News

Recent stories relating to TS Eliot
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TS Eliot as Edgelord, August 2022

In an essay on Poetry London, Vidyan Ravinthiran reapproaches The Waste Land in terms foregrounded by the internet. “Do I hear Batman’s Joker,” he asks, “or one of those terminally online males obsessed with him: a would-be-spectacular, self-promotingly ominous provocateur?” He suggests that, rather than any kind of prophet, this makes Eliot, “to draw on today’s internet parlance, an edgelord. 

“The edgelord provokes with opinions of algorithm-exploiting vehemence. He harbinges, hyperbolises. His ‘atavistic righteous indignation’ – to borrow Stephen Spender’s phrase for Eliot’s viciously reductive ‘thumbnail sketches’ of ‘cosmopolitans’ – operates as a cover for his spleen. His avatars include the troll, the Twitter mob-lord, the keyboard warrior.

“What’s remarkable (depressing) is the sheer undiluted confidence with which white male grievance habitually redescribes its frustration as a form of universal truth. The claim of the edgelord, encountered on Twitter or in many poetry volumes, is everywhere the same: my anger, elaborated into a theory, explains everything. There is nothing for anyone else to say.”

The child of Sri Lankan Tamil immigrants, Vidyan Ravinthiran grew up in a mixed area of Leeds, studied at Oxford and Cambridge, and is now an Associate Professor of English Literature at Harvard. His The Million-Petalled Flower of Being Herewas shortlisted for the Forward and the TS Eliot Prizes. “This isn’t about burning The Waste Land,” he concludes. “It’s about learning to see that beautiful and moving work as a multiple, contingent, self-conflicted, humanconstruction. It isn’t prophecy, it’s a poem.”

Read the essay on Poetry London here.

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TS Eliot – The Waste Land Tour, August 2022

A weekly guided walk takes participants around the key sites in the City of London mentioned in The Waste Land– and Society Members are offered a concessionary price.

TS Eliot – The Waste Land Tour takes place every Wednesday at 11.30am, starting from Blackfriars Underground Station. “Up Queen Victoria Street to where St Mary Woolnoth kept the hours, down King William Street to St Magnus the Martyr. And of course London Bridge and ‘a public bar in Lower Thames Street’.”

The walk is guided by Rick Jones, a Blue Badge Guide (and pianist and freelance writer) who for most of his working life was a journalist. As such he was for ten years chief music critic for the Evening Standard and he remains Secretary of the Critics Circle.

Full details, reviews and reservations for the walk are here. Payment of £15 is taken on the day – and Members are entitled to the concessionary rate of just £10; quote the Members password when paying.

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T.S. Eliot Memorial Service footage, August 2022

Vintage footage has been uploaded of the memorial service for TS Eliot, held at Westminster Abbey on 4th February 1965.

Taken from the AP Archive, the brief (1:39) footage captures, in silent b/w, the arrival and departure of some of the congregation. These include Valerie Eliot (left), and a (magnificently top-hatted) Sir Alec Guinness, who read from Eliot’s work during the ceremony.

The footage can be viewed here

 

 

 

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Trevor Nunn: “People thought staging T.S. Eliot was ridiculous”, July 2022

The legendary theatre director Trevor Nunn has spoken about the staging of Cats, for which he was responsible – and the film, for which he was not.

Sir Trevor, who ran both the RSC and the National Theatre, studied under Leavis at Cambridge – but part of his his success, writes Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph (£), has been to bridge the gap between “serious” fare and popular entertainment. A prime example was Cats. “There were only snorts of derision when I told people I was doing a show based on TS Eliot’s poems – they thought it was ridiculous,” Nunn recalls.

“We did a huge amount of improvisational work around the characters – so there were all these storylines between them, it’s very subtextual,” he says.

But when Nunn offered to help with the movie Cats he never heard back. “It became clear that a different approach was going to be taken, and it was terribly upsetting to realise that the whole thing had been misunderstood – that the starting-point [putting a premium on CGI] was catastrophic.”

He has refused to even see the film.

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Lyndall Gordon on The Hyacinth Girl: T.S. Eliot’s Hidden Muse, July 2022

Details have now been released of Lyndall Gordon’s forthcoming book, The Hyacinth Girl, which draws upon the letters from Eliot to Emily Hale.

The publisher, Virago, says that “Lyndall Gordon reveals a hidden Eliot. Emily Hale now becomes the first and [most] consistently important woman of [Eliot’s] life — and his art.

“Emily Hale was at the centre of a love drama he conceived and the inspiration for the lines he wrote to last beyond their time.

“Gordon also offers new insight into the other spirited women who shaped him: Vivienne, the flamboyant wife with whom he shared a private wasteland; Mary Trevelyan, his companion in prayer; and Valerie Fletcher, the young disciple to whom he proposed when his relationship with Emily foundered. Eliot kept his women apart as each ignited his transformations as poet, expatriate, convert, and, finally, in his latter years, a man `made for love.’”

Full details and pre-ordering are now available via the Virago Bookshop.

The Hyacinth Girl, Virago, 432pp, is scheduled for publication on 6thOctober,  ISBN-13: 9780349012117, £25

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Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys on The Waste Land, July 2022

Interviewed for This Cultural Life on BBC Radio 4, Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys mentions the influence of Eliot’s The Waste Land on his band’s hit, West End Girls.

“I always loved the poem The Waste Land by TS Eliot,” he says. “I don’t really understand it to this day, but I love all the voices…you know, when it’s ‘Good night ladies, good night’, the women talking in the pub, women talking on the bus. I love the idea of having a collage of voices, and so in writing West End Girls I was also thinking of writing a collage of different voices, so it’s not just one voice all the way through.”

The interview is on BBC Sounds here, and this section begins with an extract from The Waste Land at 36:24.

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Summer issue of Exchanges, July 2022

The Summer issue of our Society quarterly, Exchanges, is now available for download.

Its contributions from members include a reflection on Little Gidding and consolation; reports from this year’s Annual TS Eliot Festival at Little Gidding; a review of Matthew Geary’s book TS Eliot and the Mother; and an article on teaching The Waste Land to A Level students.

You can download this new issue here.

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BBC celebrate centenary with He Do The Waste Land in Different Voices and more, June 2022

The BBC has announced several programmes on radio and TV which will celebrate the centenary of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land.

On 10th July, on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds, He Do The Waste Land In Different Voices “will see the poem 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 “bring the characters from the poem to life”:
Marie & Madame Sosostris: Maggie Steed
The Seer: Adrian Edmondson
The Hyacinth Girl: Esme Scarborough
The Poet: Paul Ready
The Woman in the Pub: Tilly Vosburgh
The Actor: David Haig
Tiresias: David Calder
The Typist: Matilda Tucker

“Carefully created to evoke a sense of fractured time, with haunting whispers of catastrophes to come, the sound remains faithful to the themes of anxiety, loss and anger found within the text as well as the uncertainty of the modern age we currently live in.” Produced by Caroline Raphael, the performance also features the work of award-winning sound designer David Thomas. Permission was granted from the Eliot Estate to mark the centenary with this new adaptation.

The programme will be preceded by a feature about the poem, for which Paul Keers (Chair of the TS Eliot Society) has interviewed leading Eliot scholars Lyndall Gordon, Mark Ford, Seamus Perry, Stephen Connor, and Nancy Fulford, archivist for the T S Eliot Estate. “Taking listeners into the Eliot archive, the feature will contextualise the text and provide insight into Eliot’s own inspirations as well as the story behind The Waste Land.”

He Do The Waste Land in Different Voices is available on BBC Sounds until 9th August.

Update: An article in The Sunday Times explores the story behind the making of both the feature and the dramatic production.

And a discussion with excerpts on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row previewed both the feature (“really interesting to cast light and different shades on the audio play that follows”) and the audio drama itself (“I loved the way they really played with sound and texture”). The item can be heard here beginning at 21:41.

Later this year, on BBC Two and iPlayer, a new documentary, T.S. Eliot: Into ‘The Waste Land’, directed by Susanna White, will “uncover the hidden personal story behind Eliot’s creation of his celebrated poem… Moving through all five sections of the poem, the documentary explores many different facets of The Waste Land, from Eliot’s state of mind during each phase, to the different places where it was composed.”

And on Radio 4 and BBC Sounds in November in Hold On Tight: The Women Of The Waste Land, arts writer and broadcaster Jude Rogers “immerses herself in the worlds and the voices of the women inside and outside T.S. Eliot’s extraordinary poem.” Initial details of these later broadcasts are here and further information will follow nearer the broadcasts.

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Alice Oswald’s “distracted walkabout with TS Eliot and others”,  June 2022

The latest lecture by Alice Oswald as Oxford Professor of Poetry can now be heard online.

Titled The Life and Death of Poetry, her Trinity term lecture was subtitled A distracted walkabout with T.S Eliot and others. “This is not a lecture about The Waste Land,” she begins. “It is an assembly of voices invoked by and including The Waste Land to let me read it more refreshingly.”

Nevertheless, the poem is at the heart of her lecture, and particularly the discarded original opening. She find that there are “two Waste Lands – the sermonising one, which guides a reader from a death to an attempted resurrection; and the carnival one, published in facsimile, with Old Tom leading the procession.” It is the latter which is echoed in her “walkabout”.

Oswald explains that moving from rural Devon to urban Bristol has changed her relationship with the poem, and her “walkabout” in the city encounters other writers from graffiti artists and a street poet to Linton Kwesi Johnson. “It is not just that the city has altered the poem,” she says, “but by the time I’ve rushed out to walk the streets with my hair down, so, the poem has altered the city.”

The lecture can be heard here.

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TS Eliot books in Bonhams auction, June 2022

A typescript proof copy of Four Quartets, stapled in blue printed Faber wrappers (right, click to enlarge) is just one of the items related to TS Eliot which are included in an auction of Fine Books & Manuscripts at Bonhams, Knightsbridge on 22nd June.

There is also a copy of Triumphal March inscribed “for [French writer, journalist and literary critic]Ramon Fernandez from his friend T.S. Eliot”;  and a US First Edition of For Lancelot Andrewes inscribed to his cousin, “Eleanor Hinkley from T.S. Eliot affectionately/ 30.iv.29/ (I am not responsible for the Stars, or the wrapper)”, the latter a complaint about the US book’s design.

There is a First Edition of his Collected Poems 1909-1935, inscribed three days before its publication to his friends “to G. & Polly Tandy/ Compts. of Possum 31.iii.36″ (mentioned in Letters Vol 8). And there is a copy of Poems 1909-1925, the Faber & Gwyer First Edition of 1926, in its rarely-surviving dustjacket (left, click to enlarge)

Images of all the items can be seen in the online Bonhams catalogue, lots 174-178.

Update: The typescript proof copy of Four Quartets sold for £1,657.50 including premium; the inscribed Triumphal March for £1,020; the inscribed For Lancelot Andrewes for £2,040; the inscribed Collected Poems 1909-1935 for £2,295; and the Poems 1909-1925 for £892.50.

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Eliot After The Waste Land published, June 2022

The second and concluding volume of Robert Crawford’s biography of TS Eliot, Eliot After The Waste Land, has been published.

“In this compelling and meticulous portrait of the twentieth century’s most important poet,” reads the flyleaf, “Robert Crawford completes the story he began in Young Eliot. Drawing on extensive new sources and letters, this is the first full-scale biography to make use of Eliot’s most significant surviving correspondence, including the archive of letters…detailing his decades-long love affair with Emily Hale.

“This long-awaited second volume… tells the story of the mature Eliot, his years as a world-renowned writer and intellectual, and his troubled interior life.

Eliot After The Waste Land, 609pp (124pp of acknowledgements, footnotes & index), Jonathan Cape, £25

See our Events page for events connected to publication; links to reviews are updated below as they appear:

Erica Wagner, New StatesmanHow TS Eliot found happiness
Crawford’s magisterial account sometimes feels overcrowded with details of this lecture given, or that essay published in a certain journal. Yet such comprehensiveness is, and will be, invaluable to scholars. And it means that the tender, elegiac final notes of this book are all the more striking. The portrait of the poet’s final years is one of joy – joy despite his own ill-health and the loss of many old friends to death’s reaping scythe. With his last breath Tom Eliot spoke his beloved wife’s name.”

John Carey, The Sunday Times (£) – “Sex, betrayal and three women who loved him”
   “To many readers TS Eliot seems an austere and remote figure, hidden behind unintelligible poetry and intimidatingly erudite prose. So it is a pleasant surprise to find that in this whopping second (and final) volume of Robert Crawford’s biography, although due attention is paid to Eliot’s writing (and to his rampant racism and antisemitism), Eliot’s love life, or lack of it, is a big concern…
“Perhaps Eliot demonstrates what Jonathan Bate notes in Radical Wordsworth. Being starved of sex brings out a poet’s greatest work. Sexual satisfaction is calamitous.”

Sean O’Brien, The Telegraph (£) – This new biography makes TS Eliot’s life seem unthinkably grim.
   “Full of voices, friendships and conflicts, Crawford’s book is rich and dense as Christmas cake…Nobody, least of all Eliot, seems to have had any fun: for him the revulsion seems to have been the payoff…As Crawford reads him, Eliot was in many ways an unappetising figure.”

Stuart Kelly, The ScotsmanThis account of the second half of TS Eliot’s life is suitably complex.
   “Crawford is the first biographer to have access to Eliot’s correspondence with Emily Hale, which was sealed for 50 years, and there is therefore a tranche of new detail, speculation and inference possible. But Crawford wisely states ‘my aim is not to neaten his life, or reduce it to one expository template, but to let it emerge in its sometimes complex, contradictory messiness’. Messiness is a very apposite word.”

Philip Hensher, The SpectatorIs TS Eliot’s great aura fading?
   “This book is a thorough, solid sequel to Crawford’s much-praised Young Eliot. It benefits from the opening up of new material, the publication of letters and a proper edition of both the prose and the full body of poetry… This biography is going to play a large part in any future assessment of Eliot, and has an overall solid authority. What will happen to that reputation?”

James Marriott, The Times (£) – Inside TS Eliot’s weird and miserable world
   “In this dismayingly thorough second volume of his biography of the poet… Robert Crawford digs through the drifts, heaping shovelfuls of speeches and honorary degrees on to the helpless reader. It is our privilege to witness the author of The Waste Land engaging in such scintillating activities as ‘speaking at a . . . celebration in Chichester after his return from a short Spanish holiday’ and ‘unveiling a plaque to Yeats’.
“‘Celebrating Eliot’s honorary degree from the University of Rome, [Eliot and his wife] stayed for over two weeks, relishing the food.’ Well, good for him. Although less good for me since I had to read about it. To my distress, Eliot was awarded 13 honorary degrees.”

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Terry Eagleton on TS Eliot’s “conservative modernism”, June 2022

“For most moderately enlightened readers today, Eliot’s social views range from the objectionable to the obnoxious.” In the June issue of Commonweal magazine, Terry Eagleton, “distinguished visiting professor of English literature, University of Lancaster”, considers The Pope of Russell Square – TS Eliot’s conservative modernism.

His essay explores Eliot’s ideal social order, and his position as “a radical of the right”. “A belief in social order need not be authoritarian,” writes Eagleton, “it may rather be an alternative to the anarchy of the marketplace. It may also be preferable to a liberal civilization in which everyone may believe more or less what they want—but only because convictions don’t matter much in any case, and because the idea of human solidarity has withered at the root.”

Eagleton considers the roles of history, poetic impersonality and classicism in Eliot’s poetry, and the way in which “For Eliot to be loyal to one criterion of a classic, then, is to flout certain others: order, balance, harmony, nobility, and the like. It means producing a poetry marked by spiritual disorder, sordid imagery, broken rhythms, banal snatches of speech and barren inner landscapes.”

“The late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries,” Eagleton concludes, “bear witness to ‘a progressive refinement in the perception of the variations of feeling, and a progressive elaboration of the means of expressing these variations’ (The Sacred Wood). That this stretch of time is also the matrix of much of what Eliot detests—materialism, democracy, individualism, secularization—is an instance of the cunning of history, which takes with one hand what it gives with the other.”

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The Waste Land after One Hundred Years, June 2022

A newly published collection of eight essays reflects on TS Eliot’s The Waste Land one hundred years after its original publication. The Waste Land after One Hundred Years is edited by Steven Matthews, Professor of Modernist Studies and Director of the Samuel Beckett Research Centre at the University of Reading.

“At this centenary moment,” say the publishers, “the contributors both celebrate the richness of the work, its sounds and rare use of language, and also consider the poem’s legacy in Britain, Ireland, and India.

“Some contributors seek to re-read the poem itself in fresh and original ways; others resist the established drift of previous scholarship on the poem, and present new understandings of the process of its development through its drafts, or as an orchestration on the page. Several contributors question received wisdom about the poem’s immediate legacy in the decade after publication, and about the impact that it has had upon criticism and new poetries across the first century of its existence.”

Published by Boydell and Brewer, the 210pp collection is £19.99 in Ebook or £30.00 in hardback, and full details are here. Our Events page also carries details of the launch event, open to all, which includes two seminar panels and a reading of the poem, both in Oxford and online.

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The Love Song of TS Eliot, May 2022

An article in The Observer previews both the release of the Emily Hale letters, and the publication of Eliot After The Waste Land, the second volume of Robert Crawford’s biography of TS Eliot. Crawford is the first biographer to be given permission to reproduce passages from the Hale letters, ahead of their planned publication online.

Crawford believes that, through these letters, Eliot revealed what he saw as his true self. He told The Observer that “[Eliot] sees himself as an emotional person. He’s very aware that people see him as a rather cold intellectual.

“That’s the way that people often regarded TS Eliot – and still regard him. People who perhaps don’t get his poetry feel there’s a crossword puzzle aspect to it.

“But if you read it aloud, you realise that there’s tremendous emotional disturbance underneath a lot of Eliot’s poetry. Sometimes people wonder where that came from. I think it came from this sense of longing, bound up with his feelings for Emily Hale.”

A surprisingly similar article, focussing primarily on the Hale letters, is published in The Times (£)

For more details of Robert Crawford’s book, scroll down to March of this year.

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TS Eliot and Groucho Marx, revisited, May 2022

An article in Jstor Daily explores once again the surprising relationship between TS Eliot and Groucho Marx

“Their encounter has the feel of a tragic Modernist fable about the impossibility of communication; two radically different men—one an iconoclast, the other an elitist—both geniuses in their respective domains, forever blown about on the winds of their own insecurity and anger.”

While adding little to the story of their letters and meeting – see our Resources/Miscellany/Recollections for that – the article delves into the characteristics of Jewish humour in the period of Modernist literature, and suggests that Eliot and Marx “needed each other; Eliot to rehabilitate his pre-war image, Marx to receive the benediction of the literati he so coveted.”

“Separated by class, by upbringing, by nation, by ethnicity, by religion, Eliot and Marx’s distance may seem marked, but all of us are separated from one another regardless. Facing such the predicament of our myriad alienations, Modernist poetry responds with a plaintive whine, while Jewish comedy is perfectly content to laugh.”

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This year’s Journal is published, May 2022

The 2022 edition of The Journal of the TS Eliot Society has just been published.

Edited by Dr Scott Freer, the 2022 edition contains essays and reviews on subjects ranging from the gift of the Emily Hale letters to an examination of Eliot and Evelyn Waugh.

Full contents are listed on our Journal page, together with ordering details. The Journal is free to members of the Society, £8 + p&p to others.

 

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How Siegfried Sassoon pictured ‘Pastor T Stearns Eliot’, May 2022

A sale of artworks by Siegfried Sassoon includes an extraordinary Christmas card, on which he has pictured TS Eliot as a priest.

In a full length portrait, Eliot is drawn in pencil, wearing a full-length cassock and a blue stole, lettered “TSE”.

The inside of the card reads “Wishing you a prim Xmas and a priggish New Year”, and “From Pastor T Stearns Eliot, Modernist Tabernacle, Boston, Mass:”, with a pasted on example of Eliot’s signature.

In later life, the auctoneers say, Siegfried Sassoon felt embittered towards the new generation of modernist poets such as Pound and Eliot. In one letter he wrote, “I now live almost entirely detached from the literary scene and the younger generation and am liable to assume that none of them regard me as having any significance in the Eliot/Auden age”.

Full details of the sale with further images are here.

UPDATE: This item sold for £900.

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The Waste Land First Edition signed by T.S. Eliot, May 2022

An extremely rare First Edition of The Waste Land signed by TS Eliot has come on to the market.

“Signed or inscribed copies of either the first American or first English edition of Eliot’s `magnum opus’ are rare,” writes the bookseller Peter Grogan. “The last signed copy at auction was over half-a-century ago (although there have been two inscribed copies since then).

“The signature here appears to have been done (presumably for a collector) in the late 1940s or early ’50s.”

Signed by Eliot to the title-page beneath his printed name, which he has crossed through, the book itself is described as “a very good copy in supplied first-state dustwrapper with significant conservation”. Although it is being sold from London, the book is priced at US$57,500 and full details are here.

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Full colour Centenary Edition published of The Waste Land Facsimile & Transcript, April 2022

Featuring full colour photography for the first time, Faber have today published a Centenary Edition of The Waste Land Facsimile & Transcript of the poem’s original drafts.

The new edition replaces the monochrome images in the 1971 and subsequent editions with full colour images, revealing for the first time the variations in paper stock, typewriting and carbon copies, and pencil and ink handwriting.

A short article by Matthew Hollis explains the background to the new edition, and also details the material included for the first time: images of several verso notes, which were only footnoted previously; three bills for Eliot’s stay at The Albermarle Hotel in Margate; and the label with which Eliot mailed his original drafts in a package to John Quinn in New York.

The Centenary Edition is published by Faber, 161pp paperback, £25.

A full review of the Centenary Edition, with comparative images, is in the Spring issue of our Society quarterly, Exchanges – see item below for details of its free download.

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Spring issue of Exchanges, marking the centenary of The Waste Land, April 2022

The Spring issue of our Society quarterly, Exchanges, is now available for download.

Marking the centenary of The Waste Land, its contributions from members include reminiscences of first encounters with the poem; images from the First Edition’s dustjacket and promotional material; a look back at initial critical responses to The Waste Land; and the first review with images of the new full-colour Facsimile & Transcript Centenary Edition.

You can download this new issue here.

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TS Eliot in Margate, April 2022

“It’s 1921, and in Margate the sunniest October on record is fading into a cool November. On a bench in a shelter down by the beach, a tired-looking man of 33 is trying very hard to do nothing. This does not come easily to him. He is, by temperament, a worker and a worrier, but he is under instructions from his doctor to do nothing. His employer, Lloyd’s bank, has given him three month’s paid leave for that very purpose.

“So he does nothing, or almost nothing. He sketches passers-by. He practices scales on a mandolin. And he writes the lines at the heart of what will become the most influential poem of the next hundred years”

In The Telegraph (£), Tristram Fane Saunders takes a trip to Margate, and tries “to walk where Eliot walked, see the places he saw”, in order to connect physical aspects of the town in which Eliot wrote part of The Waste Land to lines from the poem and manuscript. He quotes Lyndall Gordon and Matthew Hollis on the poem, together with Carl Barat, frontman of the rock band The Libertines, who runs a hotel in the town.

“On Margate Sands,” he writes, “Eliot connected nothing with nothing to make something, something that we will read as long as there are readers.”

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The Sacred Wood, inscribed by TS Eliot to his niece, April 2022

A copy of The Sacred Wood inscribed by Eliot to his niece, Theodora Eliot Smith, has come up for sale through Blackwell’s Rare Books.

This Second Edition of the book, for which Eliot added his preface, is inscribed “For Theodora Eliot Smith, from T. S. Eliot, 25.vii/28”

Blackwell’s explain that Theodora “was the daughter of Eliot’s sister Charlotte, who had died prematurely a couple of years before – at the end of a summer during which Theodora had visited the Eliots in Paris, where Vivien had been staying at the Sanatorium de la Malmaison. The young Theodora had made a very favourable impression on the beleaguered Eliot, not least for the affection she displayed towards Vivien.”

Details of the book are here

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TS Eliot and Bob Dylan – a previously unpublished link, April 2022

An unpublished poem by Bob Dylan has provided an important early link between the two Nobel Laureates, Dylan and TS Eliot.

The poem appears in sixteen pages of handwritten, Beat-style poetry, written by Dylan some time in 1959 or 1960, while at the University of Minnesota. Writing under his newly-adopted name of Bob Dylan, and with a cover page calling them “Poems Without Titles”, the pages have just come up for auction.

Of particular interest are lines describing a romantic date: “I thought she was hip when we sat and drank coffee and I flipped when she recited all of Prufrock by heart.”

It provides evidence that Eliot was in Dylan’s consciousness from his teenage onwards. He would later go on to refer in Desolation Row to “Ezra Pound and TS Eliot fighting in the captain’s tower”, and to recite the opening lines of The Waste Land during his radio show Theme Time Radio Hour.

The full story of Dylan’s Poems Without Titles has been posted by Hot Press, and the individual poems are for auction at RR Auctions with an estimate in excess of $20,000 per poem.

 

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TS Eliot’s modernism “between high and low culture”, April 1922

A Guardian opinion piece balances the centenary of The Waste Land with Eliot’s feelings about the death of the music hall artiste Marie Lloyd, and the way in which his work and his references span both high and low culture.

“What the poet found in the most popular music hall artiste of his time,” says the paper, “shines a light on a misunderstood genius and the time he lived in.”

The Guardian claims that “A century on, Eliot can seem an effete, politically unattractive character, who has held the academy in thrall with his wilful obscurity.”

However, the paper highlights Eliot’s grief at the death of Marie Lloyd. It quotes from his letter of 1922: “No other comedian succeeded so well in giving expression to the life of [her] audience, in raising it to a kind of art.”

And the paper concludes: “The same could be said of Eliot himself. He lived through two world wars and has left monuments to both. But it’s often his less grandiose interventions that resonate.”

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The Waste Land  “couldn’t be more relevant to now”, April 2022

An article in The Guardian previews the forthcoming fragments festival celebrating the centenary of The Waste Land, and incorporates views of the poem from some of those involved in the event.

Jeanette Winterson, who will speak on the opening night, says of the poem that “It’s a slow point in the turning world. It encourages you to take your hand off the panic button and breathe a bit deeper. There’s a real meditative quality to it, if you spend the time.”

While the British-Indian pianist Rekesh Chauhan, who will perform one of the weekend’s closing events, says that “The Waste Land is dark, but there’s also a lot about regeneration, renewal, spring. I really hope that will come out.”

Co-curator Séan Doran says: “A hundred years on, here we are again: Covid, world war, the sense of the fragility of life, even climate change. The poem couldn’t be more relevant to now.”

London’s Evening Standard has published a short guide to the festival, highlighting some of the performances taking place, and CityAM have an overview of the event.

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Collecting the centenary, April 2022

“Collectors often come to me in search of a first edition of The Waste Land, and I have to ask a troublesome question: ‘which one?'”

Sammy Jay is a specialist in literature at Peter Harrington, the largest antiquarian book dealer in Europe. In “Mixing Memory and Desire”: Collecting the centenary in poetry, an article in Poetry London, he discusses all of the ‘first appearances’ of The Waste Land, in the magazines The Criterion and The Dial as well as in its First Edition books. He explains the appearance of a cache of pristine US First Editions, and discusses the UK First Edition, “in some ways the most interesting”,  published by the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press.

“Perhaps the most intriguing of these to have passed through my hands,” he relates, “was one owned by the violinist Olga Rudge, not least because the copy ended up in the library of her lover – Ezra Pound.”

There are several Eliot First Editions available to Members Only on our Bookshelf page – but sadly not of The Waste Land. Peter Harrington currently have for sale a copy of the First Edition of The Criterion, containing the first appearance of the poem, for £7,500.

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Fragments festival preview featuring Jeanette Winterson, April 2022

On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on April 1st, at 8:43 am, there was a preview of the fragments festival celebrating the centenary of The Waste Land.

During the item, author Jeanette Winterson spoke about her own relationship with Eliot’s work. As a teenager, Winterson’s books were burnt by her mother, and she associated the remnants with Eliot’s use of “fragments” in the poem.

To open the fragments festival, Jeanette Winterson will deliver a “secular sermon”, Looking into the Heart of Light, at Southwark Cathedral on Thursday 7th April at 7pm. Tickets (£10 and £12.50) can be booked here.

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Robert Crawford completes biography of TS Eliot, March 2022

The second and concluding volume of Robert Crawford’s acclaimed biography of TS Eliot is scheduled for publication on 2nd June.

Eliot After ‘The Waste Land’ will draw on extensive new sources and letters, including the archive of letters to Emily Hale, to complete the story which Crawford began with Young Eliot (2015).

“This long-awaited second volume tells the story of the mature Eliot, his years as a world-renowned writer and intellectual, and his troubled interior life,” say the publishers, Jonathan Cape.

“From his time as an exhausted bank employee after the publication of The Waste Land, through the emotional turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s, and his years as a firewatcher in bombed wartime London, Crawford reveals the public and personal experiences that helped generate some of Eliot’s masterpieces. He explores the poet’s religious conversion, his editorship at Faber and Faber, his separation from Vivien Haigh-Wood and happy second marriage to Valerie Fletcher, and his great work Four Quartets.

“Robert Crawford presents this complex and remarkable man not as a literary monument but as a human being: as a husband, lover and widower, as a banker, editor, playwright and publisher, but most of all as an epoch-shaping poet struggling to make art among personal disasters.”

The 480-page volume will have a cover price of £25.

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Novel “imagines a happier ending” for Vivienne Eliot, March 2022

Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight is a just-published novel from Australian author Steven Carroll, which “imagines a happier ending for the mercurial and complicated Vivienne Haigh-Wood,”

The book completes the author’s “Eliot Quartet”, which began with his 2007 novel The Lost Life, which centres on the relationship between Eliot and Emily Hale, over one month in 1934. A World of Other People sees Eliot volunteering as an aircraft spotter during the Blitz in 1941; and in A New England Affair, it is 1965, Eliot is dead and Emily Hale, now 72 years old, confronts her position as the poet’s muse.

““Right from the start,” Carroll told The Observer, “I decided that Eliot would not be a character, but a presence. It was too daunting to go into the mind of TS Eliot. Instead you have a portrait of him from all different people, incorporating all sorts of facets of Eliot – something that one portrayal in one novel couldn’t do. The Eliot you meet in The Lost Life is quite different from the Eliot in Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight.”

Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight follows Eliot’s first wife Vivienne, after she was committed to an asylum. Carroll imagines a different life for her, in which Vivienne escapes the asylum and goes into hiding. The publishers, Harper Collins Australia, describe it as “A delicate dance between what was and what might have been, between fact and fiction…, a daringly revisionary story of Vivienne… imagining a wholly different and entirely satisfying ending to her story.”

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TS Eliot in translation – conference deadline extended, March 2022

The deadline to submit papers to the international conference on Eliot in translation has been extended to April 30th.

The conference is to be held in October 2022 by LARCA, the Laboratoire de Recherche sur les Cultures Anglophones, at the University of Paris.

The LARCA “invites TS Eliot scholars, and specialists of Modernism more generally, to share and discuss their (re)assessment of the reception of TS Eliot’s works and ideas in the various languages of Europe. We are especially, but not exclusively, interested in probing the role of translation in reception and canonization processes, that is, in the formation and reshaping of literary canons and their effect on the circulation of literary theory. Conversely, examining translation processes and their effects on literary reception may shed new light on reading, criticizing and teaching Eliot.”

The call for papers and full details of the conference are here.

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The ‘devoted patience’ of TS.Eliot, wartime correspondent, March 2022

In the TLS , Seamus Perry reviews Volume 9 of The Letters of TS Eliot 1939-1941 (scroll down to August 2021 for publication details), a volume which, he writes, “covers three especially important years in [Eliot’s] life.”

Perry summarises the key events of the period for Eliot, but focusses on his work at Faber, where Eliot was “‘attending to the affairs of other writers’, as he puts it rather sourly at one point.” Perry identifies the ways in which Eliot addresses his authors, highlighting comments from the “deft” to the “droll”, and observes how “[Eliot’s] voice, at once arch and kindly, could sharpen into something more judgemental”.

His review particularly praises the “expert hands” of John Haffenden as editor: “Haffenden is the perfect host: the letters sit on a bedrock of editorial notes, identifying people and texts, quoting generously from other correspondences, Eliot’s own and others’, and adducing all sorts of other material in a manner both companionable and erudite.”

Perry also commends Faber’s publication of the nine volumes of this “magnificent edition” to date; “It is right and good that Faber should be producing it.”

Finally, he notes the US publication of The Gloucester Notebook, the “enterprising and extremely handsome” facsimile of Inventions of the March Hare, (scroll down to December 2021 for publication details), which, he writes, “gives us something of the charisma of the handwritten page”.

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Portrait of TS Eliot’s mother, March 2022

 

A portrait of a young Charlotte Eliot, teacher and poet, and mother of TS.Eliot, has been put up for sale by New York bookseller James Cummins.

The photograph is said to be circa 1870, and is in a glazed but damaged frame. It is enclosed in an envelope that reads “Given me by Theresa Eliot (Mrs. Henry Ware Eliot, Jr.)”

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f r a g m e n t s : The Waste Land 2022 – A Celebration, February 2022

UPDATE – The website for this festival is now live and contains full updated details and booking links – see our Events page for details:

A six day festival from 7th to 12th April will celebrate the centenary of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land with multiple diverse performances in some of the City of London’s most intimate churches.

The f r a g m e n t s festival will allow audiences to “walk where Eliot walked in the City of London, seeing the churches and streets that map The Waste Land.”

Details are yet to be confirmed – the f r a g m e n t s website states that tickets will go on sale 1st March – and will be posted on our Events page when released. However, some events believed to be included are:

• Gavin Bryars Ensemble performing his Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, in St. Katherine Cree Church

• VOCES8 vocal ensemble, in St. Anne and St. Agnes Church

• Maria Youseff, Qunan player, in St. Ethalburga Church

• The Secret Ensemble, performing Sufi and Mystical music from Anatolia, in St. Margaret Lothbury Church

• The Waste Land, a Sound Installation by Pierre-Yves Macé in St. Mary-Le-Bow Church

• UNREAL CITY: Vienna – DJ Sotusura & Guest in St. Clement Eastcheap

• The Waste Land – A Filmed Reading with 5 actors in All Hallows at the Tower Crypt

UPDATE – Some further details have now emerged:

“f r a g m e n t s has been devised to combine a plurality of different voices, different spiritual cultures, popular culture as well as high art. Just as Eliot brought a diversity of styles, influences and tastes into his writing so the curators have done the same to reflect the defining elements of The Waste Land.”

The Festival will open with:

• Jeanette Winterson, giving a secular sermon at Southwark Cathedral

• Liam Ó’Maonlaí (of the Hothouse Flowers) performing songs at St Mary Woolnoth

The Festival will then roll out over five three-hour long sessions between Friday evening 8th April and Sunday afternoon 10th April. Each of the sessions will feature unique performances from a range of performers alongside installations that will happen throughout the weekend. (See above for some anticipated events.)

In addition, Philip Glass’ iconic film Koyaanisqatsi will be screened on a loop alongside live readings of influential poems from the last 100 years, selected by previous winners of the T S Eliot Prize, and performed by Tamsin Greig, Imogen Stubbs and Toby Jones.

“Creating an individual ‘shuffle festival’, audiences are invited to design their own route through the events, which will include music, film, poetry and installation. Moving from church to church, all of which are situated within one square mile of each other, they will experience the different performances in ‘fragments’ reflecting the structure of the poem itself. Audiences will select one of the 5 Celebrations and move between the events programmed in that time slot.”

Marie, Marie, Hold on Tight!, the tribute to Marie Lloyd, Eliot’s favourite music hall performer, previously announced with booking details on our Events page, October 2021, has been added as a conclusion to the Festival on 11th and 12th April.

Full details of the whole festival will be posted on our Events page when released.

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Simon Callow to give centenary reading of The Waste Land, February 2022

The acclaimed actor, writer and director Simon Callow is to give a centenary reading of The Waste Land, at the TS Eliot Festival at Little Gidding on 10th July. He will also continue the tradition of giving a reading of Little Gidding at Little Gidding.

A celebrated Shakespearean actor, Callow has appeared in numerous plays and films, from his role as Mozart in the premiere of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus at the National Theatre, to his BAFTA-nominated role as Gareth in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. He has directed plays and operas, and written a dozen books, including biographies of Welles and Wagner; his biographies of Dickens and Wilde led to a number of events at which he read their works.

Callow read from TS Eliot for Josephine Hart’s Poetry Hour, and in an online preview of an event in 2017, TS Eliot and Decadence, Callow talks about Eliot’s time in Paris, and reads from some of his early poems.

Booking has not yet opened for the 2022 TS Eliot Festival, to be held at Little Gidding on Sunday 10th July, but details will be posted when released. Society members have booking privileges for the Festival.

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The Waste Land at the Charleston Festival, with Benedict Cumberbatch, February 2022

Full details of this event, announced below last month, including booking, are now on our Events page.

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The Waste Land app released for iPhone, February 2022

To mark the centenary of the poem, Faber is releasing the award-winning The Waste Land app for the first time on iPhone as well as iPad.

Celebrated when it was launched for the iPad a decade ago, “This edition carries forward Eliot’s vision and vividly demonstrates how literature can be illuminated by the new digital medium.”

Its features include:

  • Comprehensive interactive notes, original manuscript pages, and the ability to move quickly between sections with a new navigation tool
  • Complete audio readings of the poem, synchronised to the text, by Eliot himself (readings from two periods in his life) as well as Ted Hughes, Alec Guinness, Viggo Mortensen, and Jeremy Irons with Eileen Atkins
  • A specially filmed performance of the entire poem by Fiona Shaw, synchronised to the text
  • Over 35 expert video perspectives on the poem including contributions from Seamus Heaney and Jeanette Winterson

The Waste Land app costs £8.99 for iPhone or for iPad – full details are here

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TS Eliot and the Moot, February 2022

A review article in The Glass, the journal of the Christian Literary Studies Group, explores TS Eliot’s membership of the Moot, the discussion group where Eliot was “drawn into debate about ideological and political issues”, and where the thinking “influenced his The Idea of a Christian Society and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture.”

In TS Eliot: A Cleric of Sorts, Roger Kojecky draws upon his own researches to explore the character of the Moot, a select group of influencers, including Eliot, which convened at weekend gatherings from 1938-1947. “There was an academic tone, with theologians, philosophers, sociologists, educationists and jurists taking part, not all of them with an overtly Christian conviction.”

It was mostly through Eliot’s membership of the Moot, writes Kojecky, that he was drawn into debate about ideological and political issues; he presented a paper, ‘On the Place and Function of the Clerisy’, and the thinking there influenced the writings of other members, as well as his own.

Kojecky reviews a recent book by Jonas Kurlberg, Christian Modernism in an Age of Totalitarianism: T.S. Eliot, Karl Mannheim and the Moot (Bloomsbury Academic); he questions in particular Kurlberg’s depiction of the Moot as ‘a Modernist revitalisation movement’, in the light of Eliot’s own views on Modernism.

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Wartime Eliot documents up for sale, February 2022

A group of papers have come up for sale, including a three page carbon copy of Eliot’s article Poetry in Wartime, “Pages two and three with some hand-annotations and corrections, presumably by Eliot.” The typescript is for sale along with signed letters from Eliot to the American writer and publisher Selden Rodman.

Rodman was an acquaintance of Joyce, Pound and Mann, and co-editor of an American magazine, Common Sense. In one of these letters, in response to a request for a contribution, Eliot explains to Rodman that he “had just broadcast to Sweden…and I enclose the text on which this broadcast is based.” (Eliot lectured in Sweden for the British Council in April and May 1942).

“There is of course a lot more to be said,” writes Eliot, “a good deal that one would say to an American public and not Swede, and this may look too [‘infantile’ is xed out here] simple.” However, Poetry in Wartime was published in Common Sense, 11 Oct 1942.

The documents show signs of fire damage; in 1972 a serious fire consumed most of Rodman’s home in Oakland and severely damaged his papers. He died in 2002. The papers are for sale at $2500 from Second Story Books in Washington DC.

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Winter issue of Exchanges, our Society quarterly, February 2022

The Winter issue of our Society quarterly is now available.

Its contributions from members include articles on this year’s TS Eliot Prize for Poetry; on the expensive Mardersteig editions of Eliot’s works; a personal recollection of Journey of the Magi; an argument against accompanying readings of Eliot with music; and a reaction to the discovery that Eliot once tried wearing pince-nez…

You can download this new issue here.

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Eisenstaedt portrait of TS Eliot in London auction, February 2022

An original portrait photograph of TS Eliot, taken by the celebrated American/German photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, is to be auctioned in London on 8th March.

Taken in 1951, for LIFE magazine, this print is from the photographer’s estate; it is signed by Eisenstaedt in black pen in the bottom right-hand corner, and is titled in ink with artist’s inkstamp on the back.

The auction estimate is £700-£1000 plus fees, with a starting bid of £500. Full details are here.

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Archive containing Eliot letters for sale, February 2022

What is being described as “a fine TS Eliot archive”, of letters, Committee agenda and other documents incorporating “twenty-eight total pages of Eliot’s writing”, has been put up for sale by an American dealer.

Eliot’s letters are on both Faber and Criterion letterheads, and seem to concern Eliot’s work in 1935 with the Church Literature Association; several are exchanges with the Chairman of its Book Committee, Revd Prebendary Charles Harris. They discuss potential subjects, finances and publishing arrangements for Association books; Eliot encourages Harris to commission Lord Hugh Cecil to write a book on marriage and divorce, and they consider authors for a book on “practical ethics”.

At one point, Eliot considers potential readership. “I see no point in appealing to what [Committee member Lowther] Clarke calls the average Clubman . If he means the sort of stock-size jaded man-of-the-world it only reminds me of La Rochefoucauld’s maxim, which I can’t quote exactly: Quand nos vices nous quittent, nous croyons que c’est nous qui les avons quittes. [‘When our vices leave us, we flatter ourselves that we leave them’ – Maximes, 1665]

“I don’t believe that such people are likely to want to read this kind of book anyway. As for the more serious quite young men, they are extremely moral in their own way, and unlimited self-indulgence hardly applies. It is only that their morality is apt to be based on the wrong religion.”

Further details and images of the archive, which is for sale at US$26,500, are here.

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Benedict Cumberbatch in performance of The Waste Land, January 2022

Award-winning actor Benedict Cumberbatch will “breathe new life” into TS Eliot’s The Waste Land, in a world exclusive performance alongside the Britten Sinfonia.

The performance will be part of the Charleston Festival, which will run from 19th to 29th May 2022.

Details have not been released, but will be featured on our Events page when the full programme of Festival events is announced in February.

UPDATE: The Sussex Express reports that “The actor is joined by the Britten Sinfonia orchestra for an extraordinary rendition of the poem set to music originally composed by A Clockwork Orange author, Anthony Burgess.”

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TS Eliot in the BBC’s Modernism season, January 2022

A season of programmes on Modernism, broadcast across BBC Radio 4 and Radio 3, will contain reflections on several aspects of TS Eliot’s work and life.

The Criterion, which published The Waste Land (Radio 4, Jan 25th, 13:45), is part of a Radio 4 series, 1922: The Birth of Now. In this episode, Matthew Sweet and guests will discuss the influence and content of the literary magazine which Eliot founded and edited. Details and listen after broadcast here.

The first episode of that series (Radio 4, Jan 24th, 13:45) considers The Shabolovka Tower and the Gherkin. From the top of the Gherkin, in the City of London, Matthew Sweet will look briefly down at the streets and churches T. S. Eliot mapped in The Waste Land. Details and listen after broadcast here.

And in Headwaters (Radio 4, Feb 8th, 11:30), Rebecca Watson explores the stream-of-consciousness narrative technique, and includes The Waste Land in her consideration. Details and listen after broadcast here.

Eliot’s work is likely to arise in various discussion programmes scheduled during the season, full details of which are here.

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Beastly Clues: TS Eliot, Torquemada and the Modernist Crossword, January 2022

In an article in The Public Domain Review, Roddy Howland Jackson writes about the invention and subsequent craze for the “Cross-Word Puzzle” in the 1920s – and on TS Eliot’s own crossword enthusiasm.

Jackson records Eliot’s habit of “smuggling The Times crossword into ‘tedious’ editorial meetings under the table”; and his delight at “finding a reference to myself and my works in The Times crossword”.

He also mentions the literary critic who wondered whether The Waste Land was “just a rather pompous cross-word puzzle”.

The article draws upon the page on the Eliot Foundation website on TS Eliot’s Crossword Puzzles; and Jackson highlights one clue which Eliot failed to solve:

  1. Written by Johnson; edited by Jerome. Unlike bees and ants (6)

The solution is given in Jackson’s article.

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TS Eliot Festival planned for Little Gidding in 2022, January 2022

After a two year pandemic hiatus, the Annual TS Eliot Festival is being scheduled to take place once again, at Little Gidding on Sunday 10th July 2022.

Plans are being made for the Festival to celebrate the centenary of the publication of The Waste Land.  Biographer and scholar Lyndall Gordon will discuss Eliot’s women, the subject of her own forthcoming book. The Festival will offer its traditional attractions, including audience readings, book sales, discussions, and the open church of Little Gidding itself. And if film and theatre commitments permit, an acclaimed actor, writer and director is hoping to read both The Waste Land and Little Gidding at Little Gidding.

Further details and booking will be announced when plans are finalised, but put the date in your diary now.

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BBC programmes on TS Eliot featuring readings by Jeremy Irons available again, January 2022

Following a repeat broadcast on BBC Radio 4, three programmes of TS Eliot’s poetry, discussed by guests and read by Jeremy Irons, and originally broadcast on New Year’s Day 2017, have been made available again online for a limited time only on BBC Sounds.

In Prufrock and Other Observations, Martha Kearney talks to novelist Jeanette Winterson about her first experience of reading T.S. Eliot; and Jeremy Irons reads: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock; Portrait of a Lady; Preludes; Rhapsody on a Windy Night; Morning at the Window; The ‘Boston Evening Transcript’; Aunt Helen; Cousin Nancy; Mr. Apollinax; Hysteria; Conversation Galante; and La Figlia Che Piange.

In The Waste Land, Kearney and Winterson are joined by Rowan Williams and Jackie Kay to explore the emotional and creative impact of the poem; and Jeremy Irons reads The Waste Land.

And in The Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday and Ariel Poems, actress Fiona Shaw considers the imagery and the seductive music of Eliot’s poems of spiritual struggle; and Jeremy Irons reads: The Hollow Men; Ash Wednesday; Journey of the Magi; A Song for Simeon; Animula; and The Cultivation of Christmas Trees.

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TS Eliot and Virginia Woolf – what if?, December 2021

In an essay published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Megan Quigley, who has had access to Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale, offers “new insight” into the friendship between Eliot and Virginia Woolf. Quigley writes that Eliot had been invited to visit Woolf on the weekend that her death was announced in 1941; because of illness he had turned down the invitation.

“What if Eliot’s illness hadn’t kept him home,” wonders Quigley, “what if he’d eagerly accepted the invitation and shown up at the Woolfs’ house in Sussex for the weekend, as he had several times before?”

When Woolf’s body was discovered, Eliot wrote to Hale: “She was to me like a member of my own family.”

Quigley examines the photographs of Woolf with the Eliots on a previous visit, and Woolf’s comments in letters which have coloured our view of Vivienne, in the light of the relationship we now know to have existed at the time between Eliot and Hale. When Eliot went off to Harvard for seven months, Woolf wrote in a letter to Ottoline Morrell that “I hope the separation is complete and final, as it promised to be”.

“What Woolf didn’t seem to know,” writes Quigley, “(and which could impact her portrayal of Vivien), is that Tom was, in part, moving there to be with or near Emily Hale.”

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TS Eliot International Summer School 2022, December 2021

The Programme has been announced for the 2022 TS Eliot International Summer School.

The Summer School will run from 9th to 17th July 2022. There will be lectures by many of the UK’s leading Eliot scholars, including Mark Ford, Seamus Perry and Sarah Kennedy, and by visiting academics including Megan Quigley, Leonard Diepeveen, Patrick Query, and the Summer School’s Director, Anthony Cuda. There are also a series of small-group seminars, and a poetry workshop with the poet and academic Hannah Sullivan.

The Summer School is held primarily at the University of London, in Bloomsbury. On the 10th July the School will travel to the Annual TS Eliot Festival at Little Gidding, and on 16th July visit Burnt Norton.

The 2022 Programme is here and full details of the Summer School, for which registration will open in January, are here.

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Journey of the Magi analysed in BBC’s Poetry Extra, December 2021

For Poetry Extra, the poet Daljit Nagra has retrieved from the BBC Radio 4 archive an episode of Adventures in Poetry, first broadcast in 2011, on TS Eliot’s Journey of the Magi.

In this 30-minute programme, which features the reading of the poem by Alec Guinness, contributors including Rowan Williams and Christopher Ricks analyse the work, with an excerpt from a broadcast in which Eliot himself talks about his Ariel poems. The poem is placed in the contexts of Eliot’s contemporaneous conversion and nationalisation, and linked to the Christmas sermon by Lancelot Andrewes which inspired its opening.

The programme is now available here but only until the New Year.

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Facsimile of TS Eliot’s Inventions of the March Hare notebook, December 2021

A beautiful facsimile has been published of the young TS Eliot’s handwritten notebook. Commonly known by Eliot’s handwritten title, Inventions of the March Hare, the notebook in which he wrote out poems from the age of 21, including Portrait of A Lady and The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, has been reproduced as The Gloucester Notebook (Galileo Publishers) – although it is not currently available to UK customers.

Its publisher and editor Robert Hyde had lived in Massachusetts, where he first became aware of Eliot’s connection with Gloucester. He then viewed the original notebook in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, and had the idea of reproducing it.

The texts of the poems within the notebook were published by Faber in 1996, in the academic volume Inventions of the March Hare, edited and thoroughly annotated by Christopher Ricks. However, Hyde felt that the poetry itself was somewhat “buried” within the study, and that “a facsimile would be more widely interesting than Ricks’s deep exploration…I wanted to publish something for people who love the verse, rather than for those who want to trace the origin of a particular phrase.”

Prufrock’s Pervigilium, from the Notebook’s pages

Within boards echoing the original cover, the handwritten pages of Eliot’s notebook have been beautifully reproduced, with facing transcriptions. These were often fair copies rather than working drafts, with relatively few amendments, and so on the whole are perfectly legible, with the handwriting itself developing over the years. “The soft, round schoolboy hand in pale blue ink becomes adult, black, spiky and neurasthenic,” writes Robert McCrum, the writer, editor and former Faber executive, in an informative Foreword tracing the notebook’s history and significance.

 

The title, The Gloucester Notebook, was Hyde’s personal choice, partly to avoid confusion with the 1996 volume, but primarily because he “wanted Americans to realise just how significant and formative Gloucester was for Eliot.”

At present, however, the book is published only in the US and Canada; Hyde believes that it will be published in the UK at some later date.

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Designer Es Devlin to give Abbey Theatre’s 2021 TS Eliot Lecture, December 2021

The Annual TS Eliot Lecture at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin will once again be streamed online from London. This will be the sixth in their series of lectures inspired by Eliot’s impact on contemporary culture and society

This year’s lecture will be given by Es Devlin, the stage designer who creates large-scale installations and stage sculptures that combine light, music, and language. She has worked in theatre, opera, Olympic ceremonies, and for performances by musicians such as U2 and Beyonce.

Details of the lecture, which will be streamed on the Abbey Theatre’s YouTube channel on December 19th and then available for a month, are here

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Autumn issue of Exchanges, our Society quarterly, November 2021

The Autumn issue of our Society quarterly is now available. Its contributions from members include a response by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue to a remark in our Spring issue; a reflective piece on re-encountering Eliot’s poetry after a lapse of twenty years; an initial response to Seamus Perry’s T S Eliot Lecture; and a quick look at Eliot’s letters of November 1921, as the great poem of 1922 began to take shape

You can download this new issue here.

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International Conference on TS Eliot in translation, November 2021

An international conference is to be held in October 2022 by LARCA, the Laboratoire de Recherche sur les Cultures Anglophones, at the University of Paris, on TS Eliot in translation. A call for papers has been posted.

The LARCA “invites TS Eliot scholars, and specialists of Modernism more generally, to share and discuss their (re)assessment of the reception of TS Eliot’s works and ideas in the various languages of Europe. We are especially, but not exclusively, interested in probing the role of translation in reception and canonization processes, that is, in the formation and reshaping of literary canons and their effect on the circulation of literary theory. Conversely, examining translation processes and their effects on literary reception may shed new light on reading, criticizing and teaching Eliot.”

Full details of the Conference have been published; proposals are to be submitted before March 22nd, 2022.

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Draft broadcast typescript with TS Eliot’s autograph corrections, November 2021

As part of the Library of DG Bridson, the draft typescript for Eliot’s BBC broadcast of 25 May 1955, in which he discussed Monstre Gai and Malign Fiesta by Wyndham Lewis, has come up for sale.

The poet, journalist and radio producer Douglas Geoffrey Bridson was responsible for over 800 broadcasts in his career at the BBC from 1933 to 1969. He developed friendships with nearly all the major literary figures of his day, but most notably with Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis and TS Eliot. The sale of his library, catalogued here by the booksellers Bernard Quaritch, includes over a hundred items by Pound and Lewis, several with connections to, or introductions by, TS Eliot.

The seven-page typescript of TS Eliot’s broadcast (item 38) has numerous autograph pencil corrections and additions by Eliot throughout. “Eliot evidently struggled in particular with how to express his views on Lewis’s theology (which had long been a point of contention between them),” says the catalogue. “Several efforts result in the final formulation, ‘For instance I do not share his low opinion of the intelligence of Angels’.”

The typescript is for sale at £4500 – plus, to a UK purchaser, VAT.

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Ralph Fiennes on Four Quartets, November 2021

In an interview on BBC Television’s The Andrew Marr Show, Ralph Fiennes talked about Eliot’s Four Quartets, and their themes of time, love, patriotism and death.

Broadcast on Remembrance Sunday, the item includes some brief rehearsal footage from Fiennes’ stage production of Four Quartets, which is now showing at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London for a limited run.

The interview, available on BBC Sounds (the item begins at 1:06:30) ends with a reading by Fiennes from Little Gidding.

Then on the BBC Radio 4 arts programme Front Row, Fiennes was interviewed at greater length about the production, its audiences, and his own developing relationship with the work, which he views as “A spiritual enquiry into what it is to be human…It’s really a meditation on life, this journey of ours and our relationship with the divine.” The 13 minute segment, which can be heard on BBC Sounds (begins at 28.00), contains several longer readings from Little Gidding.

And in The Times (£), Fiennes describes revisiting the poems and learning them during lockdown; his self-direction of his performance; and his visits to the three UK Quartet locations. This online version of the article includes a b/w photograph taken by Fiennes himself of “The deep lane shuttered with branches”, just outside East Coker.

(Ralph Fiennes’ production of Four Quartets previously toured provincial theatres, and extensive details and reviews are on our Events page, June 2021.)

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How TS Eliot went from apprenticeship to accomplishment, November 2021

A new book asks the question, “How does a young man who writes uninspired doggerel about wilting flowers transform himself – in twenty months, without coaching or mentors – into the author of The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock?”

In Becoming T. S. Eliot: The Rhetoric of Voice and Audience in Inventions of the March Hare, Jayme Stayer aims to “explain this staggering accomplishment, following Eliot’s artistic development and tracking parallel transitions in his personal maturation.”

Stayer rearranges the juvenilia in Inventions – which also appear in The Poems – into “the chronological order of their composition, teasing out the narratives of their making”. His objective is to show how “the awkward apprentice becomes the accomplished craftsman”.

Jayme Stayer is an associate professor of literature at Loyola University Chicago. He is the president of the US-based International TS Eliot Society, and was one of the co-editors of The Complete Prose.

The book is published in the US by Johns Hopkins University Press, but is now available in the UK – 360 pages, Paperback, ISBN: 9781421441047 £26.00

Members of the TS Eliot Society (UK) can enjoy a 30% discount off the paperback RRP – see the Members Area for details

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Elizabeth Bowen and TS Eliot, November 2021

The latest issue of the Elizabeth Bowen Review, the academic journal of the Elizabeth Bowen Society, carries an essay entitled The Familiar Compound Ghost of The Demon Lover: A Correspondent Reading of Elizabeth Bowen and T. S. Eliot.

The author, Dr K. Narayana Chandran, of the University of Hyderabad, draws upon Four Quartets to explore the ways in which a reader can make connections between two literary works. “Allusion sometimes creates an illusion of co-presence,” he writes. “I find this ghost of an allusion interesting in what I would call a correspondent reading.”

“Elizabeth Bowen’s The Demon Lover and a few passages from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, especially Little Gidding II, offer very persuasive samples of such echoes. In this ghostly correspondence, the traversal of ghosts is both literal and symbolic, given its common spatio-temporal setting in Bowen and Eliot.”

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Annual TS Eliot Lecture live once again, November 2021

The 2021 Annual TS Eliot Lecture is to be given live, by Professor Seamus Perry in Oxford on Monday November 15th. His title is TS Eliot’s Liberalism.

Eliot, a self-declared Anglo-Catholic, classicist and Royalist, had many critical things to say about Liberalism; yet looking at both his poetry and his politics, Professor Perry will consider whether Eliot may have shared more with the liberalism he deplored than might at first appear.

THIS EVENT IS NOW SOLD OUT

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TS Eliot, The Little Review and Transnational Print Culture, November 2021

In a short essay in The Modernist Review, Zoe Rucker examines Eliot’s contributions to the US periodical The Little Review, in particular “tracing his self-fashioning of a transnational identity”.

Eliot once said of The Little Review that during the earlier part of his career, ‘The Little Review was the only periodical in America which would accept my work, and indeed the only periodical there in which I cared to appear’.

Contributing as an expatriate, Rucker argues that “the space provided by the magazine allowed Eliot himself to negotiate his own transnationalism while also craftily promoting the writing he and other expatriate writers associated with the Little Review were producing.”

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The Waste Land as a post-pandemic poem, November 2021

In an article posted by READ: Research in English at Durham, Gwenda Koo explores How the many voices of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land speak to us after the pandemic.

She argues that “The pandemic has left us with a ‘new normal’, in which our sense of personal connection has changed while a feeling of crisis remains.”

Now, she believes, “as we are easing our way back to the ‘new normal’, a reread of the poem sheds light upon the meaning of human connection – both with the world and with ourselves.”

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Inscribed copy of Little Gidding reflects Eliot’s wartime, October 2021

A First Edition of Little Gidding has come on to the market, affectionately inscribed by TS Eliot to “Mappie”, the mother of the poet Hope Mirrlees.

During World War 2, Eliot would often spend long weekends at Shamley Wood, the Mirrlees’ home near Guildford, Surrey, and wrote parts of Four Quartets while staying there. He became particularly fond of Emily Mirrlees, the poet’s mother, affectionately known as Mappie, and wrote to Emily Hale that “I am very fond of the old lady (to tell the truth, I like her better than Hope).”

(A full account of their relationship is contained in The Letters of TS Eliot Vol 9, 1939-1941, p170)

Inscribed “For Mappie from T.S.E.”, the book is for sale from dealer Peter Grogan for £6,750.

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TS Eliot on cricket, October 2021

An unusual letter written by TS Eliot is coming up for auction in the US.

Written to the Headmaster of Canford School in Wimborne, Dorset in 1953, the letter begins with Eliot admitting that he enjoys watching good cricket, but he goes on to deny that he ever coached the cricket during his period of teaching at Highgate School.

“Having spent my boyhood in America,” he explains, “my early experience was of a very different game, and far from being qualified to coach, I am not even a good critic of such matches as I watch.

“I do not think that one can ever be a really qualified critic of any game one has never practised oneself in one’s own youth.”

The letter (click image to enlarge) is estimated here to sell for $600-$800 on October 23rd

UPDATE: The letter was “passed” at auction, and has subsequently been put up for direct sale online from the US at a price which, including shipping, will convert to approx £490.

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Faber confirm publications for centenary of The Waste Land, September 2021

Faber have released details of the two books they will publish to celebrate the centenary of The Waste Land in 2022.

On 3rd February, marking 50 years since the manuscripts were published in facsimile, Faber will publish a new edition of The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts, in which Eliot’s own pages of typescript and manuscript will be published in “startling” full colour for the first time.

The original edition, edited by the poet’s widow, Valerie Eliot, featured black and white reproductions of the original manuscript pages. This new edition is a reissue in colour, with corrections, of the text of the 1980 reprint, and also includes an appendix of original materials not previously made available.

Then in September 2022, Faber will publish The Waste Land: T S Eliot, Ezra Pound and the Making of a Masterpiece by Matthew Hollis, which will “reconstruct the genesis” of the poem.

Faber say that Hollis “tells the story of the cultural and personal trauma that forged the poem through the interleaved lives of its protagonists – of Ezra Pound, who edited it, of Vivien Eliot, who endured it, and of TS Eliot himself, whose private torment is woven into the fabric of the work. The result is an engrossing story of lives passing in opposing directions: Eliot’s into redemptive stardom, Vivien’s into isolated despair, Pound’s into unforgiving darkness.”

Alex Bowler, Faber publisher, said: “2022 will be a year of celebration, led by Matthew Hollis’ surpassing ‘biography’ of the poem. The perfect match of author and subject, it will reilluminate the poem, shedding new light on what we think we know of The Waste Land and its making. Likewise, the revised colour facsimile edition will provide a depth of new information and understanding for those readers most familiar with the work.”

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TS Eliot and Samuel Beckett paired in new book, September 2021

A new book, Eliot and Beckett’s Low Modernism explores the relation between humility and humiliation in the works of TS Eliot and Samuel Beckett.

“Tracing the relation between negative affect, ethics, and aesthetics,” say the publishers, “Eliot and Beckett’s Low Modernism demonstrates how these two major modernists recuperate the affinity between humility and humiliation – concepts whose definitions have largely been determined by philosophy and theology.”

The author, Rick de Villiers, is a Lecturer in English at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. He has published articles in Literature and Theology, Journal of Modern Literature, Journal of Literary Studies, English Academy Review and English Studies in Africa.

“Rick de Villers presents a fascinating study of an ‘unlikely pair’ of authors,” says Scott Freer, Editor of our academic Journal of the TS Eliot Society, “united by the perennial theme of humility.”

The book is published by Edinburgh University Press, and full details, formats and ordering are here.

Members of the TS Eliot Society (UK) can enjoy a generous 30% discount on the purchase price of this book – use the members’ password to visit the Members Area for details.

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Edward Fox OBE reads TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, September 2021

A new audio recording of Four Quartets by the distinguished actor Edward Fox has been made available by the Trustees of the Eliot Estate. The recording was performed from memory, and the Trustees of the Eliot estate have made it available to mark TS Eliot’s birthday on 26th September.

Now 84, Edward Fox OBE first encountered Four Quartets almost fifty years ago. “At the time, I didn’t understand a word of it,” he recalls.

Over subsequent years Fox read and studied the work – “It’s one of those pieces that demand you know it by heart to really understand it. You don’t really know it until you’ve learned it backwards” – and performed it in the West End in 1980 in a production of Eliot’s poetry titled Let Us Go Then, You and I, with Michael Gough and Eileen Atkins. Having committed the whole poem permanently to memory, he toured his reading of it throughout the UK in the mid-2000s, last performing it in 2011.

The new recording, performed from memory and separated into each of the four poems, can be heard via the website of the TS Eliot Foundation here.

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Broadcast of a musical portrait of TS Eliot, September 2021

A rarely heard “sound painting” of TS Eliot has been broadcast by BBC Radio 3.

As Others See Us (1990) is a set of mixed ensemble compositions by James MacMillan, which were based on portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, London, including Eliot.

“I attempt to capture the split personality of TS Eliot seen in a Cubist portrait by Patrick Heron,” explained the composer. “I took the two profiles to refer to his dual national characteristics – the American who was fascinated by England and especially by High Anglican ritual, therefore his Englishness is captured by quasi-liturgical music; and his American-ness is presented in a 1920s jazz style, for which he was reputed to have had a keen interest.”

For a limited time you can hear a performance of the short (5mins) piece at 55 minutes here.

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Archive of Professor Peter Mayer reveals letters from TS Eliot, September 2021

An archive including twenty letters from TS Eliot has briefly revealed some of Eliot’s views on European writers. The letters were written by Eliot to Professor Peter Mayer, who published five books through Faber & Faber between 1944 and 1959.

Interesting views were expressed by Eliot in thank-you letters to Mayer for gifts of books, by Goethe (his West-Östlicher Divan, which Eliot says “ought to be in the library of every man of letters and I shall both treasure it and use it”) and Paul Valéry (“The conversations with Valéry are a very strange reminder of a highly civilised but rather decadent world which had disappeared!”).

Other subjects touched upon include André Gide and Eliot’s The Cocktail Party; Eliot writes: “I have never read Gide’s Thésé, but curiously enough a phrase from a very early work of his, which I expect you know, called Prométhée mal Enchaîné, stuck in my head in connection with The Cocktail Party. It is simply the text of the Prometheus lecture: Il faut avoir un aigle.”)

A US dealer, Charles Agvent, was asking $25,000 for the archive, which also included many other letters by principals of Faber including Geoffrey Faber, Richard de la Mare, Morley Kennerley, and P. F. du Sautoy, as well as letters by secretaries and others. Although no longer available, some further details of the archive can be seen here .

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Sebastian Faulks opts for TS Eliot, September 2021

The author Sebastian Faulks would choose the poetry of TS Eliot as his desert island companion.

Asked by the Daily Mail which book he would take to a desert island, the novelist initially chooses Proust, “because it’s so long and would keep me going.”

“It might be better, though, to take some poetry,” he reconsiders.

“And if I had to choose, I would probably go for The Complete T.S. Eliot.”

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Rare print of TS Eliot portrait photograph, August 2021

A rare print of a photographic portrait of TS Eliot has come on the market.

The portrait was taken by Elliott & Fry, a firm established in Baker Street, London in 1863. In the early 1940s the studio was bombed and most of the early negatives were destroyed; the National Portrait Gallery owns all the surviving Elliott & Fry negatives, including the half-plate negative of this image.

Taken around 1930, this image will be recognised by many from the dustjacket cover of The Letters of TS Eliot Volume 5, 1930-1931

This 152 x 108mm print is described as “a fine copy”, with Elliott & Fry’s copyright stamp on the reverse, and is priced at £375 by the dealers Peter Harrington.

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Faber country house frequented by TS Eliot up for sale, August 2021

TyGlyn Aeron, once the country house of Geoffrey Faber and frequently visited by TS Eliot, is up for sale.

Geoffrey Faber bought TyGlyn Aeron in the summer of 1930. The house, in Ciliau Aeron, near Lampeter, was a retreat from London for his family, where they went as often and for as long as they could. Faber once wrote that the estate was able to induce in him a ‘god-like mood’.

Eliot became a regular visitor to the house. “I have had the most pleasant week’s visit within memory,” he wrote to Enid Faber in 1935. “Several days of it are individually unforgettable, but what is more important is the recollection of (for me) stupendous physical activity in tranquillity – I mean tranquillity then as in recollection…I will repeat, that I have never had a week’s visit of more unadulterated pleasure.”

For Thomas Faber’s fourth birthday, Eliot invited “All Pollicle Dogs and Jellicle Cats…To come with your Whiskers & Tails & Hair on/To Ty Glyn Aeron/Ciliau Aeron” (Poems II, 162). And a return journey from TyGlyn, “through that delightful and rather magical landscape”, inspired his Landscape III – Usk.

The new Letters of TS Eliot Volume 9, 1939-41, along with several letters planning visits or written during them, also contains a photo of the house, and a delightful photo of Eliot himself dozing within it. And an article on the house by Mary Morgan was published in the Summer 2019 issue of our Society quarterly, Exchanges.

In recent years the house became a restaurant with rooms and wedding venue, and is now being offered for sale as a “diversely appealing” commercial property for £850,000.

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Summer issue of Exchanges…, our Society quarterly, August 2021

The Summer issue of our Society quarterly is now available. Its contents include several perspectives on Ralph Fiennes’ performance of Four Quartets; an article on the flyleaf ‘blurbs’ describing Eliot’s poetry; and a published reminiscence of Eliot by his friend Conrad Aiken.

You can download this new issue here.

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TS Eliot’s 1910 Harvard Yearbook, August 2021

A copy of Harvard’s 1910 Class Album, containing an entry for TS Eliot, has been put up for sale.

The Harvard Class Album of 1910, the year of Eliot’s graduation, lists his date of birth, previous education and home town, along with his Harvard participations: “Stylus, Signet, Southern Club, Digamma Club, Advocate”. Eliot published ten undergraduate poems in the Harvard Advocate between 1907 and 1910.

Listed by a seller along with other yearbooks, containing US celebrities from Madonna to Buzz Aldrin, Eliot’s yearbook is for sale at approx £650.

 

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TS Eliot Studies Annual Volume 3 now available, August 2021

The third volume of the academic TS Eliot Studies Annual is now available. The Annual, edited by Frances Dickey and Julia E Daniel, incorporates both original and previously published material.

The 2021 volume includes six essays under the umbrella of First Readings of the Eliot–Hale Archive. These are “the initial responses of six readers fortunate enough to have spent time with the archive before it was temporarily closed” (first published in the Spring 2020 issue of Time Present, the newsletter of the US-based International TS Eliot Society).

There are three essays in a Special Forum on Eliot and Green Modernism; and seven further essays on aspects of Eliot’s life and works, together with Bibliographies of Eliot-related publications in 2017 and 2018. Contributors to the volume include Lyndall Gordon, Jeremy Diaper, Sara Fitzgerald and Karen Christensen.

The Annual is available in the UK from Liverpool University Press and full details of its contents are here.

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Postponed Volume 9 of TS Eliot’s Letters to be published, August 2021

The long-awaited Letters of TS Eliot, Volume 9, is now being published on 2nd September.

This latest volume covers the years 1939 to 1941. “After exhausting himself through nights of fire-watching in the London wartime blackout, [Eliot] travels the country,” say the publishers, Faber, “delivers talks and advises a fresh generation of writers.” Correspondents include Auden, Barker, Pound, Mirrlees, Spender, Tippett and Woolf.

The volume covers the production of The Family Reunion; the publication of The Idea of a Christian Society; Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats; and, according to Faber, “Four Quartets, Eliot’s culminating masterpiece, is discussed in detail.”

Letters of TS Eliot, Volume 9: 1939-1941 (Faber), 1008pp, ISBN 9780571362813, cover price £60.00. pre-order from £41.55 (Amazon)

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Stephen King on Prufrock: “It’s a great poem, a great existential poem”, August 2021

The prolific horror and crime writer Stephen King has spoken in an interview about the significance of The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock in his books. And he admits that “Sometimes, for me, in the course of writing some narration, or writing a character’s feelings, that will pop up into my mind.”

An article by Brenna Ehrlich on CrimeReads had previously pointed out the many appearances of Eliot’s poem within King’s books. She first noticed a character in his Pet Semetary quoting “Oh, do not ask what is it; let us go and make our visit”, as they take their cat to be buried. The same line is also spotted in two more of King’s books, Finders Keepers and The End Of The Watch.

Prufrock also appears in The Shining; “In the room the women come and go…” the alcoholic writer Jack Torrance thinks about the Overlook Hotel, “and the Red Death held sway over all.”

Jack’s son Danny Torrance, reappearing in a later book, Doctor Sleep, “could see the Cowboy Boot patrons come and go, probably not talking about Michelangelo”. Whereas in The Institute, lead character Luke mutters, “Talking of Michelangelo…”

King is presumably a fan of Eliot, since The Hollow Men appears in two books, Pet Semetary (again) and Under the Dome; while The Waste Land plays prominently into his The Dark Tower series, most notably in The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands. But Prufrock is clearly the most widely quoted; and to end an interview in Rolling Stone magazine Ehrlich finally asks King about the poem.

“You have to keep in mind that when I’m working, I’m not sitting down with all these words in my head,” says King. “I’m just sort of going with it, going with the flow. And sometimes that has a particular resonance to me, and then I use it. ‘Let us go then, you and I… ‘

“God! Yeah, it’s a great poem, a great existential poem. Yeah. And I think that it appeals to a certain cast of mind, too.

“Somebody who has a view of a world that’s a little bit despairing, but not immobilized by despair.”

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Ralph Fiennes talks about Four Quartets, July 2021

In an interview for the Yorkshire Post, Ralph Fiennes has spoken about his relationship with Four Quartets, and how and why he has brought it to the stage.

“I’ve known it since I was quite young – we had the TS Eliot recording – so it’s been floating in and out of my awareness over the years,” he says. “In the first lockdown last year I gave myself little things to engage my mind and memory, and I thought I’d learn Four Quartets. And then various things I thought I’d do in the early part of this year went away – films and so on – and it sort of transitioned. Could it not be put in a context where it was given a kind of gently, appropriately judged theatrical context?”

Fiennes is keen to bring the work to a younger audience, an ambition in which he felt that Eliot’s own voice was “not helpful…It’s an old-school delivery with a certain kind of refined English intellectual speaking: it has its own kind of beauty and it’s wonderful to hear his voice but the dynamic of its communicative ability more for younger people today I think is questionable, because it feels from another time.”

Whereas Fiennes wants people to appreciate the relevance which the poems have today. “I have a belief that the poem can work and I think it does chime with the big questions or the existential questions that I think we are asking about who we are – and I think that’s thrown into focus by the Covid crisis.”

The full interview is here.

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Unique TS Eliot books come to light, July 2021

A fascinating copy of Eliot’s 1955 address Goethe as the Sage has surfaced, bearing not only an inscription to another Faber poet, but also an editorial correction in Eliot’s hand which is not reflected in the Critical Edition of The Complete Prose of TS Eliot.

The book (right) contains the address, in both English and a German translation, which Eliot wrote upon receiving the Hanseatic Goethe Prize for 1954. This copy is inscribed from Eliot to the poet Vernon Watkins, whom Eliot edited at Faber.

But in addition, a transposition is made in Eliot’s hand, changing the meaning of a sentence within the address. A sentence beginning “It is…”, positing a choice between “Goethe or the scientists”, becomes a question beginning “Is it…”, asking whether that choice is valid. This correction is not reflected in the edited text contained within The Complete Prose.

The book has just come up for sale by Neil Pearson Rare Books,  and details are here.

In addition, Pearson has for sale a copy of Meutre Dans La Cathédrale, a French translation of 1944, inscribed to Edmond Limbourg by TS Eliot. Limbourg was the organiser of a Grandes Conferences Catholiques session of tributes to Eliot, introduced by Robert Speaight, who came to prominence playing Becket in the first production of Murder In The Cathedral. A ticket for this event is laid-in to the book; details are here.

And among other inscribed titles, Pearson has a copy of The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, the book much admired by Eliot, and a copy clearly given by him as a Christmas present, as it is inscribed “to W.P. Watt Esq. from T.S. Eliot Christmas 1941”.

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Scofield Thayer’s First Edition copy of The Waste Land up for auction, July 2021

A pristine copy of the first edition of The Waste Land is being sold by the descendants of TS Eliot’s friend and publisher Scofield Thayer.

Eliot met Scofield Thayer at Milton Academy, before they both went to Harvard and later to Oxford. Thayer went on to fund and edit the American literary journal The Dial, to which Eliot contributed, and which first published The Waste Land in its pages.

The copy, with the provenance “Property from the Descendants of Scofield Thayer”, is described as “Uncut, unrubbed, unfaded and as near to pristine as one could hope for, an exceptionally well-preserved copy.” As well as the original salmon printed dustjacket it also has its original glassine inner jacket.

Numbered 192 out of 1000 copies, it is being auctioned by Sotheby’s New York on July 16, with a starting bid of US$26,000 (£18,000) and an estimate of US$30,000 to US$50,000 (£21,700 to £36,000). Details and images are here.

UPDATE: The book was sold for a remarkable US$163,800 – approximately £117,500

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London dates for Ralph Fiennes’s performance of Four Quartets, July 2021

The adaptation of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets by Ralph Fiennes, currently touring regional theatres, will transfer to London’s West End for a series of performances in November and December.

Full details, reviews and box-office links are on our Events page.

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Faber & Faber history published in paperback, July 2021

Faber & Faber: The Untold Story, by Toby Faber, has been published in paperback.

This history of the publishers, by the grandson of its founder Geoffrey Faber, brings together previously unseen letters and documents, and provides some fascinating insights into TS Eliot’s career at Faber & Faber.

“Inside this literary Vatican, until his death in 1965, TS Eliot was the supreme pontiff” wrote Robert McCrum in The Observer  when the book was first published in hardback in 2019. His article also contains a link to an excerpt from the book.

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A reminiscence of Valerie Eliot, June 2021

A fascinating and affectionate view of Valerie Eliot has resurfaced in an essay written by Professor Ron Schuchard in 2013 not long after her death.

The essay, Goodnight Mrs Tom, was published by the Royal Society of Literature in their RSL Review. It has resurfaced from the RSL Library thanks to Helen Meller of the Arvon Foundation, who has chosen the essay as part of the RSL’s Only Connect programme.

The essay contains many personal reminiscences of Valerie, and her “friendship and generosity” to Ron. He recalls the conversations between the two about the constraints which Eliot had imposed upon editions of his work, conversations which resulted in Professor Schuchard editing many significant posthumous Eliot publications, culminating in the Complete Prose.

He concludes that “Thanks to her steadfast loyalty to her husband’s wishes and to her commitment to the totality of his papers, we will soon have all his work on the shelf and online for new generations of students and scholars of modern literature and culture. Vows discharged. Requiescat in pace.”

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The TS Eliot Studies Annual 2021, June 2021

The third TS Eliot Studies Annual is to be published later this summer.

Edited by Frances Dickey and Julia E. Daniel, this third volume of academic essays includes two special forums (on first readings of the Hale letters, and on Eliot and the biological); and new scholarship by leading Eliot scholars including Jewel Spears Brooker, Anthony Cuda, Karen Christensen, Jeremy Diaper, Frances Dickey, Sara Fitzgerald and Lyndall Gordon, among others. It also contains an Eliot bibliography 2017-2019.

UK copies will be available via Liverpool University Press; Society members should see the Members Area for details of a pre-sale offer.

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Auction of TS Eliot First Edition inscribed to E McKnight Kauffer, June 2021

A First Edition of Murder In The Cathedral inscribed by TS Eliot to the artist E McKnight Kauffer is being auctioned at Bonhams.

Eliot had particular respect and affection for the artist, who illustrated his work on several occasions. Writing in a 1961 Preface to an exhibition catalogue for E. McKnight Kauffer, he said that “I think that he and I felt that our relationship was particularly brotherly…he designed for me the cover illustrations for several of my “Ariel” poems, and the jacket for the American edition of my Four Quartets. I feel competent to give high praise to his mastery of the art of illustration, and his mastery of poster art. In the former branch of art he was brilliant: in the latter he was supreme.”

Inscribed for E. McKnight Kauffer by T.S. Eliot 11.vi.35”, the month of its publication, the book has an estimate of £800-1200, and full details are here.

UPDATE: The book sold for a hammer price of £1,700.

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Flat in TS Eliot’s block up for sale, June 2021

A one-bedroomed flat in the Kensington block where TS Eliot lived has come up for sale.

A larger flat in Kensington Court Gardens was home to TS Eliot and Valerie Eliot from April 1957 following their marriage, and Eliot lived there until his death in 1965; the block is now marked with a blue plaque.

The one-bedroomed flat has an asking price of £995,000, and details are here.

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TS Eliot’s transmedia legacies – call for essays, June 2021

Contributions are being sought for an edited volume of scholarly essays on the literary and transmedia legacies of TS Eliot’s poetry.

Edited by Dr Scott Freer (who also edits the academic Journal of the TS Eliot Society), the book is contracted for publication by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, and contributions will be peer reviewed. It is a follow up to the popular and critically well-received Religion and Myth in TS Eliot’s Poetry (2016) pictured right.

“Transmedia legacies” include the visual arts, music and literature, as well as fandom media etc, and the collection also intends to reflect Eliot’s global impact. If you are interested and seek further details, contact Dr Scott Freer via: scottfreer8@gmail.com

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Rare TS Eliot publications for sale, June 2021

A pair of poems from Four Quartets as they were first published in the New English Weekly are being offered for sale by dealer Peter Grogan.

Eliot was “personally interested in the New English Weekly and therefore concerned with its support”, and so gave the magazine the last three of his Four Quartets to publish as detachable supplements, prior to their first Faber publications. East Coker was published by them in March 1940, prior to its Faber publication in September that year; and they printed The Dry Salvages in February 1941, some seven months ahead of Faber. Printed on austerity wartime paper, surviving copies are rarely seen, but Grogan has copies of these two four-page supplements for sale, and has kindly provided the image left – click to enlarge. Sale details of his supplements are here.

In addition, he also has a copy of the first Faber edition of The Dry Salvages for sale, inscribed by Eliot to his fellow Faber Director WJ Crawley. This copy also bears Eliot’s handwritten correction of his notorious “hermit/horseshoe crab” error. Full details are here and further images of the items can be seen in our Members Area.

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Reviews of Four Quartets performed by Ralph Fiennes, June 2021

Following its Press Night, reviews have appeared of the touring performance of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets by Ralph Fiennes.

Collected excerpts and links are on our Events page.

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Publication of TS Eliot and the Mother, May 2021

TS Eliot and the Mother, by Matthew Geary, has now been published as a hardback book by Routledge

“The first full-length study on TS Eliot and the mother,” say the publishers, “this book responds to a shortfall in understanding the true importance of Eliot’s poet-mother, Charlotte Champe Stearns, to his life and works. In doing so, it radically rethinks Eliot’s ambivalence towards women.

“In a context of mother–son ambivalence (simultaneous feelings of love and hate), it shows how his search for belief and love converged with a developing maternal poetics.” The book combines standard literary critical methods and archival research with innovative feminist, maternal and psychoanalytic theorisations of mother–child relationships.

Matthew Geary is an independent scholar in English Literature, Modernism, Psychoanalysis, Feminist Philosophy, Critical Theory, and Maternal Studies. At the TS Eliot Festival in 2016, he spoke on An Investigation into Eliot and Motherhood.

“TS Eliot and the Mother reveals the role of the mother and the dynamics of mother–son ambivalence to be far more complicated, enduring, changeable and essential to Eliot’s personal, religious and poetic development than previously acknowledged.” Details of the Routledge book are here, and chapter abstracts and academic access to the book’s content online are here.

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Murder In The Cathedral – BBC Television’s “first identifiable drama”, May 2021

At a surprisingly early date in 1936, Murder In The Cathedral became the first drama to be broadcast by the BBC, writes Mitchell Hadley on his blog, It’s about TV – Adventures in Classic Television

The BBC had been experimenting with television as early as 1930, and it began regular television service on November 2, 1936. However, a month earlier, the network made a test broadcast of TS Eliot’s play. Having successful passed the test, the play was broadcast at 3:30 p.m. on December 7 1936 on a program called Theatre Parade, and was repeated again on December 21.

This was the first opportunity for television to explore the dramatic potential of special effects. We saw Thomas Becket in close-up, soliloquising about his temptations,” writes Hadley, “and, as he weakened, the temptation appeared, whispering into his ear. As Thomas strengthened in purpose, the vision vanished. For, by placing the tempter before a separate camera, it was possible to superimpose the tempter on to the picture of Becket and fade it in and out at will.”

As well as the production itself, Hadley explores the reasons why the BBC chose Murder In The Cathedral, and the significance at the time of its themes of church and state. “As critic Wheeler Winston Dixon wrote, ‘the main theme of Eliot’s play is the power of resistance to authority that one believes to be either corrupt or fraudulent. Since Eliot wrote the work in the shadow of Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, there can be little doubt that he had the usurping forces of fascism in mind as he composed Murder in the Cathedral.’”

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Foreign student TS Eliot gets out of First World War Germany, May 2021

As part of its 125th anniversary celebrations, the Review section of The New York Times has published from its archives the first mentions in the newspaper’s pages of several leading US writers – and unearthed this mention of a student TS Eliot, travelling out of First World War Germany in 1914.

“T.S. Eliot of St. Louis, a student in the Summer School of Magdeburg University, arrived in London today with a number of students from Freiburg and other German universities which have been closed on account of the war,” The New York Times reported on Aug. 27, 1914.

“It is unlikely that any of the German universities will open this Fall,” he told the paper, “as all the German students and likewise the professors are subject to military duty. Conditions are too unsettled for the few foreign students whose countries are not fighting Germany.”

The article, including many other writers such as Fitzgerald and Kerouac, is here.

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The Waste Land as a love letter to Englishness, May 2021

In a brief Comment article in The Telegraph, the political journalist and biographer Simon Heffer writes that “Whatever else TS Eliot’s challenging masterpiece means, it captures the sound of a poet returning to his British roots.”

Heffer describes The Waste Land as “something that is not usually commented upon: it is a manifestation of Eliot’s assumption of Englishness.” He briefly traces Eliot’s ancestry, and “almost comical” Anglicisation. And he observes that “In The Waste Land, despite its quotations in German, its references to Italy and intonements in Sanskrit, Eliot drinks in the sights, sounds and idioms of early 20th-century England and puts them into verse.”

“Of course,” Heffer concludes, “it is a poem about so much else: but it is also a poem about Eliot’s return to the land of his forebears, and a tribute to quotidian Englishness, dressed in verse of unusual genius.”

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Hannah Sullivan and Michael Portillo discuss TS Eliot in Margate, May 2021

In the latest of his BBC TV series, Great British Railway Journeys, Michael Portillo travels to Margate, and discusses TS Eliot and The Waste Land on Margate Sands with the academic and poet Hannah Sullivan.

Standing in front of the Nayland Rock Shelter, where TS Eliot wrote, Hannah Sullivan explains why Eliot chose Margate, “not the kind of seaside town the Bloomsbury Group were going to”, for both convalescence and stimulation; she describes The Waste Land for a first-time reader, and reads from Section III of the poem.

The programme includes views both of, and from, the shelter; the programme is now on BBC iPlayer, and the Eliot section begins at 23.03.

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Call for Papers for International TS Eliot Society online meeting, May 2021

The annual meeting of the International TS Eliot Society, based in the US, is to be held online on 24th and 25th September 2021, offering ease of access to scholars based in the UK.

The Society is inviting proposals for papers to be presented. Clearly organized proposals of about 300 words, submitted as Word or PDF documents, on any topic reasonably related to Eliot, along with brief biographical sketches, need to be submitted by June 1.

The meeting incorporates two peer seminar sessions; these offer an opportunity to share work with a group of participants who share your interests. Participants will pre-circulate short position papers (5 pages) by September 1; peer seminars will meet to discuss the pre-circulated papers for two hours on the first day of the meeting.

There are two peer seminar sessions; “Eliot’s Influence”, led by Anthony Cuda; and “The Waste Land in 2021”, led by Megan Quigley. While peer seminar registration continues into July, the deadline for abstracts for panel presentations is June 1.

The memorial lecture will be given at the meeting by Robert Pinsky, whose lecture “T. S. Eliot, 1933, 1958, 1962, 2016” will offer a practicing poet’s impressions of Eliot’s work.

Full details of the meeting, sessions and submission e-mail address are here.

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Spring issue of Exchanges…, our Society quarterly, May 2021

The Spring issue of our Society quarterly is now available. Its contents include an article on competing editions of TS Eliot’s prose; an essay on the winner of the 2020 TS Eliot Prize for Poetry, How to Wash a Heart by Bhanu Kapil; a disputed annotation on lines from ‘Preludes’; and a personal story of coming to Eliot through an album by Genesis.

You can download this new issue here.

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Participants sought for Murder in the Cathedral drama course and filming, April 2021

A six-week online Acting Advanced course at CityLit adult education college offers an opportunity to rehearse and film scenes from Murder in the Cathedral, for inclusion in an upcoming Thomas Becket exhibition at the British Museum.

“This is an exciting opportunity to use prior training in acting and screen work,” explains the course outline.

“Rehearsals will be online, rigorous and focused on preparation for achieving your best ‘on screen’ performance. The face-to-face shoot date will take place on-site at the British Museum under Covid safety guidelines. Your recorded work will be shown publicly as part of the Thomas Becket exhibition in Summer 2021 at the British Museum.”

Details of fees, dates and course level are here. Further details of the British Museum exhibition are here

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Recording released of Emily Hale letters event, April 2021

A recording has been released of the online discussion, TS Eliot & Emily Hale Letters: Re-examined, hosted by Princeton University Library on 18th April.

The discussion begins with the story of the donation and storage of the letters at Princeton, with some behind-the-scenes images of their opening last year:

Then several Eliot scholars, who have had access to the letters, discuss the letters from archival, biographical and literary perspectives. The discussion concludes by answering questions from the online audience.

The recording is available here

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The Journal of the TS Eliot Society 2021 published, March 2021

The 2021 edition of the academic peer-reviewed Journal of the TS Eliot Society has been published.

Edited by Dr Scott Freer, the essays in the 2021 edition cover a wide span of TS Eliot’s literary career, from his early female portrait poems (1908) to The Cocktail Party (1947):

• Editorial, by our Editor, Dr Scott Freer
• ‘First…Rapture…Then…Revolt’: TS Eliot and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, by DMR Bentley
• ‘Must I Become After All What You Would Make Me?’: Staging Relationships and Emotional Addictions in TS Eliot’s The Cocktail Party, by Sara Lo Piano
• ‘A Deeper Communion’: Eliot and Messiaen on Time and Eternity, by Ryanne J McLaren
• Reaching into the Silence: Representing the Transcendent in Four Quartets, by Dan Satterthwaite

For a full list of contents, and for details of how to obtain a copy, please visit our dedicated Journal page via the menu above.

NB Members are entitled to a free copy, and once again this year the Society will cover the costs of post and packing.

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Two major recordings of TS Eliot made available online, March 2021

Harvard have been granted permission to release online  TS Eliot’s earliest known recordings, in addition to a complete live reading which he gave at Harvard.

On Harvard’s In Focus: Poetry page,  under T.S Eliot’s Earliest Harvard Recordings, you can hear a recording made for the Harvard Vocarium label. The seven tracks include readings of The Hollow Men and Gerontion which are Eliot’s earliest known poetry recordings.

And on SoundCloud you can hear a recording of a complete live reading Eliot gave at Sanders Theatre, Harvard in 1947

Eliot prefaces this reading with an introduction, in which he explains that he will read his poems in chronological order, choosing from what he describes as “a meagre output”, partly because “every author likes to think that his most recent work is his best”. But he also confesses that “one becomes out of touch with one’s very early work…it seems to have been written by a young person with whom one is intimately and rather embarrassingly associated, and of whom one is slightly ashamed.” He reads from nine works, beginning with Preludes and ending with Little Gidding.

“The value of these recordings lies primarily in the document they provide of a poet’s encounter with work written by his younger self, a self which appears now a stranger to him,” said Clare Reihill, trustee of the TS Eliot Estate, which granted permission to make the recordings available.  “As Eliot says in his opening remarks to the 1947 recording, [the poems] feel as though they were by someone else. In his voice, I think, one can hear a sort of resigned sadness tinged with self-deprecation.”

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Ralph Fiennes to perform Four Quartets live, March 2021

A live, touring performance of Four Quartets by Ralph Fiennes has been announced.

Visiting a series of regional theatres, Fiennes will perform the work to socially distanced audiences, against an austere, simple set. The show has dates from May to July, and will hopefully extend into August.

For details of the show, its venues and ticket details, see our Events page.

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The Waste Land as a post-pandemic poem, March 2021

In an essay in Theology in Scotland, the poet and Professor Christopher Southgate considers “what contribution the arts can make to the human experience in a time of pandemic, with particular reference to works of art informed by the Christian vision, broadly understood.”

In Singing and dancing in the cruellest month: A reflection on theology and poetry in a time of COVID, Southgate considers The Waste Land as a post-pandemic poem.

“At this time of so much loss,” he writes, “when we struggle to stay connected, and even to sustain any sort of shared narrative of what should be happening to us, it is a profound experience to lose ourselves again in the kaleidoscope that is The Waste Land.”

He concludes that “The Waste Land wins through to the promise of the peace that passes understanding, found not in retreat from the kaleidoscope of feelings and sensations but in its centre.”

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TS Eliot Estate welcomes “creative responses” to The Waste Land, March 2021

To mark the centenary of The Waste Land in 2022, the TS Eliot Estate is inviting theatre-makers, dramatists, choreographers, video artists, composers and artists to respond to the poem.

This is the first time that such interpretations have been encouraged by the Estate. “The trustees,” they explain, “have always attempted to strike a balance between, on the one hand, remaining faithful to the poet’s wish that his work should not be staged or set to music (with the notable exception of the children’s verse of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) and, on the other, acknowledging the merits of creative adaptations of his work into other forms or media.

“The Estate cannot in good conscience waive performance-rights-fees in their entirety but, throughout 2022, it would be delighted to help facilitate some projects, adaptations or use of The Waste Land that might ordinarily be judged to be too counter to Eliot’s proscriptions.”

An e-mail address to which proposals can be submitted has been posted on the Faber website and the Estate say that, together with Faber, they will make every effort to consider each application carefully and be back in touch.

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Eliot, St Louis and racial segregation, March 2021

An essay in Modernism/modernity examines the racial segregation in St Louis when Eliot grew up there, and the influence which it may have had upon the alienation expressed within his poetry

In TS Eliot and the Color Line of St. Louis, Frances Dickey writes that “We have not connected Eliot with segregation because his published poetry does not direct us to; however, solid historical and textual evidence suggests this connection.”

Dickey presents a fascinating racial history of the city, and then examines in particular Eliot’s notebook poem Easter: Sensations of April, which “seems inflected by a desire to make common cause with St. Louis’s Black population and yet a sense of resignation to the injustice of segregation.”

She concludes that “Examining Eliot’s St. Louis context more closely reveals how his characteristic preoccupation with social separation, which readers throughout the world now associate with modernity itself, was rooted in the lived experience of racial segregation, the religious contradiction it posed, and the sensory regime it imposed.”

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A gift to Emily Hale’s ‘Uncle John’, March 2021

A copy of Murder In The Cathedral has appeared, inscribed by TS Eliot to the Rev John Carroll Perkins. Rev Perkins and his wife Edith were responsible for raising Emily Hale, and hosted Eliot on his visits to Hale in the Cotswolds.

The First Faber Edition of the play is Inscribed for Dr. John Carroll Perkins by the author T. S. Eliot 11.vi.1935 – two days before its publication.

The Revd and Mrs John Carroll Perkins were old friends of the Eliot family in Boston, and Eliot referred to them as “Aunt Edith” and “Uncle John”. In 1934 they were installed at Stamford House, Chipping Camden, and Emily Hale stayed in their adjoining Stanley Cottage. Eliot was a frequent visitor, and it was from there that he and Emily Hale took their local excursions, including their trip to Burnt Norton. By 1936 she and the Perkinses were back in Boston.

The book is currently with John Atkinson Fine & Rare Books.

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TS Eliot in the diaries of others, March 2021

In  A great diarist can be spiteful and wicked but never boring, an article in The Times, AN Wilson includes two appearances by TS Eliot in an essay on famous diaries.

First is the notorious revelation in his own diaries of a conversation with the Queen Mother, in which she described to him George VI and their daughters “getting the giggles” while Eliot recited The Waste Land to them. She remembered it as The Desert.

And later he draws upon Virginia Woolf’s diaries, which he says “ooze with spite”. He quotes her description of TS Eliot as “a ‘queer, shifty creature’ with ‘wild eyes’ and ‘the head very remarkable, all rocky, yellow, riven & constricted’.

The full article is available to Times subscribers here.

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Old Possum and the Tandy ‘Fambly’, February 2021

A First Illustrated Edition of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats has surfaced, inscribed by TS Eliot “To the Tandy Fambly from O.P.”

The Tandys were close friends of Eliot, and Alison Tandy was one of the original dedicatees of the book.

The spelling ‘fambly’ makes the inscription particularly interesting. It is recorded as a variant by Ricks & McCue to The Old Gumbie Cat, and was frequently used in letters to the Tandys.

‘O.P.’ is of course an abbreviation of Old Possum.

The book is for sale and further images can be viewed here.

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First appearance of The Waste Land for sale, February 2021

A rare copy of the first issue of The Criterion has come on to the market – the October 1922 issue being the first appearance in print of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land.

“Copies, especially any in collectable condition, are quite scarce and much sought-after,” say the dealers Peter Harrington, offering an opportunity to see pictures of this rare item.

They describe this copy thus: “Wrappers a little marked and toned, mild foxing to contents; a very nice copy, well-preserved, of this fragile publication.” Their asking price is £6.750.

This achieves a remarkable trilogy of First Editions of The Waste Land currently in Peter Harrington’s hands. The dealer is also currently offering copies of the Boni & Liveright First Edition in book form (£7,500), and the First UK Edition by the Hogarth Press (£8,750).

UPDATE: Both the first issue of The Criterion, and the first Hogarth Press edition, have now gone.

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David Baddiel questions TS Eliot broadcast, February 2021

In his new book, Jews Don’t Count, writer and comedian David Baddiel questions a BBC broadcast of Eliot’s poems, Gerontion and Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar.

On New Year’s Day 2017, BBC Radio 4 broadcast the complete poems of TS Eliot, read by Jeremy Irons. “When it came to these particular poems,” writes Baddiel, “they enlisted the help of Anthony Julius, a Jewish lawyer, and the author of T. S. Eliot, anti-semitism and literary form, who prefaced the readings with his theory of how the highly prevalent, fashionable antisemitism of the time informed and possibly even enhanced Eliot’s work.”

Baddiel, “an Eliot fan”, contacted and had a lengthy lunch with Julius to discuss the issue. “But none of this shook off the feeling I had, on that New Year’s Day 2017, that, however great the writer, however great the writing, no other minority group would be compared to rats, or envisaged as any similar negative racist stereotype, on Radio 4.”

The issue is considered in an extract from the book published in the TLS.

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The TS Eliot/Emily Hale letters – material and meaning, February 2021

Two researchers working on Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale have published an article for Modernism/modernity considering the physical nature of the Eliot/Hale correspondence, and how the letters themselves became an “increasingly awkward embrace between the two of them.”

In Joint Property, Divided Correspondents: The TS Eliot-Emily Hale Letters, Frances Dickey and John Whittier-Ferguson consider the physical characteristics of the letters. and the differences between researching the original documents and their digital surrogates.“Our post explores the ways that the special significance of paper inflected the Eliot-Hale correspondence from the beginning,” they write, “and continues to shape its reception in fundamental, strange, and curiously fitting ways.”

They go on to examine the legal ownership of the letters’ contents, and the copyright control over quoting from them. “The distinction between the letters’ contents and their material medium remained salient,” they say, “and has only increased in significance since their deaths.”

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TS Eliot documentary released on DVD, January 2021

TS Eliot: The Search for Happiness, a documentary from Odyssey Television first shown last year on Sky Arts, is being released on DVD.

The 50-minute documentary traces Eliot’s life and work, with contributions from a number of Eliot authorities, including Lyndall Gordon, Sarah Kennedy, Hannah Sullivan, Jason Harding, and former Editor-in-Chief of Faber & Faber Robert McCrum. Their contributions place Eliot’s poetry in the contexts of his life, his character and his times.

Included in the documentary are many previously unseen images, as well as archive footage of Eliot, at his Nobel Prize ceremony, recording at the BBC, and in colour home movies from his holidays with Valerie. The documentary visits the UK locations of Four Quartets, and there is footage of Valerie talking about her husband in 1971.

The DVD is widely available to buy from January 24th.

Members have an opportunity to win a copy of the DVD – see the Members Area for details.

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TS Eliot’s return to St Louis, January 2021

An article in the St Louis Post-Dispatch STL Today recalls TS Eliot’s first return to St Louis in 19 years, in January 1933. He had returned to lecture on Shakespeare, to 900 people in Washington University’s Graham Chapel.

Speaking to local reporters, Eliot said that he was surprised by growth west of Forest Park, but otherwise recognized his home town.”It is bigger and all that sort of thing, but it is still the St. Louis I knew,” he said.

He had never moved back from London, he said, “because I had a job there, so I stayed.”

Asked about the First World War’s influence on writers, Eliot is quoted as saying, “Some of them find the peace pretty terrific, too.”

And he said that the world of poetry no longer argued over formal structures. “You can be as free as you like without attracting much notice,” he said. “You can even be free to write regular verse.”

But he claimed that he didn’t actually like to write. “There are so many more pleasant things do to than writing — sun bathing, for instance,”

The article is online here, but is not accessible from Europe for reasons of data protection.

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Fresh insights from TS Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale, January 2021

A fascinating essay by Frances Dickey looks further into the content of Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale, and posits that “not just Eliot’s writing from the years they were together, but all his major works from “La Figlia” through Four Quartets show her magnetic pull on his imagination.”

In her Reports from the Emily Hale Archive,  Dickey, who teaches modernism and American literature at the University of Missouri, has been assiduously working through and reporting on the Hale correspondence since their opening a year ago.

“My first reaction to Eliot’s correspondence with Hale was astonishment at how consciously he used his personal experience as poetic material,” she writes, “while deliberately concealing from the public the roman à clef nature of his writing. For this reason alone, the opening of these letters feels like a historic drawing back of the curtain. But on reflection, I find something even more remarkable than how his art reflects his life: the way art shaped his life, beyond what his most astute critics have surmised.”

This essay not only provides a clear and perceptive tracing of the narrative of their relationship from an established Eliot scholar; Dickey goes further, in drawing connections with lines and images from several major works. She provides an explanation for the “framing” of The Waste Land’s hyacinth girl within passages from Wagner. And she draws connections between Burnt Norton and Shelley’s Epipsychidion, from which Eliot initially intended to take his poem’s epigraph. Dickey argues that Shelley’s poem may shed further light upon Eliot’s relationship with Hale.

The essay, May the Record Speak: The Correspondence of T. S. Eliot and Emily Hale, is published in the journal Twentieth-Century Literature, and a PDF can be downloaded here from the University of Missouri.

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TS Eliot appears in archive Canterbury footage, January 2021

A short (3min) black-and-white archive film captures TS Eliot at the original 1935 production of Murder In The Cathedral.

Made by amateur film maker Sydney Bligh, the silent footage captures Eliot and other members of the production a week after the play’s first performance in Canterbury Cathedral’s Chapter House.

Eliot is seen both alone, blinking somewhat nervously, and in a trio of “Producer, Prompter and Writer”. There are also shots of several cast members. The film has now been made available from Screen Archive South East through the BFI.

At the same time, the Canterbury Cathedral archives have published an article drawing upon the designs and photographs which they hold from that original production. It focusses in particular on the costumes, designed by Stella Mary Newton (née Pearce), who had also designed the costumes for The Rock.

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