steeped in magic


W. B. Yeats spent much of 1937 in London, and in Sussex, in two separate houses: one belonging to his friend Dorothy Wellesley, and the other to Edith Shackleton Heald, with whom Yeats began his last affair in June. Writing to his wife George at home in Rathfarnham near Dublin in September 1937, he informed her, “A Vision comes out on Oct 7 so you may destroy all proofs etc. I shall send you three of my six copies as you are part author”. It is hard to imagine Rathfarnham flooded with waves of gratitude. It was George’s honeymoon discovery of her talent for automatic writing, beginning as a sly attempt to consolidate her marriage, which set Yeats on the path of his symbolic cosmology, A Vision, and fifteen years’ joint work. She spent the first three years of her marriage from 1917 in regular sessions of automatic writing, followed by bouts of part-conscious “sleep” dictation; the first version of A Vision, published in 1925, went through numerous drafts, and was finally typed by George, only to be followed by a second, completed in 1931 but not published for a further six years.

more from Clair Wills at the TLS here.