit hypothesis, the ‘control’ is a ‘dissociated fragment’ or secondary personality of the medium’s own mind.

68 Yeats refers to Robert Kirk’s The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, & Fairies (1691). The suggestion that ‘Kirk ... reflected the platonism of his time’ came from the Introduction to an 1893 edition by Andrew Lang. A member of the SPR, he subtitled his edition ‘A Study in Folk-Lore & Psychical Research’. Yeats owned a copy of this book. For a discussion of its significance in the writing of ‘Swedenborg, Mediums, and the Desolate Places’, see Kathleen Raine, ‘Hades Wrapped in Cloud’, YO 80–87.

69 Theodor Flournoy, Professor of Psychology at the University of Geneva, was the ‘author of perhaps the most remarkable book in the whole literature of psychic science: Des Indes a la Planete Mars (1900). Because this book ‘throws great doubt on the ascertainability of the extra-mundane existence of the entities which communicate through mediums’, Yeats opposed many of Flournoy’s theories, especially the conviction that psychic phenomena are ‘easily explained by mental processes inherent in mediums ... and their associates’ (see EPS 141–42 ).

70 At this point Yeats cancelled the following variation: ‘that tradition enforced by the experience of the soul is the nearest you can come to truth & that lasting philosophy is expression’.

71 Henry More (1614–1687) the Cambridge Platonist remained one of Yeats’s favourites for many years. On 12 September 1915 (L 588, misdated) he told his father that he had been reading More all summer. Two years later, in ‘Anima Mundi’ (a term he borrowed from More), Yeats related More’s philosophy to psychical research: ‘... nor have I found that the mediums in Connacht and Soho have anything I cannot find some light on in Henry More’ (Myth 348). In 1932, Yeats recalled having ‘toiled through’ ‘his long essay on The Immortality of the Soul ... some fifteen years ago’ (E&I 414). Yeats owned a copy of More’s book. We are indebted to Miss Anne Yeats for identification of books in Yeats’s library.

72 The gist of this quotation is indebted to a stray sheet of automatic writing (probably Miss Radcliffe’s) about Yeats’s Controls: ‘I have just told you that she [Isabella of Ferrara?] did live Do you imagine faith precludes intellect when it is the greatest feat of which the mind is capable’.

73 Bradford thought that Yeats intended to quote from a passage he had identified in one of his manuscript books: ‘July 21 [1913]. Plutarch’s Morals (Philemon [Holland], 1657), page 995 two thirds down page ‘Like as therefore’ ... to ‘speedeth not well in the end’ on next page. An account of Daemons who are described exactly as are spiritist ‘guides’. The following sentences from this passage are suggestive: ‘to it [the soul] God envieth not her owne proper Daemon and familiar spirit to be assistant ... The soul also for her part, giveth good eare, because she is so nere, and in the end is saved; but she that obeith not nor hearkeneth to her owne familiar & proper daimon as forsaken of it, speedeth not well in the end’ (1603 edition), 1222. Yeats owned copies of Plutarch’s Morals in two volumes of Bohn’s Classical Library: Theosophical Essays, trans. C. W. King (1908), and Ethical Essays, trans. Arthur Richard Shilleto (1908).

74 Yeats writes in ‘Swedenborg, Mediums, and the Desolate Places’: ‘Swedenborg has written that we are each in the midst of a group of associated spirits who sleep when we sleep and become the dramatis personae of our dreams and are always the other will that wrestles with our thought, shaping it to our despite’ (VBWI 328).

75 Yeats paraphrases from book 11, chapter 24, of Rabelais’s Five Books of the Lives, Heroick Deeds and Sayings of Gargantua and His Sonne Pantagruel.

76 Yeats may have intended to quote from Dante’s Il Convito. One passage is particularly apt in this context. When speaking of the three powers of the Soul (‘to Live, to Feel, and to Reason’), the Philosopher insists that ‘these powers are so entwined that the one is a foundation of the other; and that which is the foundation can of itself be divided; but the other, which is built upon it, cannot be apart from its foundation’ (Il Convito: the Banquet of Dante Alighieri, trans. Elizabeth Price Sayers [London, 1887] 104). Yeats quoted from this translation, a copy of which he owned, in A Vision (1925). In the Automatic Script of 13 October 1919, the Control said: ‘I want you both to read the whole of Dante’s Convito’.

77 Cf. the following passage from Au 379: ‘I woke one night to find myself lying upon my back with all my limbs rigid, and to hear a ceremonial voice, which did not seem to be mine, speaking through my lips: “We make an image of him who sleeps’, it said, ‘and it is not he who sleeps, and we call it Emmanuel”.’

78 Yeats may have been thinking of book 11, chapter 11. In section 5 of this chapter, More writes that ‘the spirits are the immediate Instrument of the Soul in Memory’, and he continues with a discussion of how memory arises (cf. n. 32).

79 Yeats discovered the usefulness of this and related terms when he read The Immortality of the Soul as he was writing ‘Anima Mundi’, the second essay of Per Amica Silentia Lunae afterlife as a sequel to Per Amica.

80 Eusapia Paladino (1854–1918) was the first physical medium to undergo extensive investigation in Europe and America. Her séances were widely discussed and observed. In November and December 1908 a team of three investigators from the SPR (including Feilding) held eleven meetings with her in Naples. Their extensive report was published in Proceedings of the SPR 23, part 59 (1909). See EPS 271–75.

81 Mme Elizabeth d’Esperance (1855–1919) is best known for her experiments with the materialization of luminous figures. Yeats refers to a séance in 1893 during which she produced a materialized figure called Nepenthes, who ‘dipped her hand into a paraffin bucket and left behind a plaster mould of rare beauty’. The observers could not explain how she could ‘extricate the hand from the wax glove without ruining it’ (see EPS 83–85).

82 Yeats may have discovered this idea in Henry Morley’s The Life and Times of Henry Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Doctor and Knight, Commonly Known as a Magician, 2 vols. (1856), a copy of which is in his library. Volume I, Chapter vii (the only pages cut), contains an abstract of De Occulta Philosophia. In a discussion of the four elements Morley summarized Agrippa’s belief that Air is a vital spirit passing through all beings, filling, binding, moving ... As a divine mirror, it receives into itself the images of all things, and retains them. Carrying them with it, and entering into the bodies of men and other animals through their pores, as well when they sleep as when they wake, it furnishes the matter for strange dreams and divinations. Hence they say it is, that a person passing by the spot whereon a man was slain, or where the carcase has been recently concealed, is moved with fear and dread (119). This passage is quoted almost verbatim in an extended note to ‘Swedenborg, Mediums, and the Desolate Places’, where it is also related to More’s concept of Spiritus Mundi (VBWI 349–50).

83 Yeats is here referring to what he later called a ‘complementary dream’ in the Automatic Script. For example, his poem ‘Towards Break of Day’ (originally called ‘A Double Dream’) was inspired by a complementary dream Yeats and George recorded on 7 January 1919. See also CVA 173, and Notes, 43.

84 The passage beginning with ‘but in waking reverie’ and ending with ‘to the cistern’ was written on a separate page for insertion at this point.

85 This is a reference to the spirit of an American Indian who came occasionally to Mrs Wriedt. An entry in the Maud Gonne Notebook records one of his appearances: ‘A voice came talking some strange tongue, said to be American Indian. He was being trained someone said & did not know English. He gave his name Ton-u-Wanda & the medium said, or some clairvoyant present, that he “was making me move” meaning ... pushing on [?] my development ...’ On at least one occasion Grayfeather, the Indian control of J. B. Jonson, of Detroit, had ‘manifested... through Mrs. Wriedt’ (EPS 409).

86 Yeats is recalling an extended passage (118–53) in the Private Memoirs (written 1628, published 1827) of Sir Kenelm Digby (1603–1665). While he was on the European grand tour, Digby (‘Theagenes’) records a meeting with an ‘Indian magician’ (‘Brachman’) who spoke at length about the influence of celestial bodies in the affairs of men. When Theagenes asked him to reveal the truth about the scandalous conduct of his fiancée, Venetia Stanley (‘Stelliana’), the Brachman fixed his eyes ‘upon the magical characters’ of a ‘sacred book’ he had drawn from his bosom and ‘murmured to himself words of a strange sound’ which invoked the spirit of Digby’s ‘once beloved Stelliana’ ‘sitting upon a broken trunk of a dead and rotten tree, in a pensive posture’. When he questioned the spirit about her infidelity, Theagenes learned that her conduct was the result of ‘her sorrow’ over a rumour ‘of his death’, and he concluded that her laxity was merely ‘a little indulgency of a gentle nature which sprung from some indiscretion, or rather want of experience, that made her liable to censure’. Having assured Theagenes of ‘Stelliana’s integrity’, the spirit ‘suddenly vanished’ and the Brachman ‘shut his book’.

87 We cannot identify the character Ochorwicz created ‘by suggestion’.

88 Yeats is thinking of a quotation from St Thomas Aquinas cited by Villiers de l’Isle Adam: ‘Eternity is the possession of one’s self, as in a single moment’ (VBWI 315). Yeats referred to the same quotation in On the Boiler (Ex 449).

89 Yeats first wrote ‘I think probable.’

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