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At 29 the poet Yeats loses his virginity to Olivia Shakespear

Yeats met Olivia at a Yellow Book dinner in 1894. He was 29, she a couple of years older. There were, it is said, many nervous hesitations preceding their affair, which terminated the poet’s virginity.

 Olivia was  a woman of intelligence and sensibility and had the necessary Yeatsian qualification of occultist interests.

However, much was at risk, Olivia's husband  might sue for a divorce and Olivia could then lose custody of her daughter, while Yeats might have to pay (difficult for a penniless poet) the wronged husband ruinous damages.

 Another difficulty was that Yeats was still in the grip of his unconsummated,  ‘barren passion’ for Maud Gonne, who had little interest in sex and none  at all in sex with Yeats.

Yeats was also very poor, and was earning a pittance from hack work.

It was with these pittances that Yeats and Olivia eventually bought a bed in Tottenham Court Road, their embarrassment augmented when they grasped the point that the bigger the bed the more it costs. It was installed in the poet’s ‘spartan and squalid’ rooms in Woburn Buildings, where after further nervous delays the poet was at last initiated.

That is the end of this of this charming and naive tale of  Fin-de-Siècle lucubrations.


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