Thursday, April 8, 2021

the last book I ever read (Gluck: Her Biography by Diana Souhami, excerpt eleven)

from Gluck: Her Biography by Diana Souhami:

It seems that Edith was the last of Yeats’s lovers. She first met him when, aged twenty-one, she was in Manchester attending a lecture of his. Of their early relationship there is no record, but after Gluck’s death in 1978 about sixty letters from Yeats to Edith were sold to the Houghton Library, Harvard. Personal and passionate in tone, they date from 1937 until his death in 1939, keep her informed of all aspects of his work, invite her comments on the progress of his poems and cover such matters as his radio broadcasts with Dulac, the affairs and disputes of the Abbey Theatre, his family, friends and contemporaries. In 1937, when Edith was fifty-three and Yeats seventy-two, he was writing to her (29 May 1937) sentiments that echoed her own views on the ‘better bouquets than those we get at our first dances.’ He wrote, in words that commend the romantic sensibilities of older people, of how, had Edith been younger, true intimacy between them would have been impossible. He told her he thought the finest bond of all occurs ‘when we have outlived our first rough silver’ and of how sweet this bond can be to the old and the half old. He spoke of his profound hopes for their friendship and of how peaceful the understanding and sympathy she accorded him made him feel. In a letter to Maud Gonne in June 1938 he described Edith as ‘one of the best-paid women journalists in the world. She found she had no leisure so she gave up the most of it.’

He stayed for months at a time in the Chantry House. Edith evidently revered him and provided him with an ideal environment for work. The ‘Yeats Room,’ as it was called, was kept just for his use. He wrote many of his later poems and plays for the Peacock Theatre there and discussed his work with her: ‘When we meet at the end of the month I shall have much poetry to read you … ‘ When in England he would stay with the poet Lady Dorothy Wellesley (who, though married to eh Duke of Wellington, had a sexual preference for women) at her home Penns in the Rocks in the village of Withyham, about thirty miles from Steyning, and then move on to the Chantry House.

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