Snipped from the NATION:
Think back to the autumn of 1917. Stuck in the Ashdown Forest Hotel, her four-day-old marriage a disaster, George began (by her own admission) to “fake” automatic writing in order to entertain her despondent husband: she then felt her hand seized by an unseen power. Willy described what happened next in the revised edition of A Vision (1937), the esoteric account of all human history and personality that the automatic writing ultimately made possible:
What came in disjointed sentences, in almost illegible writing, was so exciting, sometimes so profound, that I persuaded her to give an hour or two day after day to the unknown writer, and after some half-dozen such hours offered to spend what remained of life explaining and piecing together those scattered sentences, “No,” was the answer, “we have come to give you metaphors for poetry.”
Over the next several years, Willy and George produced more than 3,600 pages of script, his questions, her answers. This is their most intimate exchange, and it is almost never referred to in the actual letters Willy and George wrote to each other.
The first few days of automatic writing have not been preserved (the remainder having lately been transcribed and edited by George Mills Harper and a fleet of assistants), so there is no record of Yeats being assured that the spirits had contacted him, through his wife, to further his poetic career. George remembered the initial contact differently: “What you have done is right for both the cat and the hare,” she scribbled, confident that her husband would understand that the hare was Iseult Gonne and the cat was herself, which he did. In the approximately 450 sessions of automatic writing that followed, the intimate sex life of George and Willy Yeats looms as prominently as metaphors for poetry (though Willy would go on to write great poems about sex). “What is important,” says one spirit through George, is “that both the desire of the medium and her desire for your desire should be satisfied.” Willy is advised to keep up his strength by making love to his wife more than once a day: “it is like not taking enough exercise & a long walk exhausts you.” “You mean,” asked Willy, “by doing it once I will lose power of doing it twice.” Yes, came the answer, “& then of doing it once.”
The automatic script ranges widely over innumerable topics; it is often tedious; it calls on vast reserves of esoteric knowledge. But one theme is constant: if the conversations are to continue, the medium (or “interpreter,” as George preferred to be called) must be satisfied. And when the interpreter is not satisfied, the script shouts it out loud and clear:
I dont like you
You neglect me
You dont give me physical symbols
Despite the aura of possible chicanery that inevitably surrounds such an enterprise, George emerges from it as the same brilliantly capable person who managed her husband’s career while also raising two children and electing to spend her summers in a castle with no electricity, no indoor plumbing, jackdaws nesting in the chimneys and a first floor that regularly flooded to a height of two feet.