We know Yeats was a passionate man – see Heather’s lovely post on one of his love affairs here and one of his beautiful poems here. We’ve also already established that I’m a sucker for a good pince nez. Put these things together, and Yeats makes an excellent Victorian hottie of the week.
Yeats always closely associated love affairs with creativity and inspiration. Throughout his life, he had many affairs, even after marrying the young Georgie Hyde Lees when he was 51 and she 25.
Even in his old age, Yeats still got around. He underwent a surgery called the “Steinach procedure” at 69 and possibly as a result, experienced what he called “a second puberty.” The operation was a half vasectomy which the inventor, Eugen Steinach, claimed would increase hormone production and male sexual potency. Whether or not it actually worked as advertised, Yeats experienced a rejuventating effect that led to a period of prolific writing. It also led to affairs with significantly younger women including a 27 year-old named Margot Ruddock. Boston College magazine has a great account of Yeats’s later life including an excerpt from a letter he wrote to Margot suggesting she squint when she looks at his aging body.
O how can I that interest hold?
What offer to attentive eyes?
Mind grows young and body old;
When half closed her eye-lid lies
A sort of hidden glory shall
About these stooping shoulders fall.
I don’t know, I think he’s a pretty good looking old dude. What do you think?