Lots of literary people came to his parties, everyone from Rupert Brooke and Ezra Pound to GB Shaw and Lady Gregory, who secretly left money for Yeats behind the teapot. A particular favourite was the Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne:
‘No taxis or motor cars then, and her chariot was an old four-wheeler. It was her first visit to that strange slummy little court behind St Pancras Church… It was a wretched black winter’s night, and Yeats had arranged a small party to meet her and darted out of his doorway in the rain to receive his guest at the end of the court.
‘As she dismounted in dismay, a tall stately figure in green gown, a gold torque round her neck, a troop of dirty little urchins had gathered from nowhere attracted by this lovely ‘lidy’ and called out shrilly for half-pennies.’
Yeats remained at Woburn Walk until 1917, when the Zeppelin raids on London became unbearable. Newly married, he took his bride to live in Oxford instead.
The Zeppelin air raids during the First World War were a nuisance for everyone. The German airships flew so high above London that neither fighter planes nor anti-aircraft fire could easily reach them. Their bombs rained down indiscriminately on the capital.
Not far from Yeats in Woburn Walk, the residents of Gower Street found the raids equally distressing. The top floor flat of No 3 was occupied by the writer Katherine Mansfield and her future husband John Middleton Murray. Art student Dora Carrington lived below them.
The ground floor flat belonged to an economist from the Treasury. In September 1915, he was with his secretary Miss Chapman and her dog Rex one evening when a German air raid began:
‘As I write, Zeppelin bombs are dropping all around, about one every minute and a half I should say, and the flashes and explosions are terrifying. I am much more frightened than I thought I should be. Miss Chapman is sitting with me in the dining room, which we have decided is safest – I don’t know why.
‘She doesn’t seem in the least nervous and spends her time soothing Rex. I daresay we shall find in the morning that the bombs have not been within a mile of us, but it does seems very near.’
HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 73. Later famous, the economist had very firm views on what kind of peace should be made with the Germans. Who was he ?
‘Scintillating’ – Literary Review
‘Sets an example that will be hard to equal’ – Daily Mail
Waterstone’s recommendation of the month