Yes, We Get it. Yeats Had Some Problems with Women

The book I do not want to read any more of in any iteration:

Yeats: Oh Maud Gonne, I love you, even though you’re so not into me. Oh Maud Gonne, marry me even while you’re out having children with a dude you’re not married to and lying to me about it. Oh Maud Gonne, marry me even though you claim you’re not into marriage while you’re marrying an abusive dude.

Pound: Here I am, secretarying away!

Yeats: Oh, wait, Maud Gonne, I’ve lost my virginity and come to realize it’s your daughter I’m in love with. Yes, the one you claim I am the spiritual father of. That’s not creepy at all!

Mrs. Yeats: Why did I marry you again? Never mind. Here’s some automatic writing that every single author seems to agree was just me telling you what to do in a form you could not refuse. Go do it.

Me: Ugh. I quit.

The book I do want to read:

Yeats and Crowley have a run in. Crowley gets beaten up. We learn how Yeats knew Crowley. We learn what Crowley was up to, what Yeats was up to, and why they were at odds. We find out what was up with the Theosophy movement and why Yeats had  falling out with them. We get some insight into how Yeats saw himself and his magical work in relation to Ireland and the rest of Europe. We discover more about what drew George Yeats (his wife) into the occult.

What were they up to and why? How did it tie into and play off of what other people were up to? How long was Yeats publicly involved with these occult groups? Was he any good at it?

I’m sad to say that all of the books I got on Yeats were, in one way or another, just variations of the book up top there, the story of Maud and whether she was a total bitch or he was. Even the one about Yeats’ ghosts is filtered through his very fucked up relationships to women and says very little about his involvement in the occult community except as it pertains to his fucked up relationship to women.

I don’t know if this is just a late 20th-century bias or what, but it’s frustrating. It’s as if that part of Yeats’ life was so strange that people force it to be about women, because that’s less weird? Or silly, maybe?

Oxford’s big two-volume Yeats biography is actually the least bad about this, but it still doesn’t really broaden out to tell me everything I was hoping to at least glean some insight into.

So, I’m a little down about that. I was really hoping that seeing how someone functioned in that kind of organization might give me insight into Ben Allen.

6 thoughts on “Yes, We Get it. Yeats Had Some Problems with Women

  1. I would love to read the book you write about Crowley getting beaten up by Yeats, and what all happened with that occult and magic stuff. Just sayin’.

  2. lowly_adjunct, but now that I know how obnoxious Yeats is… lord, I don’t have the ability to remain interested.

    Elias, I guess what I was hoping for is a kind of magical biography of someone who was a well-regarded adult in the 1880s and 90s. I want to make sure that I’m characterizing Ben Allen correctly. Though I think I will check out a couple of those, just for my own interest.

  3. 1) Have you looked at Ellman’s biography of W.B. Yeats? My impression is that it does go into the Rosicrucian stuff, but I could be wrong.

    2) IMO, your summation of the relationships between Yeats, Gonne, and Georgie Yeats is exactly on target.

    3) Although 3) is not relevant to your interest in him, none of this stuff matters at all. The guy was one of the greatest poets in English ever, and much as I want to dislike him and dismiss him, he can’t be dismissed.

  4. Have you read the Conjugal Angel, the second half of the book that was made into Angels and Insects (it’s a separate story from that one)? A.S. Byatt talks a lot about spiritualists from the POV of a woman who does automatic writing, and a girl who goes into what seem to be real trances. And the former fiance of Arthur Hallam, that Tennyson wrote In Memoriam for. There’s also quite a bit about spiritualists in her book Possession, but it’s more as a subplot.

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