BIOGRAPHY: Olivia Shakespear

Olivia Shakespear was the person through whom Pound and Yeats first met. She was herself a writer. Her first book, Love on a Mortal Lease, was published in June of 1984. Remarkably, by August of the same year she had almost completed her novella Beauty's Hour. While trying to determine the reading background for her character Dr. Trefusis, Yeats submitted several suggestions. Shakespear however, had a different library in mind and Yeats wrote to her applauding her choices. "I think you have chosen wisely in making Dr. Trefusis read the mystics rather than the purely magical books I suggested. The Morning Redness by Jacob Boehme is a great book beautifully named, which might do, and The Obscure Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross is among the most perfectly named things in the world" (Wade 234).

Between 1896 and 1897 Yeats and Olivia Shakespear had a love affair. It only lasted a short while ending in early 1897. Yeats affections again had reverted to Maud Gonne. She was the subject of Yeats's poem "The Lover Mourns for the Loss of Love." They remained in contact for most of their lives. According to Longenbach, the common bond that "sustained them was the literature and practices of the occult" (84). In 1895, Yeats wrote a letter to Shakespear attempting to help her with the interpretation of her own visions. "The vision is correct in one thing and the rest is merely the opening of a vision. I do not tell you what is right, or the exact nature of the symbol you have used, because I will make the vision complete itself when I see you, and it is best that it do all the explaining" (Wade 256).

Olivia Shakespear died in 1938. Yeats wrote in a later letter that "For more than forty years she has been the centre of my life in London and during all that time we have never had a quarrel, sadness sometimes but never a difference" (Wade 916).