Hugh Schofield

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William Butler Yeats famously pined for his muse, Maud Gonne, who rejected him. When her daughter, Iseult, turned 22, the now-midlife poet tried for her hand and was likewise turned away. While apparently no one in the family would fuck Yeats, Maud did apparently have sex in the grave of her infant son who had died at two, believing some mystical hooey which said the soul of the deceased boy would transmigrate into the new baby if she conceived next to his coffin. Well, okay. From Hugh Schofield at the BBC:

Actress, activist, feminist, mystic, Maud Gonne was also the muse and inspiration for the poet W B Yeats, who immortalised her in some of his most famous verses.

After the Free State was established in 1922, Maud Gonne remained a vocal figure in Irish politics and civil rights. Born in 1866, she died in Dublin in 1953.

But for many years in her youth and early adulthood, Maud Gonne lived in France.

Of this part of her life, much less is known. There is one long-secret and bizarre episode, however, that has now been established as almost certainly true.

This was the attempt in late 1893 to reincarnate her two-year-old son, through an act of sexual intercourse next to the dead infant’s coffin. …

Having inherited a large sum of money on the death of her father, she paid for a memorial chapel – the biggest in the cemetery. In a crypt beneath, the child’s coffin was laid.

In late 1893 Gonne re-contacted Lucien Millevoye, from whom she had separated after Georges’ death.

She asked him to meet her in Samois-sur-Seine. First the couple entered the small chapel, then opened the metal doors leading down to the crypt.

They descended the small metal ladder – just five or six steps. And then – next to the dead baby’s coffin – they had sexual intercourse.•

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From Hugh Schofield of the BBC, more about Planet of the Apes novelist Pierre Boulle, who was always mystified by the success of his story about a simian civilization:

“In Boulle’s original book the story is told by two honeymooners holidaying in space, who find a bottle containing a manuscript. It is by a French journalist who tells of his adventures on a planet run by monkeys, where the humans are the dumb animals.

At the end of the account, the journalist arrives back at Orly airport in Paris where he finds the staff… are apes. And there is a kicker when we discover the two honeymooners are themselves chimpanzees.

The one moment the book does not contain is possibly the most memorable point of the film – the discovery at the end of the half-buried Statue of Liberty.

In the film, this communicates the astounding fact that the travellers have fast-forwarded in time, and that they are back on Earth – an Earth devastated by nuclear war, in which the apes have emerged as the new dominant species.

In Boulle’s book, the events take place not on Earth but on a distant planet. (In fact the 2001 film remake by Tim Burton was closer to the book’s plot.)

‘It is a big difference. In the film there is this sense of human responsibility. It is man that has led to the destruction of the planet,’ says Clement Pieyre, who catalogued Boulle’s manuscripts at the French National Library.

‘But the book is more a reflection on how all civilisations are doomed to die. There has been no human fault. It is just that the return to savagery will come about anyway. Everything perishes,’ he says”

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