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The Living Stream

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Warwick Gould

Essays in Memory of A. Norman Jeffares 1920-2005

Portrait of George Yeats

Ann Saddlemyer

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1It was in the early 1960s that Derry Jeffares and I first met, over coffee at Bewley’s. The invitation came from him, who had heard of me from our mutual benefactor George Yeats. It cannot have been an easy encounter for either of us—a young scholar just embarking on my study of Synge’s manuscripts, I still felt an interloper in the field of Irish studies: a Dubliner by birth and a Trinity graduate, he moved about the city and through the minutiae of Yeatsiana with comfortable insouciance. It was only when I later reported our meeting to George (still ‘Mrs Yeats’ to me despite her kindnesses) that she suggested Derry’s sudden bursts of laughter were partially an attempt to overcome his own shyness. Perhaps to cement our relationship, she encouraged me to accompany Anne to hear Derry speak at the High School, then still at Harcourt Street where Yeats attended it, during the 1965 centenary celebrations.

2George Yeats also commented on Derry’s loyalty, a quality I quickly learned to value as our acquaintance grew into a friendship that, naturally, included his wife, Jeanne. By the end of that decade we were both involved in the construction of the International Association for the Study of Irish Literature, one of many projects he initiated to encourage the collaboration of scholars (and which he manoevered to have me elected an early chair). During the next decades we met frequently at Sligo and wherever Irish studies took us—Galway, Lille, Wuppertal, Graz, Monaco, Cork; on my first trip to Japan, Derry was there to greet me. We were both founding directors of Colin Smythe’s remarkable publishing house, and he encouraged me to make the move across Canada to Toronto.

  • 1 Now Seamus Heaney’s ‘place of writing’: see above 11-14.

3Throughout, Derry continued to play the dual roles of supportive mentor as well as friend. When we appeared together at the Synge centenary in 1971, the audience may have thought we were earnestly discussing arcane scholarly matters, but Derry captured the moment to persuade me that I must buy his late mother’s Wicklow retreat—Glanmore Cottage in the centre of Synge country.1 And of course he was right. As the years passed and other responsibilities made meetings less frequent, innumerable blue handwritten airmail letters would arrive with generous offers of advice and assistance, enlivened by descriptions of another energetic life filled with the joy of building walls, restoring roofs, and sharing Jeanne’s love of animals.

4But through more than forty years of collegiality, neither of us knew that, hidden away in a golden chest, was an image of the woman who had been responsible for our friendship. Nor would she have ever mentioned it. Probably only a month or two after her marriage in October 1917, a portrait of George Yeats had been painted by her husband’s lifelong friend Edmund Dulac. Exhibited three years later at the Leicester Galleries, it was then presented to the Yeatses by the artist as a belated wedding gift, and has remained in the family ever since, revealed by accident when her children generously allowed me to rifle through their archives and possessions (Plate 8).

  • 2 Much of what follows was first presented as part of ‘Seeking George—the Story of Mrs W. B. Yeats’, (...)

5Marking as it does the transformation of Georgie Hyde Lees to George Yeats, this semi-fictional portrait tells us much not only of that auspicious period in her life but of George and Willy’s consuming interests during the first years of their marriage.2 Wearing a loose gown bordered with the endless knot, reminiscent of both the Celtic twilight and a medieval princess, around her neck a mandala pendant, and delicately holding a bunch of primulas, George is surrounded by imagery familiar to all readers of the poet—dark mysterious trees with glowing trunks, distant waters, and, prancing across the rocks towards her, a white unicorn.

Plate 8. ‘Mrs W. B. Yeats’, by Edmund Dulac, exhibited at the Leicester Galleries, London, in June 1920, in the possession of the Yeats family, photograph by Nicola Gordon Bowe. All Dulac images © Marcia Geraldine Anderson, courtesy Hodder and Stoughton Ltd. All rights reserved.

Plate 9. Robert Gregory’s design of the ‘Charging Unicorn’ first used on the title-page of Discoveries (1907). Private Collection.

Plate 10. Gustave Moreau, ‘Les Licornes’ (c. 1885), in the Musée Gustave Moreau, Paris, and based on the 15th century tapestries then recently acquired by the Musée de Cluny, Paris (see Plate 12). Photographer unknown.

Plate 11. Monoceros de Astris by Thomas Sturge Moore, title-page of Reveries Over Childhood and Youth (1915). Private Collection.

Plate 12. Bookplate for George Yeats by Thomas Sturge Moore, showing a round tower struck by lightning, releasing a white unicorn, Senate House Library, University of London.

  • 3 M2005 122-5, 328 n 1 & 330 n. 8.
  • 4 CL InteLex 3787 [? September 1920]: see also M2005 424-25 n. 13.

6The unicorn is second only to the young woman in the painting. This fabulous beast, familiar in heraldry, is also one of Yeats’s most recognizable symbols. The Unicorn from the Stars, a three-act play written in 1907 in collaboration with Lady Gregory, has as hero a young visionary who awakens from a trance claiming to have ridden a white unicorn and eventually concludes that ‘Where There is Nothing, There is God’, itself the title of an earlier story by Yeats about the miraculous transmission of knowledge.3 As Ronald Schuchard reminds us (see pp. 140-41 below), Robert Gregory’s design of the ‘Charging Unicorn’ (Plate 9), first appeared on the title-page of Discoveries (1907), and in Paris the following year Yeats had admired Gustave Moreau’s ‘Les Licornes’ (Plate 10). Sturge Moore’s leaping unicorn, Monoceros de Astris (Plate 11) had been commissioned for the title-page of Reveries Over Childhood and Youth (1915) and a further commission for George’s bookplate featuring a unicorn leaping from a tower (Plate 12). Yeats admitted to his sister Lolly that the unicorn was symbolic of the soul in his ‘mystical order’: ‘Monoceris de Astris’ was in fact the emblematic name of the third grade of the occult Order of the Golden Dawn to which he and his young wife both belonged.4 The unicorn appears again in a much-worked-over comedy by Yeats, assisted by Ezra Pound, which received its first production in London early in 1919. In that play, The Player Queen, the poet Septimus drunkenly proclaims the chaste, noble and religious unicorn ‘the new Adam’, who will inaugurate a new era, for ‘man is nothing till he is united to an image’ (VPl 749).

  • 5 Timaeus 47a-c, 90d.

7The medieval suggestions in the painting are also, however, reminiscent of two sets of fifteenth-century Flemish tapestries depicting the hunt and pacification, in a secluded garden, of the fierce and free creature by a virgin. The so-called ‘Red Series’, now in Paris and known as the Five Senses, is dominated by the Unicorn in an attitude of devotion and intimacy, who with the lady is placed on a little dark blue island studded with flowers. In the panel celebrating ‘Sight’, that sense according to Plato’s Timaeus that leads to spiritual knowledge,5 the lady is dressed in a costume similar to George Yeats’s; the gentle unicorn, entranced, stares into her eyes, resting its forepaws on her lap (Plate 13). So enchanted by this particular tapestry was Rainer Maria Rilke, that he made it the subject of one of his Sonnets to Orpheus, written a few years after Dulac’s portrait of George: As J. B. Leishman translates:

  • 6 See Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. J. B. Leishman (London: Hogarth Press, 1936; 2n (...)

This is the creature there has never been.
They never knew it, and yet, none the less,
they loved the way it moved, its suppleness,
its neck, its very gaze, mild and serene.6

  • 7 J. E. Cirlot, trans. Jack Sage, A Dictionary of Symbols (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971), (...)
  • 8 VPl 1046. Tertullian (ca. 160-120 AD), coined the term ‘the Trinity’ and saw the unicorn as a symb (...)

8A second series of tapestries can be dated to the same period; known as ‘the Blue Series’ and now in the Cloisters Collection in New York, the seven panels also depict The Hunt of the Unicorn. Traditionally both these series of tapestries have been read in religious terms, with the unicorn representing Christ, ‘symbolic of chastity and also an emblem of the sword or of the word of God’,7 the virgin his mother. It was Tertullian who was one of the first commentators to insist that the Unicorn signified Christ; in Yeats’s late play Purgatory the murderous Old Man seeks to unravel a philosophical problem by calling out, ‘Go fetch Tertullian’.8

9Inevitably the image of unicorn in the lap of the virgin came to represent the Annunciation, though some artists, notably da Vinci and Dürer, eschewed the theological interpretation. They have also been interpreted as celebrations of marriage between noble families. In Dulac’s painting of Yeats’s young wife, however, there is no Christian imagery, no sacred hunt, nor are George and the unicorn within a walled enclosure teeming with flowers and fountain. But the intention is unmistakeable—like the early tapestries, this is an epithalamium celebrating the wedding of the artist’s friends (and to a slight extent, patrons). As is evident in Dulac’s written dedication ‘To Mr and Mrs W B Yeats from their friend Edmund Dulac’, the painting is literally a wedding gift to the couple, in recognition of the propitiousness of the marriage. It also acknowledges the dual power of their collaboration: in the Book of Lambspring, a rare Hermetic tract which the studious Yeatses certainly knew, an engraving depicts a deer and a unicorn standing together in a forest (Plate 14):

  • 9 See Plate 14 and The Hermetic Museum Restored and Enlarged, pref. A. E. Waite (London: James Ellio (...)

The Sages say truly
That two animals are in this forest:
One glorious, beautiful, and swift
A great and strong deer;
The other an unicorn....
If we apply the parable to our Art,
We shall call the forest the Body....
The Unicorn will be the spirit at all times.
The deer desires no other name
But that of the Soul....
He that knows how to tame and master them by Art,
To couple them together,
And to lead them in and out of the forest,
May justly be called a Master.9

Plate 13. Red tapestry, ‘La dame à la licorne’, 15th century, Musée de Cluny, Paris. Photographer unknown, Public Domain.

Plate 14. ‘Deer and Unicorn’ wood-cut from The Book of Lambspring, reproduced in A. E. Waite’s The Hermetic Museum, Restored and Enlarged (London: James Elliott & Co., 1893).

10Lest we have any further doubt as to the intention of Dulac’s unicorn, however, the animal has a forelock strongly reminiscent of the independent black lock of hair that romantically falls from Yeats’s forehead in most portraits. Nor should we overlook the fact that the horn-power is an expression of fruitfulness—there is acknowledgement here of the rightness of the marriage the painting celebrates, and promise of the family Yeats longed for (see, e.g., VP 403-06).

  • 10 Lise Gotfredsen, The Unicorn (New York: Abbeville Press, 1999), 12-13.

11But the portrait is laden with even greater personal references. Dulac’s unicorn prances (a favourite word of George’s that eventually finds its way into Yeats’s poetry) towards her across a field of black-green trees with shining trunks. In the Kabbalah and Pico della Mirandola’s commentary, about which George had made copious notes during her early studies, the Tree of Life is a central image; the Kabbalah was also compulsory reading for the syncretist doctrine of the Golden Dawn, and the Tree of Life, not surprisingly, is prominent in Yeats’s early poetry. Druidic colleges were founded in woods or groves. In Chinese cultural tradition (about which Dulac knew a great deal) the unicorn, called Ch’i-Lin, is a heavenly creature that stands for the fourth element, the fertile earth; its five sacred colours are black, white, red, blue, yellow (reflected in the painting of George); and it has prophetic gifts.10

12But the unicorn was also one of the animal symbols dominating the art of alchemy, again a subject familiar to occult societies; for the 13th century scholar and alchemist Albertus Magnus, it was the force driving Adam out of Eden and causing the Flood. Aristotle seems to have accepted the unicorn as a reality, as did his student Alexander the Great, the natural historian Pliny, and the Abbess Hildegard of Bingen (who emphasized the animal’s healing properties and the relationship between the hot Unicorn—the Sun—and the cool maiden—the Moon, astrological symbols especially significant to the Yeatses). Belief in the existence of the unicorn—or at least the power of its horn—would persist from Julius Caesar and Marco Polo down to 19th century reports from Africa by David Livingstone and Francis Galton. It reappears in Winwood Reade’s The Martyrdom of Man of 1862. George Yeats’s copy, given to her in August 1924 by Reade’s great-nephew Herbert V. Reade, an old family friend, is still in the Yeats Collection (YL 1730).

  • 11 A full discussion of George Yeats’s studies and her personality can be found in my biography Becom (...)

13The young Mrs Yeats would have recognized all these symbols, for not only was she an artist herself, having studied at the same London art school attended by her father-in-law, but long before she married she was a serious student of Neoplatonism and medieval symbolism.11 She had a strong command of medieval Latin (encouraged by her studies of Pico della Mirandola), and was at the same time reading extensively in contemporary literature—in five languages. Yeats respected her knowledge and wisdom; he would always consider her and Pound the touchstones of a younger critical generation. In addition she was a keen practising astrologer, and probably more accurate than Yeats, who consulted her about his own charts. She also, like him, attended séances. They began to run into each other at the same séances: at one famous medium’s sittings Yeats was expelled for being too critical; George later recalled with some satisfaction that he was furious when he later learned she had been allowed to remain in the circle. As soon as she reached the requisite age of eighteen she applied to the British Museum for a reader’s ticket, stating her ambition to read ‘all available literature on the religious history of the first 3 centuries AD’. Her favourite author seems to have been the psychologist William James, whom she considered a much better writer than his brother Henry. But her reading ranged through explorations of hermeticism, the Kabbalah, alchemy, astrology, ritual magic, and even Quietism; she polished up her medieval Latin with seventeenth-century works on magic, had her own copy of Hermes Trismegistus (in Italian), and after attending lectures by the theosophist George Mead, advanced to the works of Plotinus, Plato, and Iamblichus. At the same time she was studying other philosophers both medieval and modern, including De Occulta Philosophia by the sixteenth-century German astrologer and magician Cornelius Agrippa, and the works of Hegel and Benedetto Croce. Finally, when she turned twenty-one, Yeats sponsored her membership in the Order of the Golden Dawn. A ‘quick study’, she rapidly moved up the ranks of the occult society—similar in its hierarchical pattern to the Masonic Order, although far more generous to women—and by 1917 she was inducted into the inner order, and, like Yeats, lectured to neophytes. It had taken her less than three years to accomplish what had taken him twenty-two; when both left the Order they were only one grade apart.

  • 12 W. B. Yeats and George Yeats, The Letters, ed. Ann Saddlemyer, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2 (...)

14Like the unicorn, George was naturally shy, private and dignified. She did not suffer fools gladly, was easily bored and hated ‘small talk’; she ‘hunger[ed]’, as she put it, ‘for a mind that has “bite”’.12 But at the same time she was extremely sensitive to others and when relaxed a superb story-teller (often telling different versions depending upon her audience). However, her personal privacy was uppermost. While conscientiously preserving all the materials relating to her husband’s life and work, she deliberately erased her own. Only age 46 when Yeats died in 1939, she controlled the papers for the next thirty years, deciding what would be released, what would not, destroying many of her own papers in the process. Cunningly she covered her own tracks, saying little or nothing about her place of birth, education, early life, father, brother, distinguished ancestry (on her mother’s side she was descended from Baron Lord Erskine, briefly Lord High Chancellor of England, friend of Johnson, Burns, Sheridan, Fox, and—until he rashly pleaded on behalf of Queen Caroline—George IV).

  • 13 Although they had doubtless seen each other at the theatre and various social gatherings in London (...)

15She was equally subversive with her own voice—not only with the well-known example of her automatic writing, but with editorial and design matters, and her frequent criticism of Yeats’s work. Even while building what the family referred to as the ‘Yeats Industry’ she tended to invoke and then hide behind what she claimed were the strictures of her late husband, brother-in-law, even (to his later astonishment) her teen-aged son. Perhaps her natural reserve was so strong she could not bear any public scrutiny; perhaps she was even more adept than her husband at creating a private mask, for by re-creating herself as George she proved a master of self-construction, a name change emphatically not WB’s doing. Although he encouraged the alteration in name, she had experimented with ‘George’ several years before her marriage; Ezra Pound, who married her step-cousin and best friend Dorothy Shakespear, may have been the first to call her that.13

16Again, the portrait offers still more revealing details. The primulas or primrose she delicately holds are the first flowers to lead the parade of spring blooms. The endless knot of the mandala around her neck is reflected in the mystery of the primula’s five petals, which represent woman in birth, initiation, consummation, repose, and death. The lady in the tapestries is sometimes identified with love, death, and rebirth, that is, the Triple Goddess. The Germanic earth goddess Bertha (or Hertha) was said to entice children into her enchanted halls by offering them beautiful primroses: few know that George was christened Bertha Georgie Hyde Lees (not Georgina, a scholarly invention).

  • 14 BG 34. For George Yeats’s accounts see CL InteLex 3350, WBY to Lady Gregory, [29 Oct., 1917] and V (...)

17There is a calmness and composure to the figure in the painting that contrasts strongly with the unicorn, caught in a state of immobility like a momentarily stilled rocking horse. As in photographs of the period the mouth though generous is firm, with just the possibility of a smile, and the painting reveals her beautiful glossy auburn hair, though not her high colouring (too high, some thought). But it is the eyes that catch and hold, in a penetrating gaze that looks into one’s very soul—as they seemed to do in life. So striking were those eyes that, although her artist daughter and I both remember them as hazel in colour, even George’s observant sisters-in-law thought them ‘rather remarkable eyes of green-blue’ as Dulac has also painted them; they are later variously described as ‘really beautiful’, ‘piercing’, ‘sparkling’, ‘bright and darting’, ‘twinkling’, ‘glinting’, ‘scrutinizing’, ‘glittering’, even ‘terrifying’. Louis LeBrocquy had only seen one other pair with the same intensity—Pablo Picasso’s. Although in the portrait it is white, the unicorn was traditionally described as having a red head and blue eyes, like George’s in the painting; here her eyes, like those of the animal behind her, are fixed on another world.14 One might almost say that George is in a trance. And well she may be, for the primrose plant is a sedative.

  • 15 An early letter from Housman thanks Georgie for praising his fairy stories (BG 20).

18Dulac, immersed in the occult and astrology, was the first to be told the story of George’s automatic writing. Yeats’s description of what happened on their honeymoon, when both were unhappy, is a familiar one: announcing that she felt ‘she had lived through this before’ and was impelled to write, while talking to him all the while (a favoured device among automatists so that the hand may remain independent of the conscious will), George put pencil to paper; ‘to her utter amazement’, Yeats said, ‘her hand acted as if “seized by a superior power”’. The loosely held pencil scribbled out fragments of sentences on a subject of which she was ignorant’. For some time Yeats’s fellow experimenter with mediums, Dulac could not doubt their story.15

19Yet one more powerful image commands attention in the portrait; Thoor Ballylee is now inextricably entwined with our knowledge of the later poetry. Although Yeats had purchased the tower two years before his marriage, and proudly exhibited the photograph of its ruined but romantic state to a number of prospective brides, it was not until some months after their visit to the Dulacs that the new Mrs Yeats saw—and claimed—Ballylee. For George created more than a mystical marriage; she also designed an environment conducive to poetry. Each time they moved (and that was frequently during their lives together), it was George who made a physical world in which Willy could relax and write; she always decorated and painted his study and bedroom herself. Indeed, Thoor Ballylee was in many ways more hers than his; it was she who worked with the architect and builders, she who painted the ornate wooden ceiling of their bedroom with its symbolic Golden Dawn colours, she who ensured that where the poet worked was a continual and refreshing delight.

20Again this was a natural extension of the Automatic Script, which devoted considerable time to the relationship between the spiritual and the material world, inner and outer nature, process and concept. The Communicators of the Automatic Script described Thoor Ballylee as a symbol ‘only in ... abundant flowing life’ and warned ‘The tower is incomplete | Nothing it is not you alone but both’ (YVP 1, 394, 399). Willy might announce to the world that he had restored a tower for his wife George; but it was she who again and again re-created the appropriate milieu, as we know from WB’s delighted commentary in his letters. All the essential attributes of a family man’s happier dreams were prescribed by the Automatic Script and produced by George.

All his happier dreams came true—
A small old house, wife, daughter, son,
Grounds where plums and cabbage grew,
Poets and Wits about him drew ... (VP 577)

21That Edmund Dulac, one of Yeats’s most trusted friends, should be informed of the Yeatses’ occult experiments was only natural. They had certainly met by 1912. Shortly after the purchase of Ballylee he offered to go over to Ireland and design the renovations; later he instructed them as to what carpets to buy for Merrion Square. It is likely that George herself first encountered Dulac at one of Yeats’s Monday evenings where she was brought by Ezra and Dorothy; or, through Pound, during the preparations for the April 1916 production of the first play modelled after the Japanese Noh, At the Hawk’s Well, for which Dulac had been chief musician and designer. Yeats never forgot his mask for Cuchulain, a ‘noble, half-Greek, half-Asiatic face, [which] will appear perhaps like an image seen in reverie by some Orphic worshipper’ (E&I 221) Dulac’s own image was that of centaur, the subject for which he designed a bedspread for Lily Yeats’s Cuala embroideries section. A man of astounding versatility and zest (he died at 71 after a strenuous evening of flamenco dancing), French by birth though by now a confirmed Anglophile, Dulac understood Arabic and Chinese, was an authority on carpets and furniture which he also designed, illustrated books (including three of Yeats’s), composed and directed the music to some of Yeats’s later poems, wrote parodies and poetry himself, was a successful designer of the ballet, posters, stamps (including the coronation series for Elizabeth II), bank notes, tapestries, and drew caricatures as well as portraits (see Plate 15).

  • 16 An early letter from Housman thanks Georgie for praising his fairy stories (BG 20).

22Like the early Yeats, Dulac in his work had strong connections with Pre-Raphaelitism and Orientalism as reflected in the peacock gowns, mysterious caves and palaces, ghostly fingered trees, lustrous greens and smoky oranges, brilliant blues (so well-known that they gave rise to the punning label bleu du lac). His portrait of George is strongly reminiscent of those of Laurence Housman (whom Georgie had known since childhood) in his Stories from the Arabian Nights (1907) which had first catapulted him to fame as a major illustrator.16 It was, in fact, in search of the significance of a golden chest in the Yeats household, that I first came upon his painting.

Plate 15. Edmund Dulac’s pastel caricature of Yeats, 1915, Abbey Theatre, Dublin, photographer unknown.

  • 17 CL InteLex 3337, 7 October [1917].

23The legend of Sinbad the Sailor would feature in Yeats’s courtship of George; one of his first letters to his fiancée from Coole, where he had fled for Lady Gregory’s support of their marriage, concludes, ‘Am I not Sinbad thrown upon the rocks & weary of the seas? I will live for my work & your happiness & when we are dead our names shall be remembered—perhaps we shall become a part of the strange legendary life of this country.’17 It was later emphasized in the poetry he wrote to and of his very own Sibyl/Scheherezade, and that other resourceful lady, Sheba. ‘Solomon to Sheba’, written in 1918 for and about George and their joint project, has all the gaiety and frankness of marital affection. The dialogue between two people equally matched in both wit and passion concludes

Said Solomon to Sheba,
And kissed her Arab eyes,
‘There’s not a man or woman
Born under the skies
Dare match in learning with us two,
And all day long we have found
There’s not a thing but love can make
The world a narrow pound. (VP 333)

24The dialogue continues in ‘Solomon and the Witch’, written the same year.

25On their first visit to the Dulacs after their marriage, the Yeatses also commissioned a ring, probably George’s wedding gift to her husband. The symbolism of the finished project was dictated by the automatic script, and was remarkably perceptive concerning their relationship and personalities. The passage reads:

Yeats: ‘Why were we two chosen for each other’
Instructor: ‘one needs material protection the other emotional protection—
The Eagle & the Butterfly’ (YVP 1 109-10; YVP 3 400, S44).

  • 18 Ibid., 3411, 27 February, 1918.

26Inside the ring were incised their signs, Venus and Saturn, again explained by the Instructors: ‘her [Venus] parallel [Sun]—your [Saturn] on her [Sun]’; love lightening wisdom’s seriousness, wisdom in turn steadying beauty (YVP 2 451; BG 122 & 698 n. 107). Yeats informed Dulac, ‘I shall have an explanation for the ring ready always, for I have written a poem to explain it.’18 Within months of the portrait, he had written the lines sung by the beggar in ‘Tom O’Roughley’ which he would favour when inscribing his books: ‘And wisdom is a butterfly |And not a gloomy bird of prey’ (VP 338). The emblem remained significant, as did George’s role. He wore the ring for the rest of his life, removed only during some of their trance sessions and finally by George on his deathbed.

27Edmund Dulac remained a friend and sometimes co-conspirator for the rest of Yeats’s life, and valued by George for the care he took of the poet. During his later years when making his escapes from Ireland, Yeats dined regularly with Dulac and Helen Beauclerk, who in turn supported his amorous exploits. The friendship was not always harmonious, and they argued violently over the speaking of poetry and choice of musicians; Dulac refused to compose the music for A Full Moon in March, considering it ‘too realistic and bloody’, as Yeats told George (CL InteLex 6149, 16 December, 1934). Once during one of these quarrels over music Yeats quoted a letter from George, adding with rueful knowledge of his wife’s independent and courageously critical spirit, ‘You can be certain she means what she says’ (Ibid., 7004, [?8 July, 1937]). Indeed a later episode over Yeats’s reinterment caused considerable difficulty for George, when without permission Dulac interfered with her plans, designing and erecting a tombstone in Roquebrune without her permission. But it too survives, one more monument to a generous friendship.

  • 19 To be distinguished from the ‘gilded Moorish wedding-chest’ of Per Amica Silentia Lunae (Myth 366)(...)

28Perhaps we should not be too surprised that ‘A Prayer on going into my House’ refers to a dream that ‘Sinbad the sailor’s brought a painted chest, | Or image, from beyond the Loadstone Mountain’ (VP 371); or even that Dulac’s portrait of George should be stored for close to 70 years in an elaborately decorated chest.19

Notes

1 Now Seamus Heaney’s ‘place of writing’: see above 11-14.

2 Much of what follows was first presented as part of ‘Seeking George—the Story of Mrs W. B. Yeats’, a lecture to the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 7 October, 2002.

3 M2005 122-5, 328 n 1 & 330 n. 8.

4 CL InteLex 3787 [? September 1920]: see also M2005 424-25 n. 13.

5 Timaeus 47a-c, 90d.

6 See Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus, trans. J. B. Leishman (London: Hogarth Press, 1936; 2nd ed., 1946), 95.

7 J. E. Cirlot, trans. Jack Sage, A Dictionary of Symbols (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971), 357.

8 VPl 1046. Tertullian (ca. 160-120 AD), coined the term ‘the Trinity’ and saw the unicorn as a symbol of Christ. The Five Books of Quintus Sept. Flor. Tertullianus Against Macrion identifies the stake if the Cross with the unicorn.

9 See Plate 14 and The Hermetic Museum Restored and Enlarged, pref. A. E. Waite (London: James Elliott & Co., 1893), I, 280, and Giorgio Melchiori, The Whole Mystery of Art (New York: Macmillan, 1961), 35-72 at 48-49.

10 Lise Gotfredsen, The Unicorn (New York: Abbeville Press, 1999), 12-13.

11 A full discussion of George Yeats’s studies and her personality can be found in my biography Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W. B. Yeats (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); hereafter cited as BG.

12 W. B. Yeats and George Yeats, The Letters, ed. Ann Saddlemyer, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 51.

13 Although they had doubtless seen each other at the theatre and various social gatherings in London before then, it seems that George and WBY were formally introduced in May 1911 by Olivia Shakespear, whose brother had married George’s mother, Mrs Ellen (‘Nelly’) Hyde Lees. Olivia Shakespear was therefore Georgie Hyde Lees’s aunt by marriage and it was she who encouraged the Yeatses’ union.

14 BG 34. For George Yeats’s accounts see CL InteLex 3350, WBY to Lady Gregory, [29 Oct., 1917] and Virginia Moore, The Unicorn: William Butler Yeats’ Search for Realiuty (New York: Macmillan, 1954), 253. Many others would, claiming that George is recalling her husband’s research and previously published beliefs. I am sure the Yeatses would have delighted in the fact that the hippocampus—the portion of the cerebral cortex which controls the record of the stream of consciousness—is named after its resemblance to the seahorse, the legendary beast that drew Neptune’s chariot. In their personal horoscopes ‘that intreaguer Neptune’ threatened to prevent their marriage and was always to be reckoned with. See also Cirlot, ibid.

15 An early letter from Housman thanks Georgie for praising his fairy stories (BG 20).

16 An early letter from Housman thanks Georgie for praising his fairy stories (BG 20).

17 CL InteLex 3337, 7 October [1917].

18 Ibid., 3411, 27 February, 1918.

19 To be distinguished from the ‘gilded Moorish wedding-chest’ of Per Amica Silentia Lunae (Myth 366).

Table des illustrations

Légende Plate 8. ‘Mrs W. B. Yeats’, by Edmund Dulac, exhibited at the Leicester Galleries, London, in June 1920, in the possession of the Yeats family, photograph by Nicola Gordon Bowe. All Dulac images © Marcia Geraldine Anderson, courtesy Hodder and Stoughton Ltd. All rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1719/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 149k
Légende Plate 9. Robert Gregory’s design of the ‘Charging Unicorn’ first used on the title-page of Discoveries (1907). Private Collection.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1719/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 27k
Légende Plate 10. Gustave Moreau, ‘Les Licornes’ (c. 1885), in the Musée Gustave Moreau, Paris, and based on the 15th century tapestries then recently acquired by the Musée de Cluny, Paris (see Plate 12). Photographer unknown.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1719/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 101k
Légende Plate 11. Monoceros de Astris by Thomas Sturge Moore, title-page of Reveries Over Childhood and Youth (1915). Private Collection.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1719/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Légende Plate 12. Bookplate for George Yeats by Thomas Sturge Moore, showing a round tower struck by lightning, releasing a white unicorn, Senate House Library, University of London.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1719/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 75k
Légende Plate 13. Red tapestry, ‘La dame à la licorne’, 15th century, Musée de Cluny, Paris. Photographer unknown, Public Domain.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1719/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 73k
Légende Plate 14. ‘Deer and Unicorn’ wood-cut from The Book of Lambspring, reproduced in A. E. Waite’s The Hermetic Museum, Restored and Enlarged (London: James Elliott & Co., 1893).
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1719/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Légende Plate 15. Edmund Dulac’s pastel caricature of Yeats, 1915, Abbey Theatre, Dublin, photographer unknown.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/1719/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 41k

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