Becoming George: The Life of Mrs WB Yeats
Saddlemyer, Ann, Anderson, Doris, Herizons
by Ann Saddlemyer
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2003
Review by Doris Anderson
[Graph Not Transcribed]
Behind many a great man stands a helpful, self-effacing woman, and no woman could be more self-effacing than Georgie, wife of W.B. Yeats. At first she seemed badly cast for the role. From a well-to-do but unstable family, her father died early of alcoholism. Her neglectful mother was famous for her beauty and her many affairs.
Georgie was considered strong-featured rather than beautiful, possessing some style and flair. A serious art student, she was fluent in English, German, Italian and Spanish, and publicly spirited enough to join up as a nurse in World War I.
And she evidently knew her own mind. She met Yeats in 1911. Harbouring a 20-year-old passion for the actress and Irish patriot Maude Gonne, he dithered about marrying for years. When the British executed her husband, it seemed possible. But Gonne turned him down. After vainly pursuing her 15-year-old daughter, he was turned down again.
Georgie was clearly his last choice. Even his description of her as a "friendly, serviceable woman" to his mentor, Lady Gregory, seemed woefully unromantic from the notoriously passionate Irish poet. …