Georgie Hyde-Lees (born Bertha Hyde-Lees, 1892 – 1968) was the daughter of Edith Ellen (Nelly) and Gilbert Hyde-Lees, and the wife of the poet William Butler Yeats.
Georgie was born in Fleet, Hampshire; when she was only a few years old her parents’ marriage failed due to her father’s alcoholism. He had enough income to support his family but his wife was in the awkward social position of being a “married woman without a husband”. The family lived a vaguely bohemian and nomadic lifestyle, traveling frequently to country homes and spending long periods visiting relatives.
She attended a number of schools in Knightsbridge, London art schools, studied languages and classics, and piano. She became close friends with Dorothy Shakespear, who was fond of Georgie and shared many of her interests despite being six years her senior. After the death of her father in 1909, Georgie’s mother married Dorothy’s uncle, Henry Tucker, Olivia Shakespear’s brother, and they moved to Kensington.
Her mother often brought young musicians and artists she had recently met to Olivia Shakespear’s salon, many of whom became well-known modernists, including Ezra Pound, Walter Rummel, and Frederic Manning. Georgie continued to make the rounds of country estates with her mother and Olivia and Dorothy Shakespear. It was in their company in 1910 or 1911, as a seventeen-year-old, that one morning she met Yeats at the British Museum and again that afternoon during tea at the Shakespears.
Seven years later, when she was 25 and he 52, he asked her to marry him. Only a few weeks earlier Iseult Gonne, the daughter of Maud Gonne whom Yeats had loved for many years, had rejected a marriage proposal from him. Georgie and Yeats married just three weeks later, on 20 October 1917, in a public registry office, witnessed by her mother and Ezra Pound. During the honeymoon, while Yeats was still brooding about Iseult’s rejection, Georgie began the automatic writing which fascinated him. He wrote about it days later in what was to be A Vision, and it held the marriage together for many years. Within a year of marriage he declared her name of Georgie to be insufferable, and henceforth called her George.
The couple had two children, Anne and Michael.
- ^ a b c d e “Becoming George: The Life of Mrs WB Yeats” The Guardian, 26 October 2002. Retrieved on April 18, 2011
- ^ a b c Foster, 437
- ^ a b c Saddlemeyer, 194
- Foster, R.F. W.B Yeats: A Life. Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-211735-1
- Saddlemeyer, Ann. “George Hyde-Lees: More than a Poet’s Wife”. in Norman Jeffares Yeats the European. Barnes and Noble Books, 1989. ISBN 0-389-20875-2