W. B. Yeats, George Hyde-Lees, and the Automatic Script Essays

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W. B. Yeats, George Hyde-Lees, and the Automatic Script

In his biography of Yeats, Richard Ellmann remarks that "Had Yeats died instead of marrying in 1917, he would have been remembered as a remarkable minor poet who achieved a diction more powerful than that of his contemporaries but who, except in a handful of poems, did not have much to say with it" (Ellmann 223). Yet with his marriage to Georgie Hyde-Lees on October 21st, 1917, a vast frontier of possibility opened before Yeats, and through the automatic writing of his wife, he felt "wisdom at last within his reach" (Ellmann 224). Not only did the material within the automatic script (AS) help alleviate his anxieties about his marital choice, but it also pointed his poetry in a new direction, bringing together the separate remnants of his life and thoughts. Dilemmas over women and rejection, the frightening politics of his time, years of dabbling in the occult for answers, older ideas found in Blake, his own musings over Mask and Daimon, and the loose system of spiritual thought gathered in Per Amica: all these and other elements found their way into the cauldron of the AS, and with the help of Yeats, Georgie, and several "communicators," the medley was stirred and brewed for three years until everything began to come together, the final product being the system set forth in A Vision. In the following essay, we will begin by examining the AS from a general standpoint, and then focus in to see how advice from the communicators helped Yeats as man and poet, how older ideas were transformed, and finally, we will outline the major ideas of the AS which formed the core of Yeats's later mythology in A Vision.

A few days after their marriage, Georgie, who was probably "promp...

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...that he himself found valuable finds its into A Vision, it is nevertheless one of the strangest documents in the history of literature. And while there will always be doubts about just where all that "wisdom" really came from, whether from George, Yeats, or the "communicators," it is undeniable that without the AS and the whole experience surrounding it, Yeats could not have written the unique and ingenious poetry of his middle to later years.


Ellmann, Richard. Yeats: The Man and the Masks. New York: W.W. Norton, 1948.

Finneran, Richard J. The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats. 2nd Ed. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc., 1996.

Harper, George Mills. The Making of Yeats's `A Vision'. Vol 1. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987.

Unterecker, John. A Reader's Guide to William Butler Yeats. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1959.

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