I apologize for the awkward break between newsletter installments. April was, in the immortal words of T.S. Eliot, a freaking ordeal of a month to be alive. But I have checked many large life tasks off the to-do list, and now that I'm poking my head above water again, it's time for me to introduce you to another Dirtbag Of Yore.
And this is an exciting one, because it's OUR VERY FIRST LADY DIRTBAG!
Before we formally begin storytime, a quick shoutout to Julie Salmon Kelleher, dear friend and brilliant writer, for introducing me to this story, which she obviously knew I would love. Remember her name, book people: you will hear it again.
Now then, time to meet our heroine:
Georgie Hyde-Lees and the Extremely Convenient Ghost That Lived in Her Pencil
we love a lady who rocks a good spooky shawl
The year: 1910. The place: The British Museum, London. The event: artistic, bohemian 17-year-old Georgie Hyde-Lees runs into talented, 45-year-old poet William Butler Yeats, and the two strike up a conversation. Seven years later, the pair are married.
Now, this might sound all well and good, age difference aside! But to really paint the picture of what Georgie got herself into, it's important that I point out a couple quick facts about W.B. Yeats, the famous poet behind "Sailing to Byzantium" and "Easter, 1916."
1. Yeats was a passionate magical enthusiast who once kicked Aleister Crowley down a flight of stairs for not believing in the right kind of magic.
2. Yeats really, really, really wanted to meet a ghost.
3. Being romantically involved with Yeats was the worst thing in the world.
All three of these facts will become relevant, trust me. But let's focus on the third.
Yeats had a loud, determined, deeply self-pitying crush on the Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne, who he met in 1889 and literally never stopped pining for, not for a single second. Even after she turned down his marriage proposal. Even after she married someone else.
the lake isle of innisfreaking let this woman live her life
After Gonne's husband died, Yeats proposed to her again. She, again, turned him down, because good for her. Then Yeats turned right around and proposed to Maud Gonne's daughter.
W.B. Yeats? More like W.B. Yikes, amirite?
All this to say, by the time Georgie Hyde-Lees strolled onto the scene, Yeats wasn't so much carrying a flame for Maud Gonne as wandering around like Lord Denathor dousing himself in oil while building a funeral pyre.
live footage of Yeats ramping up to a really great life decision
Some women would have decided this made Yeats a less-than-ideal husband and moved on to, I don't know, literally any other man. But Georgie was a resourceful dirtbag, bless her, and she took matters into her own hands.
During Georgie and William's honeymoon in Ashdown Forest, Sussex, Georgie came up with an idea to win over her obviously-still-pining-for-his-lifelong-flame new husband. This, more or less, is how I imagine the conversation went.
Georgie Hyde-Lees: William, darling.
Georgie: You're ignoring me already and we literally got married four days ago.
Georgie, loudly and dramatically: Did I ever mention I can talk to ghosts?
Yeats, suddenly paying attention: SAY MORE RIGHT NOW.
Georgie proceeds to introduce Yeats to her Extremely Impressive and Incredibly Legit powers of automatic writing: a kind of spiritualism where a spirit controls the pencil in a medium's hand to transmit its message from beyond.
basically the mr. krabs school of spiritualism
Yeats, unsurprisingly, was STOKED. He'd married a magical ghost medium! Bet Maud Gonne never spoke to spirits!
And the spirits Georgie called up during that honeymoon had some really, really practical advice, bless them.
Advice like "We, the Ghosts from the Beyond who are Definitely Not Your Wife Speaking in a Funny Voice, encourage William Butler Yeats to stop thinking about Maud Gonne and her daughter, who are genuinely just not that into you." Or "Eating all this red meat really isn't good for William Butler Yeats, who should have a vegetable every so often." Or "We sense from the Great Beyond that Georgie is ovulating right now, so this would be a fantastic time for William Butler Yeats to try and make a baby, if he was so inclined."
Or even, "Again, using our Powers from the Beyond, if William Butler Yeats wanted to give his new wife a better orgasm, here is a Ghostly and Totally Disinterested Way he might go about doing that. Just a friendly anonymous tip from Us Ghosts."
Which, honestly, is the ultimate Dirtbag Lady Medium move, and I could not respect it more.
get it, Georgie, you majestic spooky queen
Georgie and Yeats remained together until the poet's death in 1939, which is...proof that Georgie's ghosts were more effective than marriage counseling? You personally could not have paid me enough money to get married to Yeats, but at least he had enough sense to pair up with a fearless bohemian lady ghost hustler who knew what she wanted. May we all marry so well.
Fun PS: Georgie first performed her automatic writing in Ashdown Forest, the very same forest A.A. Milne used as inspiration for the Hundred-Acre Wood. This, of course, raises the important question: was Winnie the Pooh a ghost?
i'm not implying anything, i'm just asking questions
Author Life Corner
Two quick pieces of info before I let you get back to your inboxes!
First, I'm delighted to say that I'll be reading from A Tip for the Hangman at Sunday Salon Chicago on May 23, alongside Sara Connell, Ignatius Valentine Aloysius, and Esther Yin-ling Spodek. Registration for this Zoom event is required but free, and I hope you'll join me! You can sign up here.
Second, if you haven't left a review for A Tip for the Hangman on your online retailer of choice, I warmly invite you to do so! They really help show my publisher that folks are enjoying the book, which increases the chances they'll let me write another one. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads are the big three, and you don't have to have bought the book through any of those sites to leave a review there.
And with that, I leave you to your previously scheduled Wednesday! Pick up a pencil and ask a ghost what you should have for dinner. Maybe someone'll answer.