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Radcliffe, Maud Elizabeth Furse (Lady Gorell) (d. 1954)

Radcliffe, Maud Elizabeth Furse (Lady Gorell) (d. 1954)

In December 1980, an auction sale at Sotheby's, London, included a batch of over thirty letters to Bessie (Elizabeth) Radcliffe from poet William Butler Yeats, revealing that Radcliffe had acted as a Spiritualist medium for automatic writing during the occult researches of Yeats.

Radcliffe had been introduced to Yeats in the summer of 1913, possibly through Eva Fowler, friend of Olivia and Dorothy Shakespear and of Ezra Pound. The mediumship continued for some four years until Yeats married Georgie Hyde-Lees in 1917, after which his wife acted as his medium. Before his marriage, Yeats had initiated Georgie into the Stella Matutina temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn occult society.

Radcliffe's mediumistic activities remained through her lifetime. In 1922, she married Ronald Gorell Barnes, 3rd Baron Gorell (1884-1963); they had two sons and a daughter. Baron Gorell, C.B.E., O.B.E., had a distinguished military career, was deputy director of staff duties (Education) at the War Office (1918-20), and later served as Under-Secretary of State for Air (July 1921-October 1922). He was also the president of various societies, editor of Cornhill Magazine (1933-39), and the author of multiple volumes of poetry, fact, fiction, and religion.

The correspondence from Yeats sold at a Sotheby sale revealed that Radcliffe's mediumship had a profound influence on the poet, and in one letter he stated that her script "contained the most important evidence of the most important problem of the world" and in others: "I can never make known to you my profound gratitude. You have changed most things for me and I know not how far that change will go. A year ago your spirits saved me from serious error in a crisis of life."

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