Recent stories relating to TS Eliot
The ‘interpretative key’ to Eliot’s poetry in The Hyacinth Girl, December 2023
A review in the journal Christianity & Literature of Lyndall Gordon’s book, The Hyacinth Girl, by Beatrice Scudeler argues that “Gordon shows us a deeply confessional Eliot.”
In particular, Scudeler explores how “Gordon repeatedly (and masterfully) draws out…inconsistencies in Eliot’s thoughts about his relationship with Hale-as-real-person versus Hale-as-a-Beatrice figure, relating them back to Eliot’s fraught claim about the ‘impersonality’ of poetry.”
“As Gordon herself seems to be acutely aware,” she writes, “understanding Eliot’s relationship with Hale, especially its role in his efforts of self-canonization as one of the greats of Western literature, is the interpretative key to his poetry.”
She concludes with “a sense that Eliot meant his personal struggle towards sainthood to function as an exemplum for his readers: he is T. S. Eliot, but he is also the medieval everyman whose particular journey is universalized for our benefit.”
The full review is available to those with academic access in Christianity & Literature.
Limited hand set edition of ‘Little Gidding’ published, November 2023
A limited letterpress edition of 35 copies of ‘Little Gidding’ has just been published by the Atlantis Press in Oxford.
Measuring 285mm x 180mm, the 14 pages are printed on a treadle platen press on 145 gsm cream Matrix fine laid paper. The publication is sewn into black card with a Fabriano Ingres ash grey wrapper. There is a cover label printed in scarlet with a black glint border.
The Atlantis Press is the private press of Susan and Michael Daniell, and prints “bagatelles and very small books.” Its publications have included an ode by Sir Richard Fanshawe, five poems by Robert Bridges, and The Lady of Shalott.
The text of ‘Little Gidding’ is hand set in 14 point Caslon, which “seemed an appropriate typeface,” says Michael Daniell, “and we had a fount just large enough for the job. But we had to borrow a cedilla to print the word façade, as well as borrowing some 72 point Caslon type from the Bodleian Bibliographical Workshop for titling. Caslon has a splendid ‘Qu’ ligature that found a place on the title verso.”
The publishing rights granted to the Atlantis Press are restricted to the UK, and the copies for sale from the edition, at £30 + p&p, are only available from Blackwells Rare Books.
Historic copy of Journey of the Magi sells via Oxfam shop, November 2023
The copy is the familiar First Edition illustrated by E McKnight Kauffer; but still in its original glassine cover, this is number 265 from a limited edition of 350 copies of the poem printed by the Curwen Press on “Zanders’ hand-made paper” (Gallup A9b)
And of additional interest is that the copy is inscribed from Peter du Sautoy. A director (and eventually Chairman) of Faber & Faber alongside Eliot, du Sautoy gave a reading at Eliot’s Westminster Abbey memorial service. But he is now perhaps best known as the colleague whom Eliot asked to burn the contents of a large metal box packed with letters – subsequently presumed to be the letters which Eliot had received from Emily Hale.
UPDATE: The item is no longer online, and was presumably sold within a short time for its asking price of £300.
Wartime Classic inscribed by Eliot, November 2023
Eliot stayed frequently during the War at Shamley Wood, Shamley Green, Surrey, the home of the writer Hope Mirrlees. Emily ‘Mappie’ Mirrlees was Hope’s mother, and Eliot is pictured with them here. “I am very fond of the old lady,” Eliot wrote to Emily Hale, “(to tell the truth, I like her better than Hope).”
His colleague Geoffrey Faber believed Shamley Wood was the best possible place for Eliot; “an excellent life for him: no contacts till lunch; privacy for writing; and domestic comfort and peace from Air Raid Precautions.”
The unclipped dustjacket shows the published price of 3s 6d – writing to Mary Trevelyan, Eliot described that as “a swindling price for 32 pages.” The price for this inscribed copy is $650, £545 at time of writing, from the US bookseller Scott Emerson Books
Eliot’s “message” for The London Magazine, November 2023
An October 1953 letter from TS Eliot to his friend John Lehmann, intimately signed “Tom”, has been put up for sale, in which Eliot responds to a request for a contribution to the revivedLondon Magazine, to be edited by Lehmann. Writing from his office at 24 Russell Square, Eliot offers a “message” for his friend’s inaugural issue.
‘I say “message”’, writes Eliot in his letter, ‘because I think that a letter beginning “Dear John” would give the public a coterie impression whereas a letter beginning (to the Editor) “Dear Sir” might appear suspiciously formal. A message, then.’
Eliot’s eventual “message”, of over 800 words, “from an elderly man of letters”. addressed the value and functions of a literary review. “My own years of editorship [of The Criterion ] have given me some understanding of the essential functions of a Literary Review at any time,” he wrote, “as well as some experience of the difficulties which it has always to confront.”
He concludes that “Without literary magazines, the vitality of the world of contemporary letters is very gravely reduced.” The message can be read in full in The Complete Prose of TS Eliot, Vol 8 p11.
The letter is for sale at New York bookseller James Cummins for $2,250. A copy of that first issue of the London Magazine (right) is coincidentally on sale from another US bookseller, and can be seen here
Photos on TS Eliot’s Wall, October 2023
“It was taken by a staff photographer on 5 Jan 1965,” Faber’s former archivist Robert Brown explains, “the day after T. S. Eliot’s death, in the Faber office at 24 Russell Square, where he had worked as editor and director since 1925. More than any other single item in the archive, it provides a fascinating glimpse of those especially dear to Eliot in the early 1960s.”
Just part of the image is pictured here; the full image, together with text which identifies Woolf, Yeats, Barnes, Moore, Stravinsky and Groucho Marx amongst others, is here.
Exchanges… Autumn 2023 issue, October 2023
Its contributions from members include an article on the 75th anniversary of Eliot receiving both the Nobel Prize and the Order of Merit; a report from a live performance of The Waste Land; a feature on the First Edition of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats; and a consideration of Terry Eagleton’s evaluation of Eliot as a critic.
You can download this new issue here.
Rare ‘destroyed’ edition of Eliot’s PhD thesis, October 2023
According to Donald Gallup, Eliot’s bibliographer, ‘all save “a very few”’ of this 1963 unpublished 172pp edition were destroyed by the publishers. (Its British Library listing states: “Withdrawn before publication, all surviving copies being defaced by order of the publishers. A revised text was published in 1964.”)
The “revised text”, the first published 216pp edition of 1964, contained corrections, additions and appendices by Professor Anne Bolgan of the University of Alaska, which did not appear in the unpublished edition.
The book is for sale for $1750 through Scott Emerson Books in the US.
TS and Valerie Eliot by Richard Avedon, October 2023
The photos are believed to have been taken in Spring 1958, when Eliot took his new wife to the US in order for her to meet his family. They have come from the estate of Eliot’s US friend and publisher Robert Giroux (see also September below), and a picture of Giroux and Eliot together in Texas is included in the package.
Accompanying the contact sheets is a letter from Avedon to Eliot, in which he requests permission to publish an image in his then forthcoming book of photographs, Observations. Avedon writes, “I feel so strongly about the importance of your work, not only in itself, but in the enormous influence it has had on the literature of the past several decades, that I cannot believe my book would be complete without a photograph of you.” The image of the couple which appeared can be seen online at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History – the others, which appear also to include some solo images of Eliot and Valerie, are believed to be unpublished.
Totalling 139 images, the contact sheets are being offered for sale for £65,000 by Peter Harrington, where details and more images can be seen.
One-day course on TS Eliot and Annotation, October 2023
It will be led by John Haffenden, Editor of the continuing Letters of TS Eliot, and Anthony Cuda, one of the editors of Eliot’s Complete Prose and Director of the Summer School.
“Participants of this one-day session will attend to the practices of scholarly annotation in the context of Eliot’s poetry and criticism. The session will combine discussions of Eliot’s own thoughts about criticism and annotation with reflections on the practices and theories used by contemporary editors to annotate his work. Drawing on the new editions of his poems, prose, and letters (both in print and digital), we will pose questions about the purposes and uses of annotation, and about how contemporary scholarship aligns with and departs from modernist answers to these questions.”
The session is to be held at Senate House, University of London on January 16th, 2024. Attendance is limited to 15 participants, and the course fee is £120, but it is possible to apply for a scholarship to cover tuition fees. Full details and links to the application form are here.
When Ralph Steadman ‘met’ Mr Eliot, October 2023
The print, featuring a Steadman rendering of Eliot, was used for “A celebration of the centenary of the birth of T.S. Eliot”, held at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank, on 26th September 1988. (The event itself featured readings by Harold Pinter and Suzanne Bertish, and a John Dankworth setting of Sweeney Agonistes, along with other performances.)
Signed in the plate by Steadman, the print is being sold at Chiswick Auctions on 24th October, along with five other Steadman lithographs, and details are here.
Trevelyan memoir published in paperback, October 2023
Subtitled “A Sort of Love Story”, the book is based on Mary Trevelyan’s long unpublished memoir of her relationship with Eliot, edited and contextualised by Erica Wagner. Scheduled for publication on October 5th, the 336-page paperback, with a redesigned cover, has a cover price of £12.99.
This completes the publication in paperback of the three significant Eliot books published in 2022. The Waste Land: A Biography of a Poem by Matthew Hollis, and The Hyacinth Girl, the revelatory work on Emily Hale by Lyndall Gordon, were both published in paperback in August – scroll down for details.
Our News Archive 2022 page contains links to the reviews of all three.
Inscribed Eliot book in Charlie Watts’ auction, September 2023
His inscribed copy of Eliot’s Collected Poems 1909-1935, which had an estimate of £3-5,000, in fact sold for £6,930 (plus buyer’s premium).
For full details of the volume in question, scroll down to July.
From Valerie Eliot to the poet’s US publisher, September 2023
The copy, from a limited deluxe edition of 500 slipcased copies, is inscribed by Valerie Eliot to “Bob, with affectionate greetings from Valerie Eliot”. There are also two Christmas cards from Valerie to Giroux loosely inserted.
Working initially for the US publishers Harcourt Brace, Giroux became Eliot’s stateside editor; later he arranged his American lectures and readings, letting Eliot stay at his New York apartment. He is known for an oft-quoted conversation in which he suggested to Eliot that most editors are failed writers. “Perhaps,” replied Eliot, “but so are most writers.”
The description states intriguingly that “This copy is also hand-corrected by Valerie on p. xxxii”. The pagination of this limited edition varies from that of the trade version; the correction referred to is on page xxx of the Faber edition of 1971, and is a neat marginal insertion of the absent word “which” in the sentence “and the miscellaneous poems [which] were considered for it”; this omission was corrected in the text of the subsequent paperback editions.
The book is for sale at £975 at Peter Harrington.
Repeat of He Do The Waste Land In Different Voices on BBC Radio 3, September 2023
BBC Radio 3 is repeating He Do The Waste Land In Different Voices, “a fully-cast binaural performance of T S Eliot’s The Waste Land with an introductory preface”. at 7:30pm next Sunday 10th September, and available afterwards for a limited period on BBC Sounds.
Recorded and first broadcast to mark the centenary of The Waste Land, the poem was “performed for the first time as if an audio drama, the text unchanged from the original, but with a focus on the collection of voices within it.” An ensemble cast for the performance includes David Calder, Maggie Steed, Adrian Edmondson, Paul Ready and David Haig.
The performance is preceded by a feature about the poem, for which leading Eliot scholars Lyndall Gordon, Mark Ford, Seamus Perry, Stephen Connor, and Nancy Fulford, archivist for the T S Eliot Estate, were interviewed by Paul Keers (Chair of the T S Eliot Society).
More details are available here, where the programme will also be available shortly after broadcast for a limited period.
Modern society and Choruses from ‘The Rock’, September 2023
A short article by Ben Cribbin in his Rosaries series looks at T.S Eliot’s ‘The Rock’ and modern society, focussing on the Choruses, their questioning of “progress”, and their placing of a Temple at society’s heart.
Cribbin says that, to the modern reader, the work may sound “utterly anachronistic”. But ”in dismissing the Choruses, we miss out,” he writes.
“The wisdom Eliot puts forward is both radical and profound. At the heart of these poems is a deeply conservative vision of the world, a world in which order and meaning are part of the foundation. To those of us lost in the crisis of meaning, and wandering the postmodern wasteland, Eliot’s poems offer us a way out.”
The article can be read here.
Contemporary compositions inspired by Four Quartets, September 2023
The album is a collaboration between Pratt; the string orchestra, A Far Cry; the vocal band, Roomful of Teeth; and six contemporary composers. Pratt wanted to explore, in his words, Eliot’s “expression of a particular kind of tension, an understanding of a duality that can exist in life, the struggle for balance, and an acknowledgement of the inexpressible–that which cannot be tidily communicated”.
His commissions stemmed from the passage in Burnt Norton addressing “the still point of the turning world”; but as the composers explain here their inspiration then went wider into Eliot’s life and work.
Of his piece Time Past, Time Present Alvin Singleton says that “What inspired me about T.S. Eliot’s poem was his discussion of time, its elasticity, and that it belongs to no one. I felt strong musical implications.”
While Paola Prestini’s piano work Code was inspired by the relationship between Eliot and Emily Hale. “It is in essence a love poem in 8 takes, that in its culmination, mirrors the relationship between T.S. and Emily, and fails.”
The album can be heard and purchased here.
Collected Poems 1909-1962 “warmly inscribed” by TS Eliot, August 2023
The booksellers explain that “Marguerite Cohn and her husband, Louis, were the proprietors of House of Books in New York, early specialist dealers in modern literature. The Cohns and the Eliots were friends and correspondents; the Cohns’ stateside apartment was used to host Eliot’s interview for the Paris Review in 1959”
The book is for sale at Peter Harrington for £4,000 – details and further images are here.
Reading around The Waste Land, August 2023
Matthew Hollis, Faber Poetry Editor and author of The Waste Land: A Biography of a Poem, has produced a reading list, which “celebrates the history of the poem by offering suggestions for some further reading.”
Reading List: Reading Around The Waste Land suggests 11 works for further reading, with accompanying comments from Hollis. Beginning with Dante (“The work not only marked a resting plain for Eliot’s pursuit of religious faith, but also offered a vital ground for his own thinking on poetry”) the list progresses through Joseph Conrad, Ezra Pound and Hope Mirrlees, to the contemporary poet and critic Hannah Sullivan.
The full reading list is here.
Books inscribed by TS Eliot to Kenneth Pickthorn, August 2023
A number of Eliot works have come up for sale from the library of the Cambridge historian and Criterion contributor Kenneth Pickthorn. Pickthorn was a frequent host and dining companion to Eliot, who described him in 1934 as “one of the few people…with whom I have political sympathies.”
Offered by the booksellers Tindley & Everett, the books include a pre-publication First Edition of the scarce After Strange Gods, in dustjacket, inscribed “to Kenneth Pickthorn from T.S.Eliot. Shrove Tuesday 1934” (£2,750).
Some of Pickthorn’s First Editions are rarely found inscribed, such as the pamphlets The Literature of Politics, inscribed “K.W.M.P. from T.S.E.” (£725), and Charles Whibley, inscribed “K.P. from T.S.E.” (£650). Other First Editions inscribed to Pickthorn include What Is A Classic? and The Family Reunion.
In addition, Tindley & Everett have First Editions without inscriptions including Reunion by Destruction, Homage to John Dryden, Journey of the Magi and Triumphal March. Their online storefront is here.
The Hyacinth Girl published as paperback, August 2023
Published in hardback in 2022, The Hyacinth Girl: T.S. Eliot’s Hidden Muse received widespread praise; writing in the New Statesman, Margaret Drabble said that “Gordon establishes the profound influence [the relationship] had upon the substance and in particular upon the imagery of Eliot’s work” (See our News Archive October 2022 for reviews and related articles.)
The Hyacinth Girl is published by Virago Press as a paperback with a cover price of £12.99. Full details are here.
Eliot “has been rather worried” in 1946 letter, August 2023
The 1946 letter was handwritten from Minsted House, in Midhurst, West Sussex, where Geoffrey and Enid Faber took up residence after selling their former country house, Ty Glyn. (See Eliot’s letter to Emily Hale of 01/06/1942 for details.)
The majority of Eliot’s correspondence is typed; this letter, concerning some soap and soapflakes which may have gone astray in the post, is handwritten and signed on the reverse; framed in a double-sided gilt frame, along with a photograph of Eliot, it is for sale at $2,500 with details and images here.
Paperback edition of Hollis book published, August 2023
The book, first published during the poem’s centenary, “reconstructs the creation of the poem and brings the material reality of its charged times vividly to life. [Hollis] reveals the cultural and personal trauma that forged The Waste Land through the lives of its protagonists — Ezra Pound, who edited it; Vivien Eliot, who sustained it; and T. S. Eliot himself, whose private torment is woven into the seams of the work.” (See our News Archive October 2022 for reviews and related articles.)
The new paperback edition is priced at £12.99.
In addition, Faber are offering a ‘book bundle’ to their Faber Members, pairing the volume with the centenary full-colour edition of The Waste Land facsimile drafts, for £28.99 (RRP value of the two titles is £37.99) – details are here, and Faber Members is free to join.
Summer issue of Exchanges, August 2023,
Its contributions from members include reports from the recent Annual T S Eliot Festival at Little Gidding, as well as a personal article on why T S Eliot matters.
You can download this new issue here.
TS Eliot and Tristan Corbière, August 2023
“It is time to revisit Corbière’s crucial influence on Eliot, who drew on his writing for Poems (1920),” she writes, “and most significantly in the draft sea passages of The Waste Land. Identifying Corbière’s presence in the draft allows us to hear the French poet in the final version of ‘Death by Water’, and reveals that Eliot owes more to Corbière than has previously been acknowledged.”
A poet, editor and critic, Evans completed her AHRC-funded PhD in modern poetry at Durham University. The essay can be accessed here.
New volume of the T.S. Eliot Studies Annual, July 2023
Contributions to Volume 5 include Sarah Kennedy on “Eliot among the Rag-Pickers: Waste, Hope, and the Ecocritical Imagination in ‘The Waste Land’”; Leonard Diepeveen on “The Unnatural Excesses of T. S. Eliot”; and Sara Fitzgerald on “Religion, Rites, and Emily Hale”, with further research articles by Ria Banerjee, Manju Jain and Douglas Mao.
There is a Special Forum with nine contributions on teaching ‘The Waste Land’ (including Anthony Cuda on “The Wrong Way to Teach ‘The Waste Land’”), plus three research notes, five book reviews, and a T. S. Eliot Bibliography for 2021.
Full contents can be viewed and accessed online here.
Call for Journal submissions, July 2023
The Society’s annual academic Journal is published each summer, and welcomes scholarly essays by early-career as well as leading academics, on subjects related to one or more of TS Eliot’s poetry, plays, criticism, faith, biography, or context. Essays are peer-reviewed and are normally around 6000 words in length, plus references; shorter Notes will also be considered. Deadline is 31st December 2023.
If you would like to contribute to the 2024 issue, please see the Journal page of the website for full details, and forward a 300 word abstract or any enquiries to Journal@tseliotsociety.uk
TS Eliot, E McKnight Kauffer and modernist illustration, July 2023
In the latest issue of the journal Modernism/modernity, Jack Quin, of the University of Birmingham, examines “the interarts collaboration of Eliot and Kauffer as a case study of modernist illustration, and the relationship between word and image in the period.”
In Illustrating Eliot: Edward McKnight Kauffer and the Ariel Poems, Quin says that “Kauffer engaged with, interpreted, and adapted a hitherto uncharacteristic visual language employed by Eliot in the Ariel Poems.”; and that “The extended interarts dialogue across the Ariel Poems series provides a case study of the influence of Eliot’s critical and poetic vocabulary on his contemporaries.”
The essay, which requires authentication for access, is here.
The ‘toxic presence of capitalism’ in ‘The Waste Land’, July 2023
Samuel Joseph Higson-Blythe, of the University of Huddersfield, has authored What the Thunder really said: T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ as a proto-Necrocene; the Necrocene being “an epoch defined by capitalist accumulation hurling humanity towards the apocalypse.”
He proposes that “the toxic presence of capitalism throughout [‘The Waste Land’], literally and symbolically, paints a dangerous picture of our accumulation and consumption”. He argues that throughout the poem water is a symbol of capitalism; “Madame Sosostris states: ‘Fear death by water’ in the poem’s first section, but she means fear death by capitalism.”
He concludes that “the idea that ‘The Waste Land’ could perceive an apocalypse brought on by capitalist accumulation is both feasible and intriguing.”
Fields is the journal of Huddersfield student research, and an abstract of the essay, and a link to download the essay as an open access PDF, are here.
Postcard confirms Eliot’s reference to Piero Della Francesca, July 2023
Of particular interest may be a postcard from Valerie Eliot, in which she confirms that the reference to “A painter of the Umbrian school”, in Mr. Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service, “is Piero Della Francesca. Tom admired his ‘Baptism’ in the National Gallery; it is referred to in his poem.”
In another postcard, Valerie writes from Menton of their pursuit by reporters after their wedding, but “a lovely honeymoon, apart from TSE catching ‘flu and cracking a tooth”.
The collection also includes two booklets; one the order of service for a mass of thanksgiving at St. Stephen’s Church, Kensington, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, the other a later reprinting of Eliot’s 1952 presidential address to members of the London Library.
The collection is for sale from Lasting Words Ltd at £450 here. UPDATE: Within just hours of going on sale, the collection is “no longer available”, presumably sold.
Rolling Stones’ drummer owned signed TS Eliot book, July 2023
A copy of Collected Poems 1909-1935 is “inscribed in friendship and gratitude to W.J. Crawley by T.S. Eliot.” WJ Crawley was appointed to be Faber’s sales manager and chief London representative in 1933. The auctioneer’s estimate is £3,000-5,000.
The sale, Charlie Watts: Gentleman, Collector, Rolling Stone will be held at Christie’s, London and online on 28thSeptember. Details of the Eliot book are now here.,
Free access to Eliot’s Complete Prose for Festivalgoers, July 2023
A generous offer from the International TS Eliot Summer School will mean that those attending the TS Eliot Festival at Little Gidding this Sunday, 9th July, will be given a code granting free access to the Complete Prose, over 6,500 pages of content from Eliot’s essays, lectures, speeches and other written material.
The code will remain valid until 16th July, a full week after the Festival, during which ticketholders will be able to explore and read online across all eight volumes, completely free of charge. Full details of the Festival are on our Events page, and the access code will be given to Festivalgoers on the day.
TS Eliot and the Return of the Soldier, June 2023
An essay by Wei Zhou, of the University of Leeds, for CoSMo (Comparative Studies in Modernism), draws upon the literary trope of nostos (‘homecoming’) that originates in Homer’s Odyssey, to examine how Eliot’s treatment of the soldier’s return in The Waste Land revisits the archetype of return from war in modern conditions.
“The opening section of this article provides an overview of the trope of the soldier’s return in the ancient and modern renderings that are relevant to Eliot,” writes Dr Zhou in her introduction. “Then I investigate how the impact of shell shock on the soldier [in The Waste Land] unsettles his sense of being at home and alienates him from his wife. In the closing section, I examine the account of Lil’s reaction to Albert’s return from the war to reveal their complex sexual and social relationships.”
Wei Zhou is a LAHRI Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. She is working on a monograph, Homecoming in T. S. Eliot’s Poetry, exploring Eliot’s representation of homecoming in The Waste Land and Four Quartets
The essay can be downloaded from CoSMo 22.1 here.
Denis Healey’s First Edition of The Elder Statesman for sale, June 2023
The copy is inscribed, in Healey’s hand, from Pingles Place, the house in which he lived near Alfriston in East Sussex. He has also written “from Josephine Hart”, the late author and poetry anthologist who launched and hosted the Poetry Hour performances.
The item is for sale, with more details and pictures, here at £245.
Kate Mosse’s Desert Island Four Quartets, June 2023
The novelist Kate Mosse has chosen TS Eliot’s Four Quartets as her desert island book; it is, she says, “The perfect meditation on what it means to be human”
On the BBC’s Desert Island Discs, presenter Lauren Laverne suggests that it will be “tough” for Mosse to choose the one book, in addition to Shakespeare and the Bible, which Mosse can take with her – but Mosse replies that ”oddly, it isn’t” – and chooses Four Quartets.
“TS Eliot’s Four Quartets has been a sequence of poems that have kept me company for all of my grown-up life,” she explains.
“It’s a sequence of poems that can be read in any single way, and mean a different thing at any moment.”
She quotes several of its “beautiful lines”, and says that :”there is just so much beauty in the language, and description in the language, and thought, and philosophy.”
“Religion is not faith,” she says, “and this is a poem of faith.”
This episode of Desert Island Discs is here, and the passage concerning Four Quartets is at 39:23.
TS Eliot items from library of former Faber director, June 2023
Rosemary Goad joined Faber & Faber as a secretary in 1953, initially sharing a room with Valerie Fletcher, soon to become Valerie Eliot. She then worked as an assistant to Eliot’s colleague, the editor Charles Monteith. She became a director of the firm in 1970, the first female employee appointed to the board.
The items include First Editions of On Poetry and Poets, “Inscribed for Charles Monteith in amity, T.S. Eliot, 13. iv.57”; and of The Elder Statesman, “Inscribed for Charles Monteith with grateful appreciation (first time my Co. director has wanted my autograph) by T.S. Eliot, 14. iv. 59.” Also included is a copy of Eliot’s monograph, Geoffrey Faber 1889-1961, copy 76 from a limited edition of 100 copies, signed by TS Eliot.
Details of the auction, to be held on 14th/ 15th June, are here; details of Rosemary Goad and of her library are on p241 of the downloadable catalogue, with the Eliot lots 893-897, among items relating to Heaney, Beckett and others.
TS Eliot Festival 2023 at Little Gidding – details and tickets released, May 2023
Details of the event, a link to booking, and a special ticket discount for Society members are all on our Events page now.
The Journal of the TS Eliot Society UK, May 2023
The new edition, which has been published in both print and digital formats, contains essays and notes on subjects ranging from the centenary of ‘The Waste Land’, and the professional career of Emily Hale, to the compositional structure of ‘Four Quartets’.
Full contents are listed on our Journal page, together with ordering details. The Journal is free to members of the Society, £8 to others.
East Coker and TS Eliot, May 2023
The 26pp booklet explores the history of East Coker, and of Eliot’s ancestors within it, while Society Chair Paul Keers contributes a brief biography of Eliot, and an article on the poem ‘East Coker’, which is also reproduced in full. The booklet contains images of the church and village, and of Eliot himself; the cover photo is of Eliot reading ‘East Coker’ at the BBC.
The booklet is available to anyone visiting the church, but can also be purchased online for £4 here.
‘Who is the third who walks always beside you?’ – Eliot and Shackleton, May 2023
An article posted by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society explores the experiences of Shackleton on his Endurance expedition, which inspired Eliot’s lines in ‘The Waste Land’ about ‘another one walking beside you’.
In the Notes to ‘The Waste Land’, Eliot explains that his lines “were stimulated by the account of the Antarctic expeditions”
The article explains how Sir Ernest Shackleton later recounted, “I know that during that long and racking march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it seemed to me often that we were four, not three.” He said nothing about his experience at the time, but discovered later that his colleagues had had the same experience.
“One feels ‘the dearth of human words, the roughness of mortal speech’ in trying to describe things intangible,” Shackleton said, “but a record of our journeys would be incomplete without a reference to a subject very near to our hearts.”
The article can be read here.
TS Eliot: “Milton is OK”, May 2023
On May 3rd 1947, Eliot gave his ‘special lecture’ on Milton at The Frick Collection in New York. Published on the anniversary of that lecture, Picturing Paradise: TS Eliot, John Milton, and Jean-Honoré Fragonard, an article posted by the Frick, has been updated to incorporate a reference to the lecture within his letters to Emily Hale.
Attended by among others, the poet ee cummings and the painter Georgia O’Keeffe, the lecture appeared to reverse Eliot’s previous opinion of Milton – and was summarised by Time magazine as ‘Milton is OK’.
William York Tindall, a professor at Columbia University, wrote, “T. S. Eliot said that it is all right to read Milton. Some, hushed and excited…marveling at what appeared a critical, philosophical and poetic revolution, reopened Four Quartets. Others closed their Donnes and opened their Miltons.”
But writing of this supposed “recantation” to Emily Hale, Eliot insisted that his lecture “only recants on a few minor details, otherwise the title is merely sensationalism”.
The article speculates on the possible connections between Eliot’s interest in Old Masters, Milton’s “pictorial qualities”, and the works in The Frick Collection, and can be read in full here.
Spring issue of Exchanges, April 2023
Its contributions from members include a a piece by the nephew of Valerie and Tom, Graham Bruce Fletcher. Graham recalls visits in his childhood by Eliot to their family home in Leeds, and trips to Scarborough with Uncle Tom, where “Together we felt like boys conspiring to amuse ourselves by engaging in activities of which the more boring adults would not approve.” He also shares a family photo of them together in the garden.
The issue also has an article by an Indian academic on his spiritual search through Eliot; news of some early recordings of Eliot’s readings; and an appreciation of this year’s winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize.
You can download this new issue here.
Lyndall Gordon to deliver The Annual TS Eliot Lecture 2023, April 2023
Based on the letters from Eliot to Emily Hale, her subject will be TS Eliot’s Secrecy: Disguise and the Hidden Drama of Emily Hale.
The Lecture has been brought forward this year, and this will be the first time that Lyndall Gordon has lectured on the Emily Hale letters since they were made publicly available.
Lyndall Gordon’s lifetime of work on TS Eliot, and her earlier biography TS Eliot: An Imperfect Life, have been rightly praised – but her recent book, The Hyacinth Girl, based on the Emily Hale letters, received particular acclaim. “Emily, who features in The Waste Land as the ‘Hyacinth Girl’, was deliberately cast by Eliot as his inspiration, and then as deliberately rejected by him,” wrote Margaret Drabble in The New Statesman. “It is a tale of betrayal on a grand scale, and it is very well told.”
The Lecture will be given on Thursday 27th April, at 5.30pm, in the TS Eliot Theatre at Merton College, Oxford. Merton was the College where Eliot spent his postgraduate year in 1914.
Before the lecture, Society publications, rare Eliot books and other Eliot items will be available from our stand in the lobby. And after the Lecture, Merton College are generously hosting a drinks reception, where you can chat with the speakers, other Society members, and Eliot authorities and enthusiasts.
Admission to the Lecture is free, but places must be reserved, via tseliotlecture.eventbrite.co.uk
Proof copy of TS Eliot’s PhD thesis for sale, March 2023
Written between 1911 and 1916, Eliot’s thesis was originally titled Experience and the Objects of Knowledge in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley. It was planned for publication in 1963, but the edition was almost entirely withdrawn by Faber & Faber before it was issued; “mistakes had been made in the publishing” according to Robert Crawford. All save ‘a very few’ of the bound copies were destroyed by the publishers; 45 proof copies, bound in printed paper wrappers, were circulated. but most of these copies were recalled by the publishers and also destroyed. This is one of the few remaining copies.
The book was published the following year, as Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F.H. Bradley, with corrections, notes, a bibliography by Anne Bolgan, professor at the University of Alaska, and two appendices by Eliot; these additions are not present in the abortive edition nor here.
The item is for sale at £1,650, and more details and images are with the dealers Peter Harrington.
TS Eliot and Duran Duran, March 2023
“Poetry never saved me,” he told The Times, “but these lines from TS Eliot’s East Coker often save me from myself and my sense of grandiosity, particularly when embarking on a new Duran album:
‘And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
“That’s enough to humble anyone and not get too hung up on ‘making a masterpiece’.”
The full interview, in The Times – My culture fix: John Taylor– is here (£)
TS Eliot’s “not so intimate relationships”, March 2023
In Frozen Love, a lengthy essay in the TLS, the academic and TS Eliot Prize-winner Hannah Sullivan considers TS Eliot’s “complicated relationships”, in the light of Lyndall Gordon’s The Hyacinth Girl, Erica Wagner and Mary Trevelyan’s Mary & Mr Eliot, and the online publication of the Emily Hale letters, edited by John Haffenden.
Sullivan reviews each of them. Mary & Mr Eliot is “an opaque piece of editing”, but “none of this detracts, however, from the book’s readability or the emotional devastation of its ending – Eliot’s disappearance on the eve of his second marriage”.
Sullivan praises John Haffenden’s “meticulously edited and lavishly annotated” online version of the Emily Hale letters; “As an example of subtle, historically patient, verbally acute editing, it is hard to think of anything in modern literary scholarship that can rival Haffenden’s work on Eliot’s correspondence.”
And The Hyacinth Girl “excels at relating the [Emily Hale] letters to Eliot’s current writing projects; on the plays, and Emily’s reception of them, [Gordon] is superb. Her narrative decision to pin the Emily-Tom relationship to the chronology of Eliot’s life…means that the book also functions as a sympathetic, learned and surprisingly concise biography of Eliot himself.”
Sullivan puts forward interesting thoughts about how Eliot’s belief that “the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past”might influence his view of his relationships as much as his view of literature.
And she posits an intriguing notion: “Was Eliot thinking about Emily Hale, and only Emily Hale, when he wrote the lines about the hyacinth girl? He relays other facts about the genesis of the poem inaccurately in the correspondence; we know, for example, that he did not write ‘most of The Waste Land’ in a pension in Lausanne. What if the claim about the hyacinth girl is only a bravura bit of seduction, the great writer formulating a great line?”
The essay, in the issue of the TLS dated March 3rd, is here (£)
Succession actor Jeremy Strong “can’t live without” TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, February 2023
“When I was 18,” he explains, “I went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The Principal told us all to go out and get this book; he said ‘It’s the only thing you ever need to know about acting’. I kind of agree.”
Presumably describing his own work, he quotes “a line in here about a condition of complete simplicity costing not less than everything.”
The video can be seen in full here, and he raises Four Quartets at 13:33.
Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack reading TS Eliot, February 2023
After an introduction, their performance begins with Portrait of a Lady (9:25), and is followed by a very dramatic version of what Irons describes as “a vignette”: Hysteria (18:40), before a performance of The Waste Land (20:00). The couple give a particularly vivid interpretation of the game of chess at 28:30.
The performance was recorded before a live audience at the Borris House Festival of Writing and Ideas, an annual event in Ireland, and can be watched here.
Emily Hale letters released online, January 2023
The letters have been edited and footnoted by Professor John Haffenden, in the format of his ongoing publication of The Letters of TS Eliot. They are presented in chronological order, from 17th September 1930 to Hale’s death in 1969. There are no facsimiles.
The site provides a lengthy and insightful introduction to the letters by John Haffenden; a biographical register (which will prove of use and interest beyond the content of the letters); and an alphabetically organised gallery of images of the letters’ participants, together with several photographs taken by Eliot and posted to Hale. There is also a comprehensive interactive index, its entries linked to individual letters.
The Eliot-Hale Letters can be accessed here.
Princeton’s history of the donation of the letters, the manner in which they were sealed, and their official opening on 2nd January 2020, and facsimiles of the statements by Eliot and Hale which accompanied the letters, can all be accessed through our site under Resources/Letters by TS Eliot via the menu above.
Cat Morgan’s origin rediscovered in Oxford, January 2023
The Oxford English Faculty’s rare books collection is being moved off-site, and while the books were being inspected, their copy of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was found to contain the sheets of the 1951 Faber Book News which introduced Cat Morgan, the Faber & Faber cat absent from the original collection and only added later.
Morley Kennerley, one of the Faber and Faber board members, wrote an introduction for their Book News, explaining that Morgan had comforted “one of the firm’s directors…during the trying nights of fire-watching” during the War. Eliot’s poem was presented as being written by Morgan himself; “perhaps this is not surprising if one considers the literary atmosphere in which he has passed so much of his life.”
In 1958, Eliot confirmed that “the poem appeared first on the mimeographed sheets, to be circulated to booksellers.”
Images of the pages, with their delightful introduction, and the story of their discovery, are on the Bodleian’s English Faculty Library website here.
TS Eliot “given a cowboy hat as in films. But no gun.”, January 2023
They include a letter from Eliot – handwritten, unlike his more commonly typewritten letters.
The letter is requesting assistance with information for accountants in the US handling Eliot’s income tax. The letter also reports that “I have been appointed an Honorary Deputy Sheriff of Dallas, & given a cowboy hat as in the films. But no gun.”
Dated 28thApril 1958, on a New York letterhead and with its envelope, the letter must have been sent back to his office at Faber & Faber from the trip which Eliot and Valerie made to the US that Spring (as detailed in Robert Crawford’s Eliot After ‘The Waste Land’ p460).
In addition, the items include a signed playbill for The Elder Statesman, which opened in the West End later that year; a copy typed letter from Eliot relating his difficulties in finishing that play; and a copy of Old Possum’s inscribed “For Susan McEwen(sic) with warm good wishes to herself and her future husband” and signed “T. S. Eliot 16.x.58”
The items have an estimate of £3-5000; the auction takes place on 7th February at The Cotswold Auction Company, and a full listing and further images are here.
UPDATE: The lot failed to attract opening bids at £2000, and was passed unsold.
Dior Men couture show features The Waste Land, January 2023
In collaboration with the TS Eliot Foundation, the poem was read during the catwalk show by actors Robert Pattinson and Gwendoline Christie, over a performance of music from Max Richter’s Infra.
Dior’s British-born Creative Director, Kim Jones, had previously used Virginia Woolf’s Orlando as a central reference for a Fendi couture show. Jones is an avid collector of rare books.
The show can be seen and heard online here.
Artificial intelligence meets TS Eliot, January 2023
A machine learning model on the OpenAI platform, ChatGPT has received publicity recently for its ability to understand and answer questions with intelligent and grammatically correct responses. It can write essays and scientific papers, and has produced, for example, acceptable editorial leader material for The Times. What would its artificial intelligence take from Eliot’s work?
Asked initially to “write poetry in the style of TS Eliot”, ChatGPT imposed a metre and rhyming scheme which it presumably interpreted as an element of “poetry”; however, many of the words used have clearly been taken from Eliot’s oeuvre:
“The fog rolls in, a thick and heavy shroud
Blinding the eyes, muffling the sound
Of footsteps on the pavement, a lonely tread
Towards an uncertain end, a fate unled
The streets are empty, a ghostly parade
Of buildings crumbling, a seedy charade
Of man’s ambition, now long forgot
A city dying, a legacy rot
But amidst the decay, a glimmer of hope
A light in the darkness, a way to cope
With the sorrow and the pain
And to rise again
For though the world may be a wasteland
And our souls may be a desert,
There is still beauty to be found
In the ashes of the hurt.”
Asked simply to “write like TS Eliot”, the rhyme and metre were abandoned, but the diction and theme, an indication of what artificial intelligence draws from Eliot’s writing, were retained:
“The waste land lies before us,
A parched desert of the soul,
Where nothing grows but the bitter weeds
And the dry, cracked earth.
But in the midst of this despair,
There is a glimmer of hope,
A faint light in the darkness,
A spark of redemption.
For amidst the ashes and the dust,
The Phoenix rises,
And with it, the possibility
Of rebirth and renewal.”
Finally, ChatGPT was asked to “explain The Waste Land”. The result, perhaps comparable to a short encyclopaedia entry, was generated in approximately 15 seconds:
“‘The Waste Land’ is a long, complex poem by T.S. Eliot that was first published in 1922. It is considered one of the most important and influential works of modernist literature. The poem is divided into five sections, each of which explores different themes and uses a variety of literary techniques, including allusion, symbolism, and stream-of-consciousness narration. Some of the key themes in the poem include the decline of civilization, the fragmentation of modern society, and the search for spiritual redemption. The poem is known for its dense, allusive style and its use of multiple languages and literary references, which can make it challenging to understand.”
ChatGPT is on the OpenAI platform here.
Elementary, my dear Eliot, January 2023
In addition to Eliot’s possible influence on Starrett’s writing, the item traces Eliot’s interest in Sherlock Holmes, and notes some references to the stories in Eliot’s work.
Starrett invited Eliot to honorary membership of his Chicago-based offshoot of the Sherlock Holmes Society, the Baker Street Irregulars. In a letter to Starrett Eliot expresses his “appreciation of the honour of being installed as an honorary Baskerville Hound.”
He adds, however, that “I only think that in fairness I should let you know that I am already an honorary Musgrave Ritualist and an honorary Trained Cormorant, so I hope that amongst the various septs or divisions of the Baker Street Irregulars there is no regulation preventing pluralism.”
In 1956 Starrett wrote about their meeting for a Books Alive column, and quotes Eliot on the subject of his publishing duties. “Rejecting bad manuscripts is one of the greatest services performed by a publisher,” said Eliot. “The public has no idea what a publisher’s reader spares it!”
The item, on the site Studies in Starrett, can be read here.
Rare Eliot publications for sale, January 2023
These include the first appearances of East Coker, in a pull-out from the New English Weekly, and in the US Partisan Review.
There are also copies of Collected Poems 1909-1962 and Collected Plays, both signed by Eliot in August 1964, just months before his death.
Along with First Editions of Journey Of The Magi and Triumphal March, and inscribed copies of Four Quartets, details and some images can be seen here.
TS Eliot and the typewriter, January 2023
“I work mostly on the typewriter from rough notes, which I usually destroy.” In an article extracted from his recent book, The Waste Land: A Biography of a Poem, Matthew Hollis describes TS Eliot’s compositional process, and in particular his use of the typewriter.
“My practice is to start a passage with a few pencilled pages,” Eliot wrote to a younger author, “and then when I get going I usually continue it on the typewriter, so that I should never have a complete pencilled manuscript of any poem of any length, and I never have any ink manuscripts at all, unless I prepare them especially.” This explains why there are very few manuscripts by Eliot after his early poems – and why the drafts of The Waste Land is predominantly typescript.
The article, That’s Not Typing, It’s Writing: How T. S. Eliot Wrote “The Waste Land” is on Literary Hub here.
New digital access to The Complete Prose, January 2023
In particular, whereas previously users had to search for terms within each individual volume, you can now search for keywords across the entire collection of 1077 prose pieces with a single query.
Users can now automatically create citations from the text in multiple styles, and instantly access summaries, footnotes and endnotes, and tables of contents, as well as images and indexes.
And the HTML version of The Complete Prose features a responsive web design, so it can adapt and shift to readers’ screens while maintaining identical pagination to the PDF version. These page markers are crucial for students and researchers who need to refer to and cite accurate page numbers
“All of these features streamline the reading process and give scholars and readers the flexibility to browse thousands of pages of Eliot’s work and see the poet and his works in a new and more robust light.”
Details of the new digital platform, with a video walk-through by managing editor Professor Anthony Cuda. are here.
“The Aspern Papers in reverse” – Eliot’s cryptic comment considered, January 2023
The phrase, which Eliot used in his posthumously released Statement about his relationship with Emily Hale, obviously refers to the Henry James novel of the same name. But in the LRB, Paul Keegan said that “’In reverse’ is unclear.” Lyndall Gordon, in her new book The Hyacinth Girl, finds the phrase “more obscure” than other remarks in his Statement. And in Time Present, the newsletter of the International TS Eliot Society, Dr Jennie Hann, whose dissertation was on The Aspern Papers, wrote that, while the phrase was clearly “intended to disparage” Hale, “since it’s not clear what it would mean for James’s story to be ‘reversed,’ the allegation does more to beguile than to revile”.
Keers (Chair of the TS Eliot Society UK) writes that “If the phrase ‘The Aspern Papers in reverse’ is ‘unclear’, then clarifying ‘what it would mean for James’s story to be “reversed”’ may also clarify why Eliot was so ‘disagreeably surprised’ by Hale’s subsequent gift of his letters to Princeton.” Keers offers an explanation, in the context of Henry James’s use of private papers in his fiction as ‘supplements for absent physical bodies’.
‘The Aspern Papers in reverse’: A Note on the Emily Hale Letters is in Essays in Criticism, Vol 72 issue 3.
Lord Harries on two biographies of Eliot, January 2023
In the Church Times, Richard Harries considers two recent biographical works, The Hyacinth Girl by Lyndall Gordon, Mary and Mr Eliot by Mary Trevelyan and Erica Wagner, and their portrayal of TS Eliot.
The Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth is a former Bishop of Oxford, and an Hon. Professor of Theology at King’s College, London.
“It has always been obvious that Eliot was a complicated person,” he writes. “What now emerges is that he was so complex and contradictory that, even with these two indispensable books, he is difficult to fathom.”
The article is here in the Church Times.
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