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.