Recent stories relating to TS Eliot
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.”
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.
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.
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”.
Scofield Thayer’s First Edition copy of The Waste Land up for auction, July 2021
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
London dates for Ralph Fiennes’s performance of Four Quartets, July 2021
Full details, reviews and box-office links are on our Events page.
Faber & Faber history published in paperback, July 2021
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.
A reminiscence of Valerie Eliot, June 2021
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.”
The TS Eliot Studies Annual 2021, June 2021
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.
Auction of TS Eliot First Edition inscribed to E McKnight Kauffer, June 2021
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.
Flat in TS Eliot’s block up for sale, June 2021
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.
TS Eliot’s transmedia legacies – call for essays, June 2021
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rare TS Eliot publications for sale, June 2021
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.
Reviews of Four Quartets performed by Ralph Fiennes, June 2021
Collected excerpts and links are on our Events page.
Publication of TS Eliot and the Mother, May 2021
“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.
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.’”
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.
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.”
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.
Call for Papers for International TS Eliot Society online meeting, May 2021
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.
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.
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.”
Recording released of Emily Hale letters event, April 2021
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
The Journal of the TS Eliot Society 2021 published, March 2021
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.
Two major recordings of TS Eliot made available online, March 2021
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.”
Ralph Fiennes to perform Four Quartets live, March 2021
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.
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.”
TS Eliot Estate welcomes “creative responses” to The Waste Land, March 2021
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.
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.”
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.
TS Eliot in the diaries of others, March 2021
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.
Old Possum and the Tandy ‘Fambly’, February 2021
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.
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.
David Baddiel questions TS Eliot broadcast, February 2021
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.
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.”
TS Eliot documentary released on DVD, January 2021
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.
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.
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.
TS Eliot appears in archive Canterbury footage, January 2021
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.
Quote from TS Eliot seals outcome of Brexit negotiations, December 2020
Her speech on 24th December contained the following:
“Ladies and Gentlemen,
“At the end of successful negotiations I normally feel joy.
“But today I only feel quiet satisfaction and, frankly speaking, relief.
“I know this is a difficult day for some.
“And to our friends in the United Kingdom I want to say: parting is such sweet sorrow.
“But to use a line from TS Eliot: What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
In The Observer, Kenan Malik considered the significance of the quotation, and how “Rereading Four Quartets is a fitting epitaph for 2020 and no better way of reflecting on the year to come.”
Performances of Britten’s settings of TS Eliot’s poems, December 2020
An online streamed recording from the three-part Britten Chamber Festival mounted by Boston’s Emmanuel Music includes two of Benjamin Britten’s settings of poems by TS Eliot – and incorporates text subtitles from the works.
At 34:40 in the recording is Britten’s setting of The Death of Saint Narcissus, the unpublished poem which Eliot drew upon for The Waste Land. Britten’s Canticle V, Op 89, it was written in 1974 while Britten was recuperating from a heart operation. His wide reading at this time included poetry by T S Eliot, whom he admired ‘for the clarity and security of his language’.
The recording also includes, at 1:00:10, Britten’s setting of Eliot’s Journey of The Magi, his Canticle IV, Op. 86 (1971). The recording is available here for sixty days.
Eliot’s 1918 Irish review, December 2020
In an article in The Irish Times, Karl O’Hanlon writes about Desmond FitzGerald, an Easter 1916 rebel, Free State government minister and father of future taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, who was responsible for what now appears to be the first Irish review of Eliot’s poetry.
FitzGerald’s enthusiastic May 1918 review of The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock was published in the nationalist review Ar n-Éire/New Ireland. “It is a remarkable document,” writes O’Hanlon, “Eliot’s poetic tour de force finding hospitality in a Sinn Féin journal where it did not in the Times Literary Supplement and other newspapers of record.”
The two men later became friendly, and the article also includes some rare photographs from the FitzGerald family collection of Eliot with FitzGerald and others.
Edna O’Brien delivers Abbey Theatre TS Eliot Lecture, December 2020
Normally given each year in Dublin, this year’s Abbey Theatre TS Eliot Lecture is being delivered online by the writer Edna O’Brien. Recorded at the Irish Embassy in London, the lecture, on Eliot’s life and work, is being broadcast on 15th December, her 90th birthday.
“I wanted to give a sense of the poetry, the person, the mystic and the sometimes quite cruel man,” she told The Guardian, “without making it into a gossip piece.”
The lecture is preceded by a reading of Eliot’s Rhapsody on a Windy Night by Sinéad Cusack, and followed by an interview with O’Brien. It is available online until 15th January.
Postponed – the 2021 International TS Eliot Summer School, December 2020
The International TS Eliot Summer School has been postponed for a further year.
Held annually in London, the 2020 Summer School had to be postponed because of the pandemic, and now the 2021 Summer School has been forced to follow suit. “It’s a damnable shame,” said Professor Anthony Cuda, Director, “but one simply can’t plan amidst such uncertainty.”
There will instead be a variety of digital events (both live and prerecorded) hosted by the Summer School and to be made available in the coming months and over the summer. (The School has already posted several Digital Sessions by some of its tutors.) If the conditions permit, they may also host occasional in-person events over the summer in London.
And they are already looking ahead to a grand reunion in 2022. “We’re confident,” says Professor Cuda, “that we can keep the momentum going.”
Eliot’s relationship with Emily Hale, again, December 2020
An article in the New Yorker magazine, The Secret History of T. S. Eliot’s Muse, presents a now familiar view of Eliot’s relationship with Emily Hale as revealed by his letters to her.
Michelle Taylor, a doctoral candidate in English at Harvard, traces the popular narrative of their relationship, employing mostly previously-published quotes from the letters, before considering the nature of a role as muse: “that it is the muse who serves as the instrument, while the poet places his words in her more comely mouth.”
“There is no way to say whether marrying Hale would have destroyed Eliot’s art,” she writes. “What reading his letters makes clear, however, is that the deferral of his desire—the ascetic refusal to make his most enduring love ever truly complete—was what sustained it.”
Emily Hale letters to be published online, November 2020
Currently being edited by John Haffenden, all of Eliot’s letters to Hale are now planned be posted online in Spring 2022, complete with footnotes as in a print edition.
It has emerged that publishing the letters in print would have required two volumes, each at an academic pricepoint, with potentially six months separating the volumes. Instead it has been decided to make all of the 1,131 letters available together, as they are at Princeton Library, affording a complete narrative, and accessible to anyone interested in Eliot.
(There will similarly be no “Selected” edition printed, as that would require some letters to be omitted.)
This digital publication will also make the Emily Hale letters distinct from the continuing annual series of printed volumes of The Letters of TS Eliot, also edited by John Haffenden.
The “Mumbo-Jumbo” of The Waste Land: a notorious 1923 review, November 2020
“It is not easy to dismiss in three lines what is being written about as a new masterpiece,” wrote Lucas, a classical scholar and literary critic. He therefore took a little longer.
“To attempt here an interpretation, even an intelligible summary of the poem, is to risk making oneself ridiculous,” he wrote.
He proceeded to criticise the poem’s “squalor” and “suburban sordidness”; and its “fantastic Mumbo-Jumbo”. He condemned its use of quotations – “the borrowed jewels he has set in its head do not make Mr Eliot’s toad the more prepossessing.” – and observed that “punctuation largely disappears in the latter part of the poem – whether this be subtlety or accident, it is impossible to say.”
“’Shantih’, he explained to his readers, “is equivalent to the ‘Peace that passeth understanding’ – which in this case it certainly does.”
Now an entertaining read, the review was later described by FW Bateson as “brilliantly wrong-headed”. It can be read in full here.
TS Eliot’s Collected Poems as owned by playwright Christopher Fry, November 2020
A First Edition of TS Eliot’s Collected Poems 1909-1935 has surfaced, bearing the ownership signature of playwright Christopher Fry, and “Inscribed for Christopher Fry in affection and esteem, TS Eliot”
Fry and Eliot were the two leading proponents of Edwardian verse drama with spiritual themes. They were introduced by their mutual director, E Martin Browne.
In an unpublished reminiscence Fry remarked upon Eliot’s words, “which meant so much to me when I was young, and which stayed with me, unageing, while I grew old beside them.” As the bookseller writes in his description, “From the condition of the book it must be assumed that it was consulted by Fry on numerous occasions.”
The book is for sale through bookseller Peter Ellis.
Members can see further images of the book and Fry’s ownership signature in the Members Area, along with Fry’s unpublished reminiscence of how he and Eliot came to address each other.
Biography and Writings of Vivien Eliot published, November 2020
The Fall of a Sparrow is the first book to combine an impartial biographical account of Vivien Eliot’s life alongside her original writings, many previously unpublished.
The author, Ann Pasternak Slater is a literary scholar, translator and Senior Research Fellow at St Anne’s College, Oxford, who has written books on Shakespeare and Evelyn Waugh, and edited the complete poems of George Herbert.
Part I of the book, Life, is a 500-page detailed biography of Vivien Eliot, “making sense of an unruly mass of information and misinformation,” say Faber. “Here is the first cogent account of her physical and mental ailments.”
Part II, Writings, provides a further 240 pages of Vivien Eliot’s published and unpublished work, both independent and in collaboration with TS Eliot. His editing is identified, and the writings given scholarly annotation.
As an additional element of the project, a full transcript of her diaries, together with facsimiles and a selection from her ledgers, has been made available online, at www.tseliot.com/vivien
The Fall of a Sparrow: Vivien Eliot’s Life and Writings by Ann Pasternak Slater is published by Faber & Faber with a cover price of £35.
Reviews of The Fall of a Sparrow
The Sunday Times, Bryan Appleyard (£): “This book is a forensic and often ruthless — Eliot biographers are quoted mainly to be dismissed as rank fabulists — attempt to understand Vivien.”
TS Eliot Society Exchanges, Paul Keers: “Despite being the most substantial work yet published on Vivien Eliot, ironically a line of her husband’s might best describe the book: it is politic, cautious and meticulous.”
Sunday Telegraph, Tristram Fane Saunders (£): “Sympathetic but clear-eyed, The Fall of a Sparrow carefully sets the record straight on every juicy rumour…It’s a remarkable feat of scholarship, which succeeds in proving that Vivien was less interesting than you might have thought.
The Spectator, Robert Crawford: “At the level of individual sentences, footnotes and mini-essays, Pasternak Slater is intelligent and sophisticated; but she lacks the architectonic power a good biographer needs, and appears to have had trouble shaping her material. The Fall of a Sparrow often seems like a volume for scholars, rather than a biography aimed at a wide readership.” (UPDATE: Craig Raine has taken issue with this review via a letter in the subsequent issue of The Spectator – more details in the Members Area.)
Evening Standard, Ian Thomson: “In scrupulously researched and super-detailed pages it lays bare her every addiction and fit of madness. “
The Observer, Rachel Cooke: “For the reader, the result is a little like being in a courtroom during a case whose verdict will involve no real jeopardy. Where is the colour? The dash? Hundreds of pages in, I still couldn’t quite picture Viv and her world.”
The Literary Review, Elizabeth Lowry: “Hers is only the second biography of Vivien Eliot to date. She takes issue with the first, Painted Shadow by Carole Seymour-Jones (2001), precisely because it is ‘highly speculative, wilfully inaccurate, and loyally tendentious’ – in other words, more fiction than fact. The Fall of a Sparrow… sets out to be the opposite: short on invention, long on cross-references.”
The Guardian, Kathryn Hughes: “None of this is new and most of it will be familiar to the reader of the monumental The Letters of TS Eliot. What Pasternak Slater has done is, in her own words, “pick out a coherent narrative” from this sea of material, to which is added Vivien’s own writings“.
Church Times, Richard Harries: “Pasternak Slater has carried out the most meticulous research over many years to provide as fair-minded a picture of this tragedy as she can, based on primary sources. “
Autumn issue of Exchanges…, our Society quarterly, November 2020
The Autumn issue of our Society quarterly is now available. Its editorial considers further the role of poetry during the pandemic; then the issue carries one of the first reviews of the new biography of Vivien Eliot, The Fall of A Sparrow. There are contributions on the activities of the Arvon Foundation, and on the teaching of Eliot at A-Level, with a final article by a recent A-Level student.
You can download this new issue here.
TS Eliot’s book on Dante, belonging to “Mrs T.S. Eliot”, November 2020
The address on the sticker is that of the Kensingon flat where Eliot lived with his second wife, Valerie.
Already relatively rare, this unique copy is now for sale at John Atkinson Fine & Rare Books.
New audio recording of Four Quartets, November 2020
Following the streaming of their live interpretation of Four Quartets (see the Events page for details), the Fisher Center at Bard, New York, have released the reading of the work by Kathleen Chalfant which accompanied the performance.
This is the first authorised recording of the work by a woman, and by an American.
Following the London performance in 2019, Chalfant was described by The Spectator as having “a voice like salted caramel: rich, molten and gravelled. She guides you to the wit, the pathos, bathos and silences.” Presented as an online “audiobook”, the reading can be heard here.
The Complete Prose of TS Eliot to be published in print, October 2020
Johns Hopkins University Press, which has been responsible for the digital version, is to publish the work in print, totalling over 7,000 pages and with 178 photographs, in March 2021. It has a list price of USD $700.
The collection comprises:
Volume 1: Apprentice Years, 1905–1918
Volume 2: The Perfect Critic, 1919–1926
Volume 3: Literature, Politics, Belief, 1927–1929
Volume 4: English Lion, 1930–1933
Volume 5: Tradition and Orthodoxy, 1934–1939
Volume 6: The War Years, 1940–1946
Volume 7: A European Society, 1947–1953
Volume 8: Still and Still Moving, 1954–1965
“It includes all of the essays that he collected in his lifetime,” say the publishers, “but also more than 1,000 uncollected, unrecorded, or unpublished items, many of which were missing or inaccessible for decades. From the formative “Interpretation of Primitive Ritual” (1913), written in graduate school at Harvard, to the summative “To Criticize the Critic” (1961), the Complete Prose offers readers full access to the immense scope and variety of Eliot’s works in their biographical, historical, and cultural context.”
However, JHU Press told us that “While the book is scheduled for a 23 March 2021 release here in the US, there are not currently plans for UK distribution, either through Hopkins Press or from a different publisher.”
Full details of the publication are here.
Remediating ‘Prufrock’, October 2020
In an essay published in Arts, an MDPI open-access journal, Scott Freer looks at the ways in which The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock has been “remediated” in various modern visual forms: the comic strip, the animated film, the dramatic monologue film, the split-screen video poem and the photographic spatial montage. The essay contains comments from interviews with several of the artists.
“Adaptation studies have shown that the transmedia phenomenon has not only refashioned, but also regenerated interest in, literary sources,” he writes. “Remediations can open up the ‘concentrated form’ of poetry and become an effective pedagogic tool, whilst the kineticism of visual media be harnessed to enhance the appeal of the static word.” In particular, he argues that remediation “offers multifarious possibilities for appreciating further the inherent visual properties of modernist poetry.”
Dr Scott Freer is Editor of the academic peer-reviewed Journal of the TS Eliot Society. The essay can be read here.
The “looking-glass temporality” of TS Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale, October 2020
In Emily of Fire & Violence, Keegan writes that “One of the remarkable things about the Hale letters is the way they show [Eliot’s] more notorious opinions in more nuanced form, his thinking undressed.”
Across more than 15,000 words, Keegan considers Eliot’s comments across a range of subjects, including his family, his dramas, Boston society, divorce, Unitarianism, and the War. “In truth.” he says, “Hale was the listener, and the talking cure was Eliot’s own.”
Many quotes are enlightening, as when Eliot writes in October 1940 that, during his air-raid patrols, ‘one became acutely aware of the sense of hearing, and quite normal sounds aroused attention. I remember on one of my first nights being bothered by a strange sound, going out to reconnoitre, and discovering after several minutes that it was merely the dead leaves being swept along the street by the breeze.’ This clearly anticipates the leaves in Little Gidding.
Keegan suggests that “The letters to Hale are less of a one-stop shop for a new view of Eliot than has been suggested. They contain many paradoxes but few secrets… Any page of his prose written for publication is more nakedly revealing or harrowing than the bulk of his personal correspondence.”
But he concludes that “Insofar as they document his ordinary life, what the Hale letters confirm is the extremity of the terms on which [Eliot] lived with himself.”
Murder In The Cathedral reissued, October 2020
This anniversary edition marks 850 years since Becket’s dramatic murder, and eighty-five years since Eliot’s play was first performed, in Canterbury Cathedral.
The cover of this reissue features the 1931 work Monseigneur St. Thomas, a linocut by Cyril Power, the British artist who was one of the founders of the Grosvenor School.
Some vintage copies of the original hardback edition, in its classic dustjacket, are available to members on our Bookshelf page.
Rare inscribed copy of TS Eliot’s Ash Wednesday, October 2020
This First Edition has not only been signed by Eliot, but also inscribed by him with “Pray for us sinners”, quoting the end of the poem’s first section.
The book has the 1940 pencil ownership inscription of J. P. Pattinson, The Knoll, Windermere, most likely Dr. John Patrick Pattinson (1920-2005), who at this time was in his first year at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
The book is currently with Peter Harrington Rare Books.
Acclaimed multimedia interpretation of Four Quartets streaming online, October 2020
For full details see the Events page.
TS Eliot writes to Emily Hale about his visit to Little Gidding, October 2020
Frances Dickey, who is working her way through the letters, reports that in a letter of 21 May 1936, Eliot anticipates his visit, “where he plans to ‘shed a few tears over Crashaw, Mary Collett, Nicholas Ferrar and John Inglesant.'”
On the day after the visit, “he reports enthusiastically on his experience, recounting the history of the monastic settlement founded at the time of Charles I (he refers her to John Henry Shorthouse’s 1881 novel, John Inglesant). He describes the 17th century front of the church and its interior, of which he has taken photographs, and its atmosphere of holiness.”
The letters of this period also make reference to his visit to East Coker.
The letters to Emily Hale are currently being edited for publication; Dickey’s descriptions of their contents are being posted here.
#MeToo, TS Eliot, and Modernist Scholarship, October 2020
Published online by Modernism/modernity, the journal of the Modernist Studies Association, a cluster of nine essays aims to “build on, critique, and redirect our conversation about modernism and #MeToo, and about The Waste Land and its representations of women and racialized and sexualized violence.”
In her introductory essay, editor Megan Quigley, Associate Professor of English at Villanova University, Pennsylvania, asks “Should Eliot, who in 1957 married his secretary, 38 years his junior, now, in the era of #MeToo, be ‘cancelled’? Eliot’s posthumously published racist verses, particularly in the aptly titled The Columbiad, may be reason enough to topple his still-towering status. Among the many insights the antiracist movement has to offer, surely one of them is that the secure perch of a monumental figure like Eliot on our syllabi might be perpetuating white supremacy, an ideology we profess to abhor.”
She also pursues further the issues raised last year between herself and Christopher Ricks, over the annotations in The Poems of TS Eliot. She writes that Professor Ricks “participates in the very logic of patriarchy that our essays seek to examine. By thwarting new voices and new approaches, Ricks threatens to solidify Eliot’s place in the canon of dead white men”.
The essays can be read here.
TS Eliot’s Prufrock has “a tremendously powerful effect” on actor Anthony Hopkins, September 2020
Sir Anthony explained: “He says at the end, ‘I grow old, I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled’.
“And that, when I see it… I get tearful.
“It’s not even the melancholy or the depression, it’s the fact that I’ve had an extraordinary life.
“Pulling all the strings and the fabrics of my life together now, the past is very present to me – my own parents, my father who worked hard all his life, my mother, my grandparents. So I’m putting all those threads into me and I can’t even describe it, but there’s a locality in my head that I’m back in Wales.
“It has a tremendously powerful effect on me because I realise that I’m up there now and I’m not scared and not afraid.”
The actor recently recited the poem in a lockdown video, posted online from his Los Angeles home, under the title: “Life…what’s it all about?”
Now online: Jeremy Irons reads Four Quartets in New York, September 2020
In April 2018, seventy-five years after the original publication of Four Quartets, Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons presented the work in its entirety on the stage of 92Y in New York. Now, 92Y has released online, for a limited time only, their never-before-seen footage of the reading.
Details are here and online purchase is charged at US$10.
Now known simply as 92Y, the YMHA was founded in New York in 1874; it finally settled in a building on 92nd Street in 1930, and became known as the 92nd Street Y. “For 145 years,” they explain, “we have been serving our communities and the larger world by bringing people together and providing exceptional, groundbreaking programmes. But we are facing tremendous financial losses due to COVID-19.
“Your ticket purchase helps sustain our beloved institution, and supports the creation of new, online programming that will bring comfort and inspiration to our community.”
TS Eliot amends the definition of “C.i.f. London”, September 2020
Earlier versions of the Notes stated that “c.i.f” meant that the currants (line 210) were “quoted at a price carriage and insurance free”. In 1959, Eliot’s secretary replied to a query that “Mr. Eliot says that he is quite likely to have been mistaken about the meaning of ‘c. i. f.’, but if so it was a piece of misinformation which he picked up while working in the Foreign Department of Lloyds Bank.”
In 1962, Eliot stated that he had “confirmed from Lloyds Bank that c.i.f. stands for cost, insurance and freight”, and that an alteration should be made in subsequent editions.
Consequently, this 1961 impression was the final printing to contain the incorrect information; Notes was amended in the subsequent Collected Poems 1909-1962. Eliot’s handwritten correction is very unusual; the volume is also signed by Eliot on the title page.
This is one of a number of interesting Eliot books being sold by the dealer Peter Grogan. Others include a First Edition of The Dry Salvages inscribed “for Stephen Spender with the affectionate regards of T.S. Eliot”; and a First Edition UK of Four Quartets inscribed pre-publication “to / The Master of Magdalene”, the poet Allen Ramsay. (Images of these can be seen in the Members Area.) A list of Peter Grogan’s books and letters by TS Eliot is here.
TS Eliot, Good and Evil, September 2020
A newly published essay by Jewel Spears Brooker explores Good and Evil in TS Eliot’s Letters to Emily Hale. Professor Brooker believes that “areas of overlap between Eliot’s letters to Hale and his contemporaneous class lectures are of the essence in following his thinking about the nature of evil.”
Granted permission to quote directly from the Emily Hale letters, the essay in The Glass throws light upon the issues which Eliot had with the Unitarianism of both his own family and Hale herself. “Given the incongruity of their understanding of the spiritual life,” writes Brooker, “the slow demise of their romance seems to have been inevitable.”
The wide-ranging essay brings together Eliot’s view of (the capitalised) Good and Evil, as distinct from “good” and “bad”; his explorations of this in works by Joseph Conrad and Henry James; and his concern about the moral implications of his own influence, both on Hale, and on the wider Anglo-Catholic community. It also highlights an occasion when Eliot had “his own Conradian experience of ‘The Horror’.”
Jewel Spears Brooker, Professor Emerita at Eckerd College in Florida, has written or edited ten books, the latest of which is TS Eliot’s Dialectical Imagination.
TS Eliot’s poetry by IA Richards republished from 1926, September 2020
The New Statesman has republished from its archives a review of TS Eliot’s poetry by the critic IA Richards.
In a review of Eliot’s Collected Poems from February 1926, Richards makes the case for New Criticism, and argues against the contemporary criticisms of Eliot’s work, ultimately concluding: “Only those unfortunate persons who are incapable of reading poetry can resist Mr Eliot’s rhythms.”
Charleston Festival to show TS Eliot Arena documentary online, September 2020
The BBC’s landmark 2009 documentary, Arena: T.S. Eliot, is to be shown online, as part of Charleston’s Small Wonder Festival At Home.
The documentary “takes an in-depth look at the Nobel Prize winner and seminal figure in twentieth-century English language literary culture who was a regular visitor to Charleston.” (Pictured here with Virginia Woolf.) With contributors including Seamus Heaney, Lady Spender, Jeanette Winterson and Christopher Ricks, the documentary features never-before-seen private scrapbooks, albums and archive footage from Valerie Eliot.
The film will be shown alongside exclusive new poems inspired by the documentary from poets including this years winner of the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry, Roger Robinson. Full details of the event are here.
The documentary will be available via the Festival website from 10am, Friday 25 September to 10pm, Sunday 27 September. It is free to view, although viewers may consider contributing to Charleston’s emergency appeal.
Short online lectures from the International TS Eliot Summer School, August 2020
The Summer School had to be cancelled this year, but Director Anthony Cuda explains that “as a way to keep our community as strong as ever, our faculty and staff have been working to bring you exclusive new digital content and resources. We’re calling these the 2020 T. S. Eliot Summer School Digital Sessions.”
The first postings, under a welcome from Cuda, include a report by Frances Dickey from the Emily Hale letters; Sarah Kennedy on the Landscapes poem Rannoch, by Glencoe; Jayme Stayer on the Pound-Monroe Quarrel over Prufrock; and Anthony Cuda himself on belatedness. Each is less than ten minutes long.
Virginia Woolf and Old Possum, August 2020
Anthony Cuda, US academic and Director of the International TS Eliot Summer School, has reported on some of the lighter moments contained within the letters from TS Eliot to Emily Hale, for Time Present, the newsletter of the US-based International TS Eliot Society. And in 1939, Eliot forwarded to Hale a short note he had received from Virginia Woolf, following the publication of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
Writing to Eliot on October 7th, after receiving her copy of the book, Woolf asks: “Can I claim the immortality of having christened you Old Possum? Oh dear, don’t do me out of that little clutch upon the skirts of posterity. Yes, I’m sure it was me.”
As early as 1923, Eliot and Ezra Pound were addressing each other as Possum and Rabbit, using nicknames from the Uncle Remus stories, and it has always been understood that Pound had coined Eliot’s nickname himself.
Woolf signs off her letter, “your old Mangy farmyard Tabby, Virginia.”
Summer issue of Exchanges…, our Society quarterly, August 2020
The Summer issue of our Society quarterly is now available. In its editorial, the new issue rebuts an accusation that Eliot is ‘elitist’. There are contributions on the TS Eliot Poetry Prize, on a lesser-known parody of Eliot, and on poetry which has been helpful during the pandemic – plus a couple of shorter items.
You can download this new issue here
TS Eliot’s photographs of Little Gidding, August 2020
In her latest report from the Emily Hale letters at Princeton, Frances Dickey detailed a letter from Eliot to Hale of 16 January 1936. She reported that enclosed with the letter were photographs of the church at Little Gidding and Nicholas Ferrar’s tomb. This would predate by 5 months Eliot’s previously only known visit to Little Gidding on 25 May 1936.
“Mystery solved,” Dickey now reports. “The photographs were enclosed in Eliot’s June 18, 1936 letter, which mentions the visit to Little Gidding and George Herbert’s church. But in the digital scans, these photos seem to have been placed with his letters of early January. Thanks for pointing out this inconsistency!”
2020 Journal of the TS Eliot Society (UK) published, July 2020
Edited by Dr Scott Freer, the 2020 edition contains essays that present either an aesthetic, a biographical or post-secular view of TS Eliot:
- Editorial, by our Editor, Dr Scott Freer
- Baudelaire and Moréas’s Symbolisme in TS Eliot’s The Waste Land, by Robert Gillespie of Blackhall, OBE
- Reconsidering Emily Hale, by Sara Fitzgerald, author of The Poet’s Girl: A Novel of Emily Hale and T.S. Eliot,
- ‘Where shall the word be found’: TS. Eliot Nearing the Post-Secular, by Charika Swanepoel,
- Book Review: Jeremy Diaper, T.S. Eliot and Organicism, by Scott Freer
For full details of how both members and public can obtain copies, please visit our dedicated Journal page from the menu above.
TS Eliot rarities on sale, July 2020
Two books inscribed to TS Eliot’s niece, Theodora Eliot Smith, are on sale from Shapero Rare Books in London.
One (left) is a copy of the Ariel Poem, The Cultivation of Christmas Trees, signed “with love from Tom, Christmas, 1954.” The other, a copy of The Rock, is inscribed to her more formally “with love from TS Eliot.”
Among other Eliot rarities, which include a copy of Ara Vos Prec, Shapero also have an almost complete set of the Criterion (right) in its various formats from 1923 to 1939. Only two issues are missing from the set, but sadly one of those is the first, which published The Waste Land for the first time.
Restoration work at Little Gidding, July 2020
In early July, when the church would normally have played host to our Annual TS Eliot Festival, it was photographed swathed in scaffolding and polythene.
The Friends of Little Gidding explained that “Little Gidding Church received a substantial legacy from a gentleman called Ian Bentley, who had been a member of both the Friends and the TS Eliot Society. As a result, a number of restoration projects could be brought forward.
“This includes a major repair of the roof. The aim is to make it sound and waterproof for the next 100 years.
“Further restoration work is also planned or completed: the eagle lectern has been cleaned; the font is being cleaned and a new display case provided for it.”
A before-and-after image reveals the work that has already been done to its entrance (click to enlarge):
Listen free to the latest recording of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, July 2020
Lemn said the opportunity to record TS Eliot’s poems was “the best job ever”.
Until Sunday 19th July his recording, which was released only last year, can be heard free on Soundcloud here.
David Hockney quotes TS Eliot to explain his self-confidence, July 2020
To celebrate the birthday of the artist David Hockney on 9th July, The Art Newspaper carries an outtake from the video Hockney Unlocked, in which Hockney is asked about his self-confidence in the face of his origins in provincial Bradford.
“Assurance,” he corrects his questioner. “Assurance.”
Then, paraphrasing TS Eliot, he continues, “Assurance sat on him, like the silk hat of a Bradford millionaire. The Waste Land. Eliot.
“I think scholars used to have arguments – did he mean Bradford, Yorkshire or Bradford, Pennsylvania? I assume he meant Bradford, Yorkshire.
“A wool man.”
David Hockney is 83.
A history of a Waste Land church, June 2020
An article has been posted on A London Inheritance (“A Private History of a Public City”), which explores in some depth the history of St Mary Woolnoth, the church which famously chimes in The Waste Land “with a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.”
The article traces the church’s construction, and its design by Nicholas Hawksmoor; the stories behind its name; its problematic crypt; and its dealings with what became the London Underground. There are images, historic and contemporary, of both its exterior and interior – including the clock mechanism now on display, labelled with Eliot’s lines.
The article can be read here.
New dates for TS Eliot books, June 2020
There are rescheduled publication dates for two forthcoming TS Eliot books.
A reissue of Murder In The Cathedral, planned for publication in July, will now be published by Faber in October this year. Marking the 850th anniversary of the murder of Thomas Becket, the book’s cover features the linocut Monseigneur St Thomas by the English Modernist artist Cyril Power.
And Volume 9 of The Letters of TS Eliot is now scheduled for August 2021. Covering the years 1939-1941, the volume will cover the production of The Family Reunion, the publication of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and discussion of Four Quartets.
TS Eliot’s Last Prose, June 2020
In an critical essay in The Hudson Review, William H Pritchard explores Eliot’s Last Prose, effectively the last three volumes of the online Complete Prose, from 1940 to 1965.
“The great criticism Eliot wrote in the 1920s and 1930s (and the years leading up to 1920) is only minimally expanded by these final volumes,” he writes, “filled with often obligatory performances for this or that committee on one or another cultural or religious subject.” He quotes several other negative critics of Eliot’s later prose.
However, Pritchard finds and draws attention to “a number of places in which the critic succeeds in saying something very much worthwhile about poetry in practice.”
“As the immediacy of Eliot’s many formulations becomes less immediate,” he observes, “we read him not to be instructed or corrected, but in a more disinterested approach to him as ‘literature.’”
International TS Eliot conference to be held online this year, May 2020
The annual meeting of the International TS Eliot Society, based in the US, is to be held online this year, offering an opportunity for participation to those who might not have been able to travel to Massachusetts for the scheduled conference.
Because of continuing concerns regarding the coronavirus, the program committee has decided to hold the 2020 annual meeting online, using the Zoom platform. Although the format of the conference will be modified, it will still comprise panels and seminars as well as their Memorial Lecture.
The organisers say that “We welcome clearly organized proposals of around 300 words, submitted as Word or PDF documents, on any topic reasonably related to Eliot, along with brief biographical sketches. The deadline for submission of abstracts has been extended to June 15th, 2020.”
Details of the conference and seminars, along with full details of the call for papers, are here.
Book inscribed by TS Eliot to his sailing colleague, May 2020
The book is inscribed to Harold Peters, a close undergraduate friend of Eliot. Peters sailed with Eliot on many holidays; “An experienced sailor,” according to Robert Crawford in Young Eliot, “Peters was naturally sporty in a way that Tom was not…Tom liked the camaraderie of such voyages.” Their friendship survived for some years, as this 1930 volume shows. “Although Vivienne found Peters’s attachment to Eliot rather comical,” writes Crawford, “Eliot told his mother that his former classmate was ‘the most lovable fellow in the world, and I think really devoted to me, and time cannot alter that.’”
The book, now in fine binding, is inscribed “To Harold Peters Esq. In memory of The Opera Exchange and the Heavenly Twins (Buster and Bollox) and other numerous memories with the author’s affectionate regards, T.S. Eliot”. The Opera Exchange was a Boston bar in which they would drink.
Why TS Eliot still matters, May 2020
In an essay in Standpoint magazine, Douglas Murray explores why, as his contemporaries’ reputations have diminished, TS Eliot’s has grown.
“He is the modern poet whose lines come to mind most often,” Murray believes. “The one we reach for when we wish to find sense in things. And certainly the first non-scriptural place we call when we consider the purpose or end of life.”
Murray argues that Eliot “didn’t just speak to his time, but found a way to reclaim time….while other artists showed how culture could be either shown off, strewn about or destroyed utterly, Eliot demonstrated how it could be reclaimed.””
And finally, Murray believes that Eliot undertook a journey, in which “[he] not only stared into the abyss or stood over it, but… managed to cross through it: through the howling fire that threatened to galvanise him, as it does everyone.”
Eliot, he concludes, “remains nearly unique among artists in the last century for having managed not just to walk through that century but, with occasional slips, extraordinary poise and a great deal of bravery, emerged at the other side of the fire-walk with a vision held aloft.”
The sense of ‘home’ in TS Eliot’s poetry, May 2020
“In a time of pandemic and social distancing, could there be a poet more useful to our understanding of the importance of home?” In a new essay, Rediscovering Home, the American writer and editor Scott Beauchamp argues that a “sense of nostalgia and homecoming…runs through Eliot’s work like a powerful electrical charge”.
With a particular focus on the influence of St Louis, and drawing upon Robert Crawford’s biographical work, Beauchamp explores “the sense of home which Eliot longed for in his earlier poems. Not simply the specific details of the St. Louis of his youth, or a depersonalized universal, but some sort of paradoxical resolution of the two into each other.”
Spring issue of Exchanges, our Society quarterly, May 2020
The Spring issue of our Society quarterly is now available. Addressing a wide range of Eliot enthusiasms, this issue contains an academic essay on E McKnight Kauffer’s illustrations to Journey of The Magi; an article on errata and variations in editions of Eliot; and a personal piece about reading Little Gidding in the current crisis.
You can download this new issue here.
TS Eliot inscription links book to wartime St Stephen’s, Gloucester Road, April 2020
In Eliot’s hand, the book is “Inscribed for Fr. W.R. Alderson, in grateful memory of his years at St. Stephen’s by T.S. Eliot 9.ix.47”
Eliot had been Vicar’s Warden to Fr. Eric Cheetham at St Stephen’s, Gloucester Road, since 1934. He later wrote of the church during wartime that “at no time was St Stephen’s closed or the offices unsaid; [Fr. Cheetham] and Fr. Alderson, who was then his curate, said their daily masses through the worst of the bombardment.”
The book sold for just over £800 (including buyer’s premium).
Letter reveals TS Eliot’s views on reading in childhood, April 2020
In 1961, Eliot was approached from the US to write “6-10 typewritten pages” aimed at children aged 6-8. It is likely that this was for a series of books, Modern Masters for Children, which succeeded in commissioning such illustrious contemporaries as Arthur Miller, Robert Graves and William Saroyan. A constraint was that the authors were limited to a vocabulary which educators believed would be appropriate for that age group.
Eliot’s letter replying to the commission in August 1961 has now surfaced. He “perpended” (pondered) the proposal, but “I am afraid that I cannot run to that length…I have only written verse for children.” [Eliot’s underlining]
More significantly, he continues: “Nor do I believe I could or should try to compose a children’s story limited to a vocabulary of 250 words laid down in advance.
“I have always maintained the view which, judging from the children of my acquaintance, is correct, that children like long and euphonious words, without understanding them. Indeed, for me as a child, and I am sure for any intelligent child who likes reading the new and unknown words are part of the fun. They may even be words that the child would not use until it is grown up.”
Eliot concludes, “So I am afraid I cannot be one of your distinguished contributors.”
The letter is currently in the hands of a US dealer in books and manuscripts.
Remarkable collection of TS Eliot First Editions and publications goes on sale, April 2020
An extraordinary collection of over 150 First Editions, periodical publications and other significant works by TS Eliot, has been put on sale. Assembled by a distinguished American librarian, “the collection represents a substantial and bibliographically significant selection of the poet’s publications.”
The First Editions span Eliot’s oeuvre, from his second book, Ezra Pound: his metric and poetry (1917), through Ara Vos Prec (1920), rarities like After Strange Gods (1934) and 5 significant publications of Four Quartets. Many books are present in both English and US First Editions.
Unusually, the collection also includes the first publication of many of Eliot’s poems in periodicals; The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in Poetry magazine; The Waste Land in The Dial; and East Coker, The Dry Salvages and Little Gidding in The New English Weekly. Also included are various translations, spoken word recordings, and an extensive number of periodicals containing contributions by Eliot.
First publication of Prufrock now free access online, April 2020
The academic publisher JSTOR has made the pages free to access and download here. It displays the original layout, indents etc of the poem’s first publication. JSTOR also provides access to the other contents of that issue.
The University of Chicago Special Collections have linked to their copy of the original transcript of the poem with editor’s marks and Eliot’s signature – free PDF copies of the full document can be requested.
Willem Dafoe on playing TS Eliot, April 2020
In an interview with Slash Film, Dafoe discusses his research in order to play real-life characters, and in particular TS Eliot. “The fact that I could read his letters, read his diary, read his critical words, read what he was working on at any given time, you could approximate what his state of mind was according to your imagination. And that kind of specificity is really fun to play with, because you’re not interpreting it, but you’re learning things that give you an appetite to think a different way. And I love when that happens.
“You’re not interpreting T.S. Eliot as you understand him. You’re inhabiting him. You’re imagining him. It’s not the T.S. Eliot. It’s your T.S. Eliot. And hopefully, it’ll be transparent enough that it’ll be resonant for people.”
Willem Dafoe has recently recorded a reading of The Waste Land (see below).
The Essential TS Eliot, April 2020
The audiobook is read by a number of American poets and literary figures, and is introduced by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, essayist and literary critic Vijay Seshadri. It includes Eliot’s own readings of La Figlia Che Piange and Preludes, and a reading of The Waste Land by actor Willem Dafoe, who played Eliot in the movie Tom & Viv (see above). Full details of the audiobook, which can be downloaded in the UK, and an excerpt from the Introduction, are here – click on ‘read more’ for the full contents.
How the Emily Hale letters were sealed, April 2020
In an article on the website of the Princeton University Library, Daniel J. Linke, Interim Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, explores the manner in which the Emily Hale letters were physically sealed.
“Then, as now, Princeton University Library staff took their obligations to donors seriously,” he writes. In order to ensure the letters could not be read, he explains the use of a combination of paper, wood and metal bands – and how “the entire boxed, taped, and banded contraption protected the letters from the idly curious or prying eyes.”
Pay TS Eliot, Esq. the sum of Fifteen Pounds exactly, April 2020
The cheque was issued by J.M. Dent in payment of Eliot’s fee of £15 for writing the introduction to the 1932 Everyman edition of Pascal’s Pensées.
Accompanying the cheque is a small collection of correspondence between the publishers J.M.Dent and Faber, discussing the copyright in Eliot’s essay. Details and further pictures are at Neil Pearson Rare Books.
2020 Annual TS Eliot Festival and International Summer School cancelled, April 2020
It has been announced with enormous regret that both the Annual TS Eliot Festival 2020, and the International TS Eliot Summer School 2020, have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The TS Eliot Festival was scheduled for 5th July at Little Gidding; the TS Eliot Summer School was to have run 4th to 12th July in London.
Announcing the cancellation of the Summer School, Georgia Reeves, their Events Administrator, said “The Institute of English Studies have made this difficult decision in response to official UK government restrictions on large gatherings of people and in response to projected models of the evolving global health crisis caused by COVID-19. And while July seems like a long way off, it is our responsibility to look ahead with an abundance of caution and to act in accordance with public health recommendations.” Further details are here.
The organisers of the Annual TS Eliot Festival have, regretfully, taken a similar decision to cancel their event, but hope to welcome its audience back to Little Gidding next year. Both events are hoping to roll over as much as possible of their planned line-ups to 2021.
Free access to the Complete Prose of TS Eliot during virus crisis, March 2020
In response to the unprecedented challenges created by the COVID-19 global public health crisis, Johns Hopkins University Press is providing free access to its collection of books and journals currently on Project MUSE.
This includes the eight volumes of The Complete Prose of TS Eliot. This monumental work, containing Eliot’s prose writings including essays. lectures and academic letters, was previously only accessible through academic libraries or with subscription. All of its content is now freely accessible here.
In all, some 1,400 books and 97 journals will be accessible for free via MUSE for the remainder of the spring term.”MUSE is grateful for the opportunity to support our community through this crisis,” said Wendy Queen, the director of Project MUSE, “as a hub to connect users and the content they need, from wherever they can.”
TS Eliot’s Little Gidding and the comfort of history, March 2020
An essay, Plague and the comforts of history, by writer and historian Tom Holland, begins and ends with Eliot’s Little Gidding, “Written at a time when it seemed that Britain would lose the war, and civilisation itself be lost to ruin.”
Holland writes that “Churches, more than any other kind of building, bear the imprint of the past: of what Eliot would call the ‘pattern of timeless moments’.” He believes that churches retain the “trace elements” of previous crises in England, and through them he explores “the great chain of shared experience that, spanning millennia, joins the 21st century experience of epidemic to that of the distant Iron Age.”
“Perhaps,” he writes, “there is no meaning to be found in our vulnerability to infectious disease that is capable simultaneously of offering consolation. For all that, though, it may be there is an assurance to be discovered in the record of past generations.”
TS Eliot as poet-critic, March 2020
“The poet-critic has been an institution in English literature because usually only an artist has the stubborn animus, the conviction that art should be one way rather than another, that makes for interesting criticism.”
In TS Eliot’s animus, an essay in The New Criterion, the poet, critic, academic and editor Adam Kirsch explores the role of TS Eliot as a poet-critic. Eliot, he argues,“was the rare writer whose best essays were as significant and influential as his best poems.”
Kirsch writes that “Eliot the critic helped to create the taste by which Eliot the poet was enjoyed, even though—or, better, precisely because—his work in the two genres was so different in tone and approach.”
The essay examines the nature of Eliot’s “animus”, in the light of “the question that [Eliot] imagined a reader would ask: why should someone capable of writing great poems choose to spend his time writing critical prose?”
International TS Eliot Summer School releases 2020 lecture schedule, February 2020
Lecturers include Sarah Kennedy, Seamus Perry, Megan Quigley, Frances Dickey and the Summer School’s Director, Anthony Cuda. The schedule also includes the poet Matthew Hollis; Ann Pasternak Slater, author of the forthcoming book on Vivien Eliot (see below); and an opening address by author Ian McEwan.
The schedule also includes both Lyndall Gordon and Mark Ford at the Annual TS Eliot Festival at Little Gidding on July 5th, the full programme of which is still to be released.
Vivien Eliot’s original writings to be published in new biography, February 2020
The Fall of a Sparrow: Vivien Eliot’s Life and Writings by Ann Pasternak Slater is scheduled for publication by Faber & Faber in May this year. Ann Pasternak Slater is a literary scholar, translator and Senior Research Fellow at St Anne’s College, Oxford, who has written books on Shakespeare and Evelyn Waugh.
According to Faber, “Part One is a meticulous biography of Vivien, which also details the most eventful and formative years of TS Eliot’s life.
“Part Two is a scholarly collection of Vivien’s writings: they are evidence of talent, of collaboration, and reveal poignant, autobiographical trace-elements of a troubled, difficult life.”
UPDATE: Publication has been moved to 5th November
Houghton Library Curator speaks of storing the statement by TS Eliot, January 2020
In an interview in the Harvard Magazine, Leslie Morris, the Curator of their Houghton Library, has spoken about keeping in storage the statement by TS Eliot concerning the Emily Hale letters.
“I’d seen this thing sitting on a shelf in the vault for years,” says Morris, the Vidal curator of modern books and manuscripts at Houghton. “We knew it had to have something to do with the Hale letters, but we didn’t know what the document itself said.
“So, in contrast to the letters, there was this sense of, ‘Oh my God, we had no idea.’”
The article also contains photographs of the statement’s original packaging, and Eliot’s handwritten, signed covering note, describing it as a “Memorandum and covering letter concerning letters from me which may eventually be published.”
Rare TS Eliot publication returns to market, January 2020
Just 22 copies of Two Poems were printed, for Eliot to give as Christmas presents in 1935. Stitched in stiff, laid paper wrappers, they were printed on a range of fine papers; this particular copy, J, is on Japanese rice paper. (The two poems are “Cape Ann” and “Usk”.)
TS Eliot’s critical opinions – criticised, January 2020
Writing upon the completion of The Complete Prose of TS Eliot, the poet and critic Lachlan McKinnon has published a strongly critical essay in the TLS: Aesthetic certainty: A full exploration of Eliot’s critical opinions.
Unhappy with the format of the Prose, McKinnon says “these volumes are not a web resource. They are books placed online, lacking hypertext and separately indexed (unwieldy for rapid reference).” Using them is, he says, “substantially slower than with actual books”.
McKinnon then proceeds to criticise much of Eliot’s prose itself. He highlights the “overburdened” Eliot’s Shakespearean criticism; Eliot’s theory of “dissociation of sensibility” (which “led others on a wild goose chase”); his “unconvincing explanations” of his anti-semitic remarks; his “mind-boggling” insensitivity and “an appalling moral failure” in the face of post-WWII politics; and how Eliot’s “reversion to a narrow Anglicanism shows as a shabby, diminished thing.”
Hannah Sullivan reads TS Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale, January 2020
The TS Eliot Prize-winning poet and Eliot scholar Hannah Sullivan has been to Princeton, and writes in the TLS about reading some of Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale.
“It’s their vivacity,” she writes, “their urgency, agony, ecstasy, occasional petulance, jealousy, and above all their capacity for pain – that makes them worth reading.”
Unlike the scholars who are working chronologically through the letters, Sullivan jumps to the end, to letters dated 1947, and brings a particularly incisive eye to Eliot and Hale’s relationship and its significance for his poetry.
“What if a particular form of endlessly unfulfilled happiness, or endlessly exciting unhappiness, was exactly what the poems flourished on and needed?” she asks.
Emily Hale’s narrative now available online, January 2020
They allow a reader to trace the development of her “narrative” of their relationship, through her amendments and additions, such as the later inclusion of their trip to Burnt Norton, and her statement that Eliot regarded Burnt Norton as a love poem to her.
The formal description is that the folder “Includes several drafts of an account of the relationship between T.S. Eliot and Emily Hale, written by Emily Hale. Also included are letters from Hale to former University Librarian William S. Dix concerning corrections made to the drafts.”
The documents can be read here.
TS Eliot’s mandolin, January 2020
An article in the Times Literary Supplement tries to identify the type of mandolin(e) which TS Eliot owned, played, and referred to in The Waste Land. He reportedly played scales on a mandolin in Margate, while he was composing the poem.
“To identify the kind of instrument that Eliot possessed would help determine the kind of music he played and the kind of sound he wanted to evoke,” writes NS Thompson. “Was it some kind of nascent jazz as in, say, the song ‘That Shakesperian Rag’ (composed in 1912) referenced in A Game of Chess, or something from vaudeville or even light classical?”
The article is here.
Revealing interview with the authorised Editor of TS Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale, January 2020
Professor Haffenden has given an audio interview to Spectator Radio: The Book Club: what do T.S. Eliot’s letters reveal? In it, he says that the letters present “A whole new dimension to the man which we never suspected before – he opens his heart in every way to her.”
“How wonderful to receive these letters,” he says. “I would fall in love with him instantly.”
The letters, he says, “personalise the man to an extraordinary new degree… he is quite upfront about his perceptions, his observations about people, about life. He’ll ruminate aloud about his task in life, his ambitions… it’s an expanse of feeling which he is now allowing room to breathe and come up and be spoken to this one individual.”
Professor Haffenden discusses the “evidence of his anger” in Eliot’s statement, which “being the sceptical generation” we must also feel was influenced by Valerie. He provides revelations, such as that Stravinsky’s Petrushka underlies The Hollow Men. He confirms that, while the letters will not be put online, they will be published by Faber in “mid-2021, which is not long to wait.” And he criticises those who, “rather scandalously in my view and unnecessarily”, are blogging and paraphrasing the content ahead of that publication.
Updates from TS Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale, January 2020
Frances Dickey, of the University of Missouri and the US-based International TS Eliot Society, is present and reading the letters in the Princeton Library Special Collections. For reasons of copyright, she is unable to quote directly from the letters, but is producing regular and revelatory summaries of their content.
You are now able to subscribe to receive her summaries as a regular e-mail – you can register for that service here.
Her summaries to date have been published here. The most recent revelations include the identity of Marie in The Waste Land, and emotional declarations by Eliot in the Spring of 1931.
TS Eliot’s Epiphany, January 2020
On BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, Catherine Pepinster examines the concept of Epiphany through Eliot’s poem, Journey of the Magi, and how the poem “articulates something not just about the Magi, but about human experience.”
And tseliot.com is hosting a recording of Daniel Day-Lewis reading the poem, available until the Feast of Epiphany.
Ash Wednesday – a love poem?, January 2020
“He makes a very clear declaration of his love for her,” says Frances Dickey, of the University of Missouri, who is reading the letters in the Princeton University Library, in an interview with NPR in the United States. “And even more significantly, he identifies poems that were inspired by her.
“He says that his love of her has helped me to the church and to the struggle of the spiritual life. And in the midst of agony, a deep peace and resignation springs. Not as the world giveth, but the peace of God. Of course there were many concurrent paths leading me to the altar, but I doubt whether I should have arrived but for you. And now there is no need to explain Ash Wednesday to you. No one else will ever understand it.”
(The First Edition of Ash Wednesday, published in 1930, carries the dedication: “To My Wife.”)
Frances Dickey is writing online as she continues to study the letters, with regular updates here.
Posthumous statement by TS Eliot, January 2020
Written in 1960, then sealed and withheld by his executors until the opening of the letters, Eliot’s statement begins, “It is painful for me to have to write the following lines.” What follows is an autobiographical statement, not only about his relationship with Emily Hale, but also with his two wives, Vivienne and Valerie. And he describes his letters to Hale as “the letters of an hallucinated man”.
Of his relationship with Emily Hale he writes: “I came to see that my love for Emily was the love of a ghost for a ghost”
“It would have been a still greater mistake to have married Emily than it was to marry Vivienne Haigh-Wood.”
This extraordinary document – both its original typescript and a transcript – can be read on the website of the Houghton Library, Harvard, where the statement had been held.
In a Daily Mail article on the statement and letters, “TS Eliot expert Craig Raine said Eliot’s ‘devastating letter’ to the executors was a qualification of his love letters to Hale. ‘Take them with a sackful of salt, is what he is saying,’ he explains.”
Lyndall Gordon, who is reading the Emily Hale letters in Princeton Library, is quoted in a later article in The Telegraph: “Gordon said she was taken aback by the fervour of Eliot’s letters [to Emily Hale], and the cold dismissal of his feelings which he intended to preface the archive. ‘I can absolutely see why these letters were for her eyes alone,’ said Gordon. ‘Eliot made his feelings clear to Hale in these letters. It was not just a sentimental passing moment; he was more in love than ever.
“’What was striking to me, though, was the timed rebuttal. He found out in 1956 that the letters were to be handed to Princeton. And in 1960 he set off this bombshell, which went off exactly as planned. It’s astonishing to me how raw his anger was, even after all that time. It’s an absolute contrast to the letters themselves.'”
TS Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale released, January 2020
Frances Dickey, of the University of Missouri and the US-based International TS Eliot Society, is present and reading the letters in the Princeton Library Special Collections,. “There was always a possibility,” she writes “that the opening of the Hale letters would turn out to be a disappointment, merely adding to the volume of Eliot’s correspondence but not the depth of the correspondent.
“However, the first box dismisses any such worry. The collection begins with an extraordinary sequence of letters in which Eliot unrestrainedly confesses his feelings for Hale and credits her with both leading him to his religious faith and inspiring his poetry.”
Frances Dickey is writing online as she continues to study the letters, with regular updates here.
A summary with some quotes from the letters has been published in The Guardian.
Lyndall Gordon on her career in Eliot studies, and the Emily Hale letters, January 2020
In a wide-ranging interview by Cécile Varry in The Modernist Review, Lyndall Gordon talks about the significance of the Emily Hale letters; about meetings with Dame Helen Gardner and Eliot’s friend and colleague Peter du Sautoy, and about her life and career in Eliot studies.
Gordon was one of the first to take a biographical approach to Eliot’s work. “It’s hard to explain now how illegitimate it was at the time to link work and life,” she says. “I wasn’t just criticised —I was savaged!”
She says later in the interview, “You should be able to read the poems on their own to get the feeling of them, but if you know the facts of his life, it will deepen your understanding.”
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