Recent stories relating to TS Eliot
TS Eliot’s return to St Louis, January 2020
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 2020
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“.
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.”
The unsealing of TS Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale, December 2019
“Before a small audience… the Princeton librarians Don Skemer [who has since retired] and John Logan stood behind a table full of wooden crates wielding dual pairs of tin snips. They proceeded in tandem to snap the copper bands holding the crates and the wooden slats clattered to the table.
“Revealed at last were the letter boxes that held the answers to one of the most intriguing mysteries of modernism: Princeton’s trove of more than a thousand letters sent by TS Eliot to Emily Hale between 1930 and 1956.”
Nearly half of the letters, the article reveals, were discovered to still be folded inside of their corresponding envelopes. All of the letters were rehoused with their envelopes and arranged in chronological order, and then sent to the Digital Imaging Studio for imaging. The resulting digital surrogates will allow multiple researchers to use the collection at once, and will facilitate increased access to the collection, which will finally be opened to researchers next month following the end of its moratorium.
The article is here.
From Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, to Cats, December 2019
Among the many articles and reviews published to coincide with the opening of the movie Cats, Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker magazine explores The Improbable Insanity of Cats, “how Andrew Lloyd Webber and a team of collaborators turned a strange book by T S Eliot into a baffling cultural phenomenon.” The article includes some interesting observations on the nickname, Old Possum.
Despite largely negative reviews of the movie, the spokesperson for the TS Eliot Estate told The Guardian that “I think he would have had a sense of humour about it, he was very open-minded, he liked having his head blown. He was an unusual person and this is such an unusual thing.”
TS Eliot and Beethoven, December 2019
It suggests that the composer represented “resistance and a kind of redemption” to Eliot. It traces connections to Beethoven in Eliot’s work, and ways in which Beethoven’s music was significant in St Louis, and may have provided Eliot with “nostalgia for a place in which music was not nationalistic…was not rooted in one nation.”
Narrated by Aakanksha Virkar Yates of the University of Brighton, it features contributions from Christopher Ricks, John Xiros Cooper and Frances Dickey. The podcast, from Assay: The Journal of Nonfiction Studies; is available for listening here via Tried and True .
UPDATE: Those interested in the relationship between TS Eliot and Beethoven may be interested in an event combining a reading of Four Quartets by Jeremy Irons with a performance of Beethoven’s Quartet in A minor Op 132 – see the Events page for details.
TS Eliot and The London Library, December 2019
Eliot joined The London Library in 1918. He would remain an active member for the rest of his life, serving as President from 1952 until his death in 1965
“The air of productive calm (set off against the bustle of central London), combined with the ability to ‘take ten volumes home with me’ from the open shelving meant that for Eliot, ‘without the London Library, many of my early essays could never have been written’. Eliot recognised it as a place that fires the imagination and cultivates the soul, a place of curious books and even more curious people.”
The article can be read here.
TS Eliot: The Search for Happiness, December 2019
T.S. Eliot The Search for Happiness is both an exploration of Eliot’s life as a poet, playwright, essayist and critic and an examination of Eliot’s personal and spiritual journey.
“It was late in life that Eliot himself found happiness, when at the age of 68 he secretly married his secretary Valerie Fletcher, a woman thirty-eight years younger than himself,” says the programme’s publicity.
“The marriage offered Eliot a deep and extraordinary happiness. Eliot was lifted from his loneliness; he had a social life for the first time; Eliot and Valerie travelled extensively together, they loved each other’s company, and they went to the theatre.”
Contributors to the documentary include Robert McCrum, Lyndall Gordon, Jason Harding, Bill Goldstein, Hannah Sullivan, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Trevor Nunn and Sarah Kennedy.
“T.S. Eliot The Search for Happiness is a portrayal of how a man found happiness late in life”. A trailer for the documentary is here.
TS Eliot in BBC Radio 4’s The Poetry Editor, December 2019
Presented by Hannah Sullivan, herself a TS Eliot Prize-winning poet, the programme begins by considering Pound’s editing of The Waste Land, with Matthew Hollis, the Faber Poetry Editor who now works at Eliot’s old desk. It considers the role played by poetry editors on the work of Eliot and others. The programme can be heard on BBC Sounds here.
Exchanges, our Society quarterly, November 2019
The Autumn issue of our Society quarterly has now been published.
There are articles on acquiring Eliot’s autograph; a report from a Modernist evening in Virginia Woolf’s garden; an Eliot journey, leading to Emily Hale; and a new approach to My Favourite Eliot.
Download and read the new issue of Exchanges here.
BBC Radio 4’s Thought For The Day, with TS Eliot, November 2019
Harries asks “a question that that TS Eliot wrestled with all through the 1930s”, that being, “What is our understanding of a good society?”
He explains that the signing of the Munich agreement left Eliot “with a fundamental doubt about the validity of our whole civilisation”. Harries goes on to consider Eliot’s notion of “virtue”, and its role in public life.
You can hear the three minute item here.
A Hundred Years of TS Eliot’s Tradition and the Individual Talent, October 2019
Kevin Dettmar, a Professor of English and director of the Humanities Studio at Pomona College, explores the history and significance of Tradition and the Individual Talent, which was first published over two issues in The Egoist magazine in the autumn of 1919.
“Fifty years after the death of the author was announced,” he writes, “and a century after Eliot’s belated obituary for Romanticism, Tradition still pulses with energy and life, what the poststructuralists would have called jouissance. Whether the influence is direct or indirect—whether a given literary essay has been influenced by Eliot’s critical brio, or by one who has been influenced by it—literary criticism today everywhere bears his impress.” The article is here.
Book Of The Week, Young Eliot, October 2019
First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in February 2015, the readers are Tom Mannion and David Acton. The repeat broadcasts are during week commencing 21st October, or you can listen to them online here.
Members may be interested in a significant discount on a hardback edition of Young Eliot; details in the Members Area.
TS Eliot’s mantelpiece love letters, October 2019
A profile of author Edna O’Brien by Ian Parker, in the New Yorker magazine, ends with revelations about the love life of TS and Valerie Eliot.
At the conclusion of the article, Edna O’Brien meets with Clare Reihill, Director of the TS Eliot Foundation. Parker writes that ‘Reihill, who had been a friend of Valerie Eliot’s, told O’Brien a story of devotion: sometimes, on a Sunday afternoon, T. S. Eliot “would put a letter on the mantelpiece, addressed to ‘Mrs. T. S. Eliot.’ And it would be an erotic letter about their life together.”
‘Decades later, Reihill said, Valerie still treasured these communications. “Once, when she was quite ill…she took some of the letters to put under her pillow, and I had to sit and read them to her in the evening.
“I was slightly embarrassed, because they were . . . intimate. But they were beautiful.”’
The article also mentions the couple’s “family edition” of The Waste Land, whose inscription starts: “This book belongs to Valerie and so does Thomas Stearns Eliot, her husband.”
“TS Eliot’s other woman” – Emily Hale, by Lyndall Gordon, October 2019
In a feature-length article in the Daily Telegraph, Lyndall Gordon explores the relationship between TS Eliot and Emily Hale. The article coincides with the 50th anniversary of Emily Hale’s death; this permits Princeton to unseal the letters which she received from Eliot, and begin preparations for their unveiling in January.
Emily Hale told a friend that “[Eliot] loves me – I believe that wholly – but apparently not in the way usual to men less gifted.”
“She seems,” writes Gordon, “to have provided an ideal of pure love, sustained over many years, at first in memory, then in person.”
Gordon’s article outlines the history of their relationship, its appearances in Eliot’s poetry, and the significance of the letters themselves. (Scroll down to July 2019 for our earlier coverage of the unsealing and future publication of the Hale letters.)
Gordon, who is at work on a forthcoming book Eliot Among The Women, will be present when the letters are released. “I will be there in January,” she says, “to fulfil my belief that Eliot’s secret attachment to Hale is central to understanding him.”
Hannah Sullivan to give Annual TS Eliot Lecture 2019, October 2019
Her title is TS Eliot and the Art of Abandonment.
Dr Hannah Sullivan is Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow at New College, Oxford. Her Account of TS Eliot’s Poetic Development is published online by the TS Eliot Foundation.
Her first book, The Work of Revision, explored the complicated genesis of some of the major works of English-language modernism, including poetry by Eliot. In 2013, she was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize to write a second book on ‘free verse’ – “a strange, straightforwardly oxymoronic, historically unstable phrase that, nevertheless, is almost the only way we have of describing modern poetic form.”
She is equally well known as winner of the TS Eliot Prize for Three Poems, her acclaimed 2018 debut collection of poetry, described by the Chair of the judges as “an astonishing debut, challenging the parameters of what poetry can do”.
This is the first time that the Annual TS Eliot Lecture has been given in Oxford. Hosted at the TS Eliot Theatre in Merton College, and with a welcome from Professor Helen Small, Merton Professor of English Language and Literature, doors (on the Rose Lane entrance) will open at 5pm; admission is free on a first-come, first-served basis, and the event will begin at 5.30pm.
Members of the TS Eliot Society (UK) are able to reserve seats for the event; see the Members Area for details.
A Practical Possum, October 2019
The single poem, described as “one of Mr Eliot’s ‘occasional verse effusions'”, was written to Alison Tandy, one of the child dedicatees of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, in thanks for the gift of a lavender bag.
Eliot gave permission for the Printing and Graphic Arts Department of Harvard Library, which already held the manuscript, to print “a few copies for private circulation solely”. However, he objected when he found that they had printed 80 copies. which, he felt, “very considerably exceeded my licence”. Eliot was given a list of the recipients; 20 copies were retrieved, and only 4 have come to market in the last 40 years.
Details of the pamphlet can be seen at Lucius Books of York; the poem itself can be read in The Poems I 299, with its publishing history and commentary at I 1202.
Rare editions of TS Eliot, September 2019
A rare copy of Catholic Anthology, which contained five poems by Eliot, and constituted his first apperarance in book form, is included in the latest Modernisms catalogue from Blackwell’s Rare Books. Edited by Ezra Pound, only 500 copies were published in 1915.
The catalogue also contains rare editions of Murder In The Cathedral; a signed presentation copy of The Idea of a Christian Society; and four books from the library of Bernard Bergonzi, including his annotated Four Quartets.
There are rarities in the catalogue from other authors including Beckett, Conrad, Fitzgerald, Forster and Joyce. The catalogue can be downloaded as a PDF here or a printed copy can be requested by e-mailing Henry.Gott@blackwell.co.uk
In addition, although not in the catalogue, Blackwell’s have a unique copy of a 1930 collection of essays, The Eighteen-Eighties, to which Eliot contributed his essay on Pater. The book is inscribed “for Emily Hale from T.S. Eliot”, and also carries her own ownership inscription. The book can be seen here.
TS Eliot’s rejection letters, September 2019
In an article on Literary Hub adapted from his book, Faber & Faber: The Untold Story, author Toby Faber looks at the publishing house’s most infamous rejection letters – including some written by TS Eliot.
Rejection letters by Eliot include those of Auden, Joyce and Orwell, while Faber almost turned down William Golding, and rejected Paddington Bear.
The Complete Prose of TS Eliot – completed, September 2019
Volume 7 is A European Society: 1947–1953, covering “one of the richest and most rewarding periods of Eliot’s career. Following receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948, he was in constant demand to lecture, broadcast, contribute to periodicals, and receive honorary degrees and recognition from numerous European, American, and British universities and societies.”
The final Volume 8, Still and Still Moving: 1954–1965, encompasses “the last decade of his monumental career with no lack of energy in pursuing his dramatic and critical writing, completing his final play, and publishing a versatile sequence of canonical essays”.
This colossal project has been completed under the overall editorship of Professor Ronald Schuchard, who was handed the responsibility by Valerie Eliot in 2004. The fully searchable, integrative eight-volume edition now includes all of Eliot’s collected essays, reviews, lectures, commentaries from The Criterion, and letters to editors, including more than 700 uncollected and 150 unpublished pieces from 1905 to 1965.
All eight volumes of The Complete Prose, its access details and a video introduction featuring Professor Schuchard are here.
TS Eliot, Crime Fiction Critic, September 2019
Although Eliot’s admiration for Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone is well known, he reviewed 34 mystery novels and short story collections, as well as two works on true crime, in The Criterion between 1927 and 1929. He also wrote a set of “rules of detective conduct”.
“TS Eliot’s mystery criticism in The Criterion reveals the great writer as a representative twenties detective fiction fan,” writes Curtis Evans, “one still amused with and mentally stimulated by the ingenuity of the puzzles crime authors were devising.
“Like a kind of highbrow pope he lent detective fiction, at a crucial time in its development as an art form, the considerable cachet of his intellectual benediction.”
TS Eliot and Boredom, August 2019
A fascinating essay by Christopher McVey, TS Eliot, Modernism, and Boredom, has been made available here. The essay is one of those published in The TS Eliot Studies Annual, Vol 2.
Drawing a contrast with modernism’s “affinity for novelty”, Dr McVey, of Boston University, argues that at the center of much modernist writing in general, and of Eliot’s writing in particular, lies the affect of boredom. He writes that “Whether measuring out one’s life in coffee spoons or pressing lidless eyes while waiting for a closed car and a knock upon the door, Eliot’s work consistently registers the deeply affective and existential experience engendered by boredom.” McVey argues that “these scenes of boredom vibrate with their own coded longing for connection”.
The essay is taken from the The TS Eliot Studies Annual, Vol 2. Launched under John D Morgenstern in 2017, the Annual “strives to be the leading venue for the critical reassessment of Eliot’s life and work”. Members are reminded of the generous 50% discount on the cover price to which they are entitled; see the Members Area for details.
Exchanges, our Society quarterly, August 2019
The Summer issue of our Society quarterly has now been published, and is being made available to the public for the first time.
There are articles on Ty Glyn Aeron, the house in Wales where Eliot spent summer holidays; and on the new, commemorative edition of Four Quartets. A Sixth Form student writes about an engaging approach to teaching Eliot at A-Level; and there are reports from this year’s Annual TS Eliot Festival at Little Gidding, and on an evening of Eliot and Beethoven.
You can read and download the new issue of Exchanges here.
When Tom met Groucho, August 2019
In the US version of the Spectator, Christopher Sandford recounts again the unexpected relationship between TS Eliot and Groucho Marx. An exchange of letters and photographs led to an awkward meeting between the two men over dinner.
A longer article investigating their “fraught friendship” was published in The New Yorker in 2014. A letter from Groucho to Gummo Marx, describing their dinner, is here. And on our Miscellany page can be found a link to an audio recording of Groucho Marx’s tribute at the Homage to TS Eliot staged after his death.
Hannah Sullivan traces TS Eliot’s poetic development, July 2019
In an essay published by the TS Eliot Foundation, Dr Hannah Sullivan presents an account of TS Eliot’s poetic development, from The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock to Four Quartets.
“More than any other twentieth-century poet,” she writes, “Eliot renders the experience of modernity in all its baffling complexity: the fragments of things we hear, half-hear, remember, or desire, or regret. But the poetry also dramatizes the failure of attempts at understanding this complexity.”
Hannah Sullivan won this year’s TS Eliot Prize for her collection, Three Poems. She is an Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow at New College, Oxford.
TS Eliot “might have enjoyed the rich strangeness” of trailer for the movie Cats, July 2019
The movie is based upon the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics drawn from TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The Estate has played no direct role in the production of the movie other than “to provide encouragement and enthusiasm”.
The trailer has divided opinion over its human/cat hybrids. But Clare Reihill, who administers the Estate, told The Guardian that “I think Eliot might have enjoyed the rich strangeness of the blurring of the boundary between human and cat in the trailer, which is in keeping with the elusiveness of the world of the poems – or indeed the nocturnal surrealism of something like Rhapsody On A Windy Night.”
TS Eliot and The Criterion magazine, July 2019
Dr Jason Harding of Durham University has published a fascinating essay on tseliot.com about the history of The Criterion.
TS Eliot edited The Criterion magazine for its entire lifespan (1922–1939): the periodical advanced his literary and social career; it was an outlet for his poetry and criticism; and, during the crisis-ridden 1930s, it was a platform for outspoken interventions in the major social and political issues of the day.
The Criterion exerted an influence on contemporary letters out of all proportion to its circulation. Dr Harding’s essay traces its history, its contributors and the literary and social positions which it adopted.
The first issue, dated October 1922, contained the first appearance of The Waste Land, without epigraph or notes. The poem was typeset in proof as two parts, before a last-minute decision saw it appear whole in one issue. Just 600 copies were published, but a rare copy of that Vol 1, No 1, and some of its contents, can currently be seen online at dealers Peter Harrington where it is for sale at £5000.
Professor John Haffenden to edit Emily Hale letters, July 2019
It has been confirmed that, as announced at this year’s TS Eliot Festival, Professor John Haffenden, celebrated for his ongoing editing of the Letters of TS Eliot, has been asked by Faber & Faber to edit TS Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale, when they are unsealed in January 2020.
At this stage, further particulars are to be arranged between the Eliot Estate and Princeton University Library, where the 1,131 letters, dating from 1930 to 1956, are sealed within metal security bands. The letters occupy 12 boxes, catalogued as C0686.
Emily Hale was a Boston-born college teacher, who was the poet’s oldest friend, and for decades his confidant and correspondent. The poem Burnt Norton was inspired by a visit with her, and their relationship has been the subject of much speculation.
In 1956, Hale signed a deed of gift, stipulating that her letters from Eliot be kept “completely closed to all readers until the lapse of fifty years after the death of Mr. Eliot or myself, whichever shall occur later. At that time the files may be made available for study by properly qualified scholars in accordance with the regulations of the Library for the use of manuscript materials. To carry out this intention the Library is to keep the collection in sealed containers in its manuscript vaults.”
Proper arrangement of the letters, possible conservation treatment, and other things must be done immediately prior to the official opening on 2 January 2020.
The Manuscripts Division of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, who hold the letters within the Princeton University Library, previously published this article about the letters.
UPDATE: It has been confirmed that the intention is to publish the Emily Hale letters as a single volume.
How Michael Parkinson walked out of TS Eliot’s Murder In The Cathedral, June 2019
The broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson has told The Times that the play he once walked out of was TS Eliot’s Murder In The Cathedral.
“My father, mother and I once went to see Murder In The Cathedral at the Playhouse in Oxford,” he revealed in a My culture fix interview. “My father took us there because he thought it was written by Agatha Christie.
“When we got there, there were all these monks chanting and things like that, so we left rather hurriedly.”
The Journal of the TS Eliot Society 2019 edition published, June 2019
Edited by Dr Scott Freer, the 2019 edition contains essays by William Myers and Benedict Jones-Williams; interviews with artists Mat Collishaw and Julian Peters by Scott Freer; and book reviews by Jaron Murphy. Full details of the contents and ordering details are on the dedicated Journal page via the menu above.
Members of the Society are entitled to a free copy of the Journal; further details on the Journal page.
Valerie Eliot on The Waste Land, June 2019
A few days before publication in 1971, Mrs Eliot recorded a four page typed talk with the help of two actors. “Mrs Eliot arrived with one copy of her talk and several copies of the book,” remembered one of those, Hugh Dickson. “Afterwards she gave us our copies, which she autographed and corrected in her own hand two or three misprints.’
Along with Dickson’s book, a copy of the talk itself is also for sale. It is described as “A dispassionate, detailed analysis of the draft of Eliot’s poem, section by section, dealing with Pound’s emendations, Vivien Eliot’s commentary and Eliot’s responses to their interventions in this previously mislaid manuscript. Valerie Eliot is quite definite in her explanation and sometimes with trenchant commentary on some of Pound’s interventions.”
Further details are here, where the View More Images link enlarges a section of the talk dealing with sections IV and V of the poem.
TS Eliot and the British Council, June 2019
A new article on the TS Eliot Foundation website explores the work which Eliot did for the British Council, during and just after the Second World War.
Described as “cultural warfare”, Eliot undertook lectures for the Council in Stockholm, Paris and Rome, with other trips planned but cancelled as the War progressed. While some of the lectures appeared in other forms, some have been published for the first time in The Complete Prose of TS Eliot.
Eliot summed up his experience of touring with the British Council following his trip to Rome: “I feel like Sherlock Holmes, who summarised his history since last seeing Watson by saying ‘I then passed through Persia, looked in at Mecca, and paid a short but interesting visit to the Khalifa at Khartoum, the results of which I have communicated to the Foreign Office’.”
Rare TS Eliot books at Firsts, London’s Rare Book Fair, June 2019
Some fascinating TS Eliot books could be seen at Firsts, London’s Rare Book Fair from June 7th-9th.
Neil Pearson Rare Books (Stand P08) had the copy of TS Eliot’s Poetry and Drama previously owned by the great Eliot academic Nevill Coghill , a First Edition with Coghill’s ownership signature at Exeter College, Oxford on the front free endpaper (£150).
Peter Harrington (Stand J07) had a Hogarth Press First Edition of The Waste Land (£7,500).
And RA Gekokski Booksellers (stand Q01) not only had a copy of Ara Vos Prec, the 1919 Ovid Press collection of Eliot’s poems with its title famously mispelled by Eliot (£1500) – but they also had an “absolutely exceptional” copy of the First Edition, First Issue of The Waste Land, printed in 1922 by Boni & Liveright. This book (left), rarely seen in this condition, was priced at £85,000.
Rory Stewart MP quotes TS Eliot to reflect this moment in British politics, June 2019
The International Development Secretary and Conservative leadership candidate, Rory Stewart MP, has drawn upon TS Eliot’s Little Gidding in order to consider the current political situation in the UK.
“It speaks to me about what we owe to tradition and what we owe to the dead and what we take forward for the living,” he says in an interview for Politico.
Stewart is said to have memorised all of Four Quartets while walking alone in the Himalayas.
“It’s very alive to how much we owe to the past,” he continues. “It doesn’t attempt to cut us off from who we were, nor to cut us off from the neighbours that surround us.”
Signed passport photograph of TS Eliot up for sale, May 2019
An accompanying secretary’s letter, dated May 1956, suggests that the photo was sent to a savings bank in Iowa, perhaps as proof of identity.
The photo, the accompanying letter and its original mailing envelope are on sale on Ebay here, for approximately £1200 including shipping.
Barbican publishes background material for staging of Four Quartets, May 2019
To support this week’s staging of the dance work Four Quartets, the Barbican has published material online about the four poems and their locations, incorporating for a limited period readings of extracts by Ted Hughes and Ralph Fiennes.
Professor Denis Donoghue introduces the poems, and Gideon Lester, Artistic Director of Fisher Center at Bard, visits and describes their locations, with some rich colour photography. (His visits can be accessed individually through their page’s top menu bar.) For a limited period there are recordings of extracts from Burnt Norton and East Coker by the poet Ted Hughes, and from The Dry Salvages and Little Gidding by the actor Ralph Fiennes.
For reviews of the work, see the entry on the Events page, April 2019.
New anniversary edition of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, May 2019
This new edition is based upon the limited edition, signed by Eliot, which was printed in 1960 by Giovanni Mardersteig on the hand-press of the Officina Bodoni in Verona. The poems are set in the Dante typeface, which Mardersteig created in the 1950s from fifteenth-century designs.
This setting matches Faber’s 2015 edition of The Waste Land (although the cover designs of the two books are of different styles). But unlike that publication, which took its text from Ricks and McCue’s The Poems, the new edition of Four Quartets takes its text from Collected Poems 1909–1962.
After appearing separately between 1936 and 1942, the first UK edition of all Four Quartets in a single volume was published in 1944. The new edition is scheduled for publication this Thursday 16th May.
History of Faber & Faber features TS Eliot as publisher, May 2019
A history of Faber & Faber, by Toby Faber, grandson of its founder Geoffrey Faber, brings together previously unseen letters and documents, and provides some fascinating insights into TS Eliot’s career as a publisher.
Faber & Faber: The Untold Story (Faber) traces the history of the publishing house, from its beginnings as Faber & Gwyer in 1924. The following year, a mutual friend introduced Geoffrey Faber to TS Eliot; the company bought up The Criterion, the influential literary magazine which Eliot edited, and Eliot became a Director of the company, which would also publish his own poetry.
When Geoffrey Faber and Maurice Gwyer parted company in 1929, Eliot’s discerning eye and literary connections were significant in building a list of writers and poets at the subsequent Faber & Faber, from Joyce and Pound to Auden and Larkin. The book contains letters and memos in which Eliot rejects George Orwell, but snaps up Ted Hughes (“I’m inclined to think we ought to take this man now.”), and insights into Eliot as a publisher and as a person appear throughout this broader history of Faber & Faber.
The Observer, Robert McCrum: “Inside this literary Vatican, until his death in 1965, TS Eliot was the supreme pontiff.”– also contains a link to an excerpt from the book
The Spectator, DJ Taylor: “Would Faber & Faber still exist without TS Eliot?”
The Telegraph, Tristram Fane Saunders: “It captures the ups and downs of a company created almost by accident, that would change the course of modern literature.”
The Sunday Times, John Walsh (£): “In a 1978 letter, the Faber chairman Matthew Evans let Andrew Lloyd Webber know that Valerie Eliot “would have no objection” to his setting one of her husband’s cat poems to music, thus handing Faber a lifeline for decades.”
Evening Standard, Claire Harman: “Much of the early shaping of the list was the work of T S Eliot, whose day job as a publisher gets proper attention at last in this amiable history”
Financial Times. Nicholas Clee: “TS Eliot was, despite turning down George Orwell twice, not only the greatest poet of his generation but also a publisher of rare acumen.”
The Scotsman, Roger Cox: “Although Faber was himself a poet of some skill, he evidently struggled to make sense of The Waste Land. “You are obscure you know!” he wrote to Eliot in 1925. “I wonder if you realize how difficult you are? And alternatively I wonder if I am specially stupid.”
The New Yorker, Jonathan Galassi: “There’s a kind of poetic justice in the fact that it’s the work, in more than one sense, of T. S. Eliot that both helped establish the temper of the eccentric entity that is Faber & Faber and has kept it alive for close to a century.”
Members of the Society are invited to a lecture by Toby Faber on ‘A mere ordinary director: TS Eliot as publisher’ – see the Members Area for details.
“What that word ‘Eliot’ now means”, April 2019
In an extensive essay in the London Review of Books, Professor Robert Crawford uses The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume VIII: 1936-38 as a starting point.
The essay looks in particular at the many ways in which Eliot signed his letters, to explore how “Eliot, so aware of his own family name and lineage, was a connoisseur of unusual names” – and “rather liked to escape, as well as to investigate, aspects of his own identity”.
Professor Crawford writes that “in scope, detail and quality of annotation this edition is utterly remarkable.” For other reviews of this latest volume of Letters, scroll down to January 2019.
Delta blues with TS Eliot’s ‘vocals’, March 2019
A second musical composition has been created by Mårten Thavenius, in his Ballistic Angels project, combining recordings of TS Eliot’s voice with electric guitar and rhythms influenced by the Delta blues.
“I have worked hard restoring and expanding the recordings of Eliot,” Mårten explains, “before editing selected samples to make them an integrated part of new music compositions. Editing has been made in detail with every emphasis and vowel to make a new rhythm and intonation that is part of the music.” The result is an extraordinary combination of Eliot’s laconic ‘vocals’ over a powerful and driving backing track.
You can listen to The Dead Land here, alongside Mårten’s earlier composition, The Hollow Men.
Recording released of live TS Eliot poetry reading, March 2019
The recording was made on December 4th 1950, at the 92nd Street Y, New York. Eliot begins his performance with a relaxed and conversational opening. “I discovered when I first began reading my own poems,” he says, “that it is necessary to do a little preamble at the beginning, and to make occasional remarks in between reading the poems or groups of poems. But I want to impress upon you that I realise that nothing that I say in this way – and nothing that I’m saying at the moment – is of the slightest importance.”
Eliot talks to the audience at the outset for over 12 minutes about his poetry, about interpretations of his work, and about the recordings he has made of his poems, before beginning the poetry readings with Preludes, “which show their age to best advantage.”
Other readings include La Figlia Che Piange, two sections of The Waste Land and, unexpectedly, “both parts of the unfinished Coriolan”.
“I know I shall disappoint some people,” he says of one omission, “but I am rather embarrassed by Prufrock. Now I feel it’s rather exposing an adolescent personality.”
Each poem is introduced with comments, and throughout the performance he is relaxed, thoughtful and, in several places, elicits laughter from the audience for his humorous remarks.
The entire 46 minute performance can be heard here.
Volume 7 of The Complete Prose of TS Eliot published, March 2019
Edited by Iman Javadi and Ronald Schuchard, Volume 7 is entitled A European Society: 1947 – 1953. “The postwar years of this volume represent one of the richest and most rewarding periods of Eliot’s career,” they write. “Following receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948, he was in constant demand to lecture, broadcast, contribute to periodicals, and receive honorary degrees and recognition.” This period also saw a film version of Murder in the Cathedral and the publication and production of two new plays, The Cocktail Party and The Confidential Clerk,
“These activities produced a great variety of unpublished, uncollected, and unrecorded addresses, speeches, and tributes, together with ten major literary essays.” Access to the new volume, as with the preceding six, is by institutional or individual subscription, via Project Muse.
The Complete Prose of TS Eliot is due for completion later this year. There has been a Call for Papers for a volume of essays to celebrate the completion; scroll down to January 2019 for details.
Fiona Shaw talks of repeat performance of The Waste Land, March 2019
In an interview for The Observer, Fiona Shaw talked about her original performance of The Waste Land in New York – and the possibility of repeating it.
“When I did The Waste Land in 1995,” she recalls, “it was such an experience. The whole of Manhattan society seemed to come and see this tiny performance of a poem in a disused porno theatre on 42nd Street. Limos pulled up and ladies came in with chihuahuas.”
Asked if she could still recite the poem, she replies: “Most of it’s still in there [taps head]. I was 35 then and I’ve thought about doing it again when I’m 65. I’m holding it tight until the right moment.”
A specially filmed performance of the poem by Fiona Shaw is on The Waste Land app.
Screening Prufrock: What the Mermaids Sing, February 2019
In a new essay, Dr Scott Freer, of the University of Leicester, examines two film adaptations of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. “The two films give form to Eliot’s ‘dreamy’ poetics,” he writes, “to offer a more optimistic understanding of what the mermaids’ song means.”
“These films enter a profound inter-textual dialogue with Eliot’s poem, and so constitute sophisticated examples of the enduring trans-media legacy of probably the most popular poem of the twentieth century.” The essay can be accessed via Oxford Academic Adaptation.
Religion and Myth in TS Eliot’s Poetry, February 2019
The volume presents a rich and powerful range of essays by leading and emerging T.S. Eliot and literary modernist scholars, considering the doctrinal, religious, humanist, mythic and secular aspects of Eliots poetry. A full description and direct purchase is available on Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
An Introduction to The TS Eliot Studies Annual, February 2019
General Editor John D Morgenstern has posted an introduction to The TS Eliot Studies Annual, including an overview of the research that has taken place, and the materials published, over the last half a century.
“Scholars have now embarked on the decades-long task of coming to terms with more than a million words previously inaccessible or unattributed to Eliot,” he writes. “The T. S. Eliot Studies Annual provides a venue for this ongoing critical reassessment.” His post can be read here.
Members of the TS Eliot Society (UK) are entitled to a 50% discount on The TS Eliot Studies Annual – see the Members Area for details.
Two leading poets join TS Eliot Summer School line-up, February 2019
The TS Eliot International Summer School, which takes place in London from July 6th-14th, has added two major figures to its 2019 programme. Both are winners of the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry.
The poet, novelist, and critic Sean O’Brien will give the inaugural lecture at this year’s summer school on Saturday, July 6th. In addition to his many collections of poetry, his essays, reviews and broadcasting, he was the Weidenfeld Visiting Professor at St Anne’s College, Oxford for 2016-17. He won both the TS Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize in 2007 for The Drowned Book.
And Hannah Sullivan, winner of the latest TS Eliot Prize for her acclaimed poetry collection, Three Poems, will give a private reading and book signing as part of the 2019 programme. As an Associate Professor of English at New College, Oxford, Hannah Sullivan lectured during last year’s Summer School.
Full details of the 2019 Summer School are here. Members of the TS Eliot Society (UK) are reminded that they can enjoy a 25% discount on Summer School fees – please see the Members Area for details.
Inside Eliot House, Massachusetts, January 2019
An article, with photographs by Paul Cary Goldberg. provides a glimpse inside the former Eliot family summer house on Eastern Point, Gloucester, Massachusetts, now converted by the Eliot Foundation into a literary retreat
The restored property offers somewhere “away from the rush and crush, to spend time in quiet reflection and inspiration, to look out on the same scenes that inspired such a literary giant as Eliot.” The article by Emma Hamilton can be read on The Other Cape.
Chelsea flat shared by TS Eliot and John Hayward on the market, January 2019
Eliot moved into the flat with Hayward in 1946, and lived there for 11 years until his marriage to Valerie in 1957. Hayward dealt with all visitors, answered the phone and allowed Eliot the privacy he craved.
According to Lyndall Gordon, Hayward had the rooms looking over the Chelsea Embankment, while Eliot “chose two small, dark rooms at the back of the flat, looking down into the well of the building… There, under the crucifix, he observed religious rules, some given, some of his own devising… His life was as emblematic as a tale by Hawthorne: the closed door; the dark well; the game of patience.”
The flat is for sale through Strutt & Parker; details, floorplan and pictures of its current interior are here.
The Letters of TS Eliot Volume 8: 1936-1938, January 2019
During these years, “Eliot is called upon to become the completely public man.” giving talks, readings and broadcasts, writing The Family Reunion, and also working as an editor and publisher. Correspondents include John Hayward, Virginia Woolf, and the godchildren to whom he sends many of the poems that become Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
The volume covers his separation from first wife Vivien, and tells the full story of the decision taken by her brother Maurice Haigh-Wood, following the best available medical advice, to commit her to an asylum. Some of Vivien’s own letters are included, and one to her brother in August 1938 has already been circulated in which Eliot writes, “In reply to your letter of the 5th instant, so far as my authority is concerned and so far as my authorisation is necessary, I give you my authority to apply for certification of your sister, Mrs T. S. Eliot…”
Edited by the “indefatigable, exemplary” John Haffenden (Evening Standard), the volume has 1152 pages and a cover price of £50. Links to reviews, updated as they appear, are below:
Evening Standard, David Sexton: “Revealing, touching and wise…Taken together, these letters are little less than a lesson in conduct, a demonstration of grace under pressure.”
Observer, Tim Adams: “In some ways it is like eavesdropping on the most maddening of confessionals: just as the poet seems about to mine some inner anxiety, he digresses into bland thank you notes and exhaustive letters to the Church Times on the proceedings of the Anglican synod.”
The Telegraph, Tristram Fane Saunders: “There is something of mild-to-moderate interest on every other page but, collectively, I feel about these letters how Eliot felt about Swinburne’s late poems: yes, many of them are good, ‘But at the same time, it is not necessary to read them, in a world crammed with reading-matter.'”
London Review of Books, Robert Crawford: “In scope, detail and quality of annotation this edition is utterly remarkable.”
Church Times, Richard Harries: “[These letters] also reveal his great clarity as a prose writer, a quality that he urges others to strive for.”
Times Literary Supplement, Stefan Collini: “Readers principally interested in Eliot’s poetry will by this point have grown used to the longueurs of these bulky volumes…Overwhelmingly, what this volume, like the others covering his middle years, gives us are other Eliots – the hard-working publisher, the hands-on journal editor, the supporter of good causes, the frequent diner-out and weekender… the playful friend, the loyal brother, and the tormented husband.”
Forthcoming Lyndall Gordon book, Eliot Among the Women, announced, January 2019
His relationships with his first wife, Vivienne Haigh Wood, companion Mary Trevelyan, and second wife Valerie Fletcher, as well as his mother, and first publisher Virginia Woolf, will all be explored.
But in particular the book will draw upon the sealed correspondence between Eliot and Emily Hale, due to be opened in January next year. Gordon says that these letters are “central to understanding his most private emotion during the decades when his creativity was at its height”.
Her book is scheduled for publication in 2022, and some further details are here.
Call for Papers: Collection of Essays on TS Eliot’s Prose, January 2019
For a proposed volume celebrating the forthcoming completion of The Complete Prose of TS Eliot, co-editors Jayme Stayer and Anthony Cuda are soliciting abstracts for original essays on aspects of Eliot’s work that pertain to his non-fiction prose. The volume will be dedicated to the General Editor of The Prose, Ronald Schuchard, to honor his influence in the fields of Eliot studies and modernism.
Essays may fall into the following categories, but are not limited to what is described here:
• original readings of the poems or plays that make use of the less familiar prose as context
• assessments of Eliot’s role as cultural commentator, literary critic, or Christian apologist
• explorations of how Eliot’s prose engages with modernism, culture, politics, theology or contemporary art
• analyses of how newly published pieces or newly annotated pieces shed different light on an aspect of Eliot’s work
• descriptions of an arc or trajectory in Eliot’s thought that is revealed by the chronological presentation of the prose, and/or newly published pieces
• descriptions of a trajectory of an important or newly discovered idea or theme
• stylistic or linguistic analyses of the prose
• discussions of the mutually informing relationships between the new editions of the prose and the letters
• a “guide” or “handbook” approach to a complex or recurrent idea in the prose
Send a 300-word abstract and a brief CV by Apr. 1, 2019 to Jayme Stayer (jayme.stayer(at)gmail.com). Finished essays will be due sometime in early 2020.
TS Eliot and Organicism, January 2019
“Jeremy Diaper elucidates and contextualizes several facets of Eliot’s organic thinking, ranging from composting and soil fertility, to regionalism, nutrition and culinary skills. Through detailed examination of Eliot’s engagement with organic issues, this book offers environmental readings of Eliot’s poetry and plays and demonstrates that agrarian concerns emerge as a notable theme in his literary output.”
TS Eliot and Organicism is published by Liverpool University Press and details are here.
Members of the TS Eliot Society UK (who may recall Jeremy Diaper’s essay on this subject in our 2017 Journal) are entitled to a generous 30% discount on the cover price – see the Members’ Area for details.
Review: Times Literary Supplement, Stefan Collini: “Diaper is obviously not wrong to find ambivalent uses of imagery from the natural world in Eliot’s poetry, or extended rehearsals of agrarian themes in his later prose… but a sharper sense of critical proportion would have made his individual insights more persuasive.”
Unreal City photobook seeks funding, January 2019
In an interview in The London Magazine, containing several images from the project, van Heerden explains that “my intention was to view London as it is today through the lens of The Waste Land, although I would have to qualify this by saying that it is my own transmutation of The Waste Land which forms the basis of the juxtaposition, and not an attempt to determine what Eliot’s own visual take might have been…So the pictures are not a straightforward illustration of the text of the poem… but rather a creative transmutation.”
Unreal City has already attracted an endorsement from Bernard O’Donoghue, who is writing an essay for the book. Further details are on the book’s funding page here.
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