Study Guide

Hella Lees in Possession

By A.S. Byatt

Hella Lees

Along with Priscilla Penn Cropper and Christabel LaMotte, Hella Lees is one of the nineteenth-century spiritualists who lend a touch of the supernatural to Possession.

We readers never meet Mrs. Lees as a living, breathing character but instead encounter her through excerpts from her book The Shadowy Portal. James Blackadder consults the book as he tries to find connections between Christabel LaMotte and Randolph Henry Ash's uncharacteristically hostile depiction of women spiritualists in the poem Mummy Possest. Sure enough, The Shadowy Portal gives him just what he was looking for.

As Blackadder learns, Hella Lees was leading the séance that inspired Mummy Possest—the very same one where Ash confronted Christabel LaMotte and demanded to know what had happened to their child. Needless to say, Mrs. Lees was unimpressed by Ash's behavior—and was even less impressed by his resentful depiction of her in Mummy Possest.