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Recent stories relating to TS Eliot
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AN Wilson on Dante and Eliot, July 2024

Given at the Annual TS Eliot Festival at Little Gidding on 7th July, the lecture on Dante and Eliot by the author AN Wilson has now been made available online.

In the lecture, Wilson (pictured right at the Festival with Lyndall Gordon) explains why, “compared with The Waste Land, which will always remain one of my very favourite poems, and which I think achieves a truly Dantean greatness, there seems something a bit watery about the Quartets.”

“In the Eliot who wrote The Waste Land,  – though he had not yet come to faith – there is a truly Dantean confrontation with the horror of contemporary existence,” Wilson believes. “By one of the most supreme paradoxes in the history of literature, when he became a Christian, he lost the ability to do this.”

The lecture – in which Wilson also draws an intriguing contrast between “religious tourism” and “pilgrimage” – is now available on Substack

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Marshall McLuhan’s New English Weekly copy of ‘East Coker’, July 2024

A copy of the Easter 1940 issue of the New English Weekly, printing ‘East Coker’ for the first time, owned and signed by the media theorist and philosopher Marshall McLuhan, has come up for sale.

The copy is signed “H M McLuhan” (his full given name was Herbert Marshall McLuhan), and inscribed at “50 Grange Road”, the address in Cambridge at which McLuhan was staying while working on his M.A.

Its US bookseller, James S Jaffe, writes: “McLuhan, a Canadian, attended Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in the fall of 1934, studying English literature with F. R. Leavis and I. A. Richards, and receiving his B.A. from Cambridge in 1936. McLuhan returned to Cambridge in 1939/1940 to work on his M.A., which, owing to the outbreak of war, he was allowed to complete without an oral defense after returning to the USA.”

The New English Weeklypublished each of the Four Quartets prior to their Faber publication, and these delicate documents are rare in their own right. This copy is for sale at US$12,500, and details are here.

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The Collected Prose of T.S. Eliot publishing 15th August, July 2024

Faber have posted details of The Collected Prose of T.S. Eliot, “The definitive edition of the published prose of the Nobel laureate, the most important poet-critic of modern times.” It is to be published by Faber in four print volumes on 15th August, with each volume priced at £50.00.

Edited by Archie Burnett, Professor of English at Boston University, “The Collected Prose presents those works that Eliot allowed to reach print in the order of their final revision or printing.” It varies, therefore, from the online eight-volume Complete Prose, which also presents unpublished works, lectures, broadcasts and other materials which never reached print.

The Collected Prose, say Faber,  “aims to provide an authoritative and clean-text record of Eliot’s approved texts and their revisions, beginning with his formative observations, written while he was at high school, and concluding in his final major opus, To Criticize the Critic, published in the months after his death.”

Volume I: 1905–1928, a time of dramatic development for Eliot as both a poet and critic that saw the publication of Prufrock and Other Observations, The Waste Land and Journey of the Magi, and a gathering his seminal early essays under the title The Sacred Wood (1920). In his penetrating surveys of poetic form and the literary milieu of the day, he assesses the era’s ageing giants, Yeats, Swinburne, Henry James, and hails the arrival of its new generation, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis. The volume also traces Eliot’s deepening search for a meaningful response to the trauma of the Great War, and an exploration of religion that led to his confirmation in the Church of England in 1927.

Volume II: 1929–1934, a period in which Eliot’s poetry was maturing into the reflective verse of Animula, Ash-Wednesday and Marina. It was also a moment that confirmed his critical reputation with the publication of Selected Essays (1932), reprinting and revising his most important essays on Tradition and the Individual Talent, Hamlet, Marvell and Dante, and culminating in the Harvard lectures that became The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933).

 

Volume III: 1935–1950, when his works The Idea of a Christian Society (1939) and The Music of Poetry (1942) would engage the seminal grounds of his Four Quartets, while his Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948) would appear at the moment he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. It was a period of experimentation in form and genre, in which writings for the theatre were taking centre stage and he was composing for the first time for children, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

 

Volume IV: 1951–1966, covers a period of concluding productivity in Eliot’s writing. Although his poetry was all but complete, his theatrical and critical work flourished through a decade that included such books as Poetry and Drama(1951), The Frontiers of Criticism (1956) and On Poetry and Poets (1957).

 

 

 

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Journal – mailing issues, July 2024

Apologies to those who have requested print copies of our latest Journal. Due to administrative problems, we have been delayed in mailing copies out, but they will be posted as soon as possible.

 

 

 

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T.S. Eliot’s Ara Vos Prec: The Maker’s Pages in Order’, July 2024

An essay in the journal Transatlantica looks at the structure of Eliot’s second volume of poems, Ara Vos Prec – an order which was subsequently altered by Ezra Pound.

“In any of Eliot’s collected works,” writes Michelle Alexis Taylor, “the poems of ‘1920’ appear in the order arranged by Pound for Eliot’s first American volume, rather than in the order that Eliot had chosen for the English publication of the same poems.”

Taylor, of the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, Emory University, argues that the poems in Ara Vos Prec were originally organised by Eliot following the example of Dante, in a structure which “places the things that are most closely related together in order to define the categories (like Dante’s circles of Purgatory) to which they belong.”

She considers the narrative effects in the original sequence, and writes that “Eliot’s pairing of certain poems across a page spread intensifies this narrative effect, drawing attention not only to such poems’ sequential relationship, but to their aesthetic relationship as well.”

A publication of the French Association for American Studies, Transatlantica is a biannual journal with its own independent editorial committee. The essay is open access and can be read here.

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Books inscribed “to Kenneth Pickthorn” by TS Eliot, June 2024

A number of First Editions inscribed by Eliot to Kenneth Pickthorn are coming up for sale.

The books record an acquaintance of many years, including a First Edition of the subsequently suppressed After Strange Gods, inscribed to Pickthorn on “Shrove Tuesday 1934”; a First Edition of The Family Reunion, inscribed to him on “16.iii.39”; and a First Edition of What Is A Classic? inscribed to Pickthorn on “14.ii.45”.

Sir Kenneth Pickthorn was a historian, a contributor to Eliot’s The Criterion, and Fellow, Dean, Tutor and then President at Corpus Christi, Cambridge, where Eliot visited. (Geoffrey Faber found “the whole ultra-Toryism of Corpus very repellent” – Eliot After The Waste Land  p289) Pickthorn was an outspoken politician, the Conservative MP from 1935 to 1950 for the Cambridge University constituency; when university constituencies were abolished, he became MP for Carlton in Nottinghamshire from 1950 to 1966.

Other books in the sale include a copy of Charles Whibley: A Memoir, its cover initialled “K.P. from T.S.E.”, and, perhaps appropriately, a copy of Eliot’s The Literature of Politics, as published by the Conservative Political Centre in 1955.

Catalogued as Lots 148-151, the books are to be sold by Forum Auctions on 18th July, with estimates ranging from £500-1000. Details and images are here.

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‘I once met…Valerie Eliot’, June 2024

In The Oldie, Simon Berry, of the wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd, recalls meeting Valerie Eliot, who would appear at their premises in St James’s every Tuesday to collect her bottle of Berrys’ London Dry Gin.

“The first time I looked after her, I asked for her name. ‘Mrs T S Eliot,’ she said, very deliberately, as I wrote it down in my notebook.”

He describes her visit to the merchants in a wet April 1979. “‘What horrible weather!’ remarked Mrs Eliot.

“The opportunity was too good to resist. ‘Well, April is the cruellest month, Mrs Eliot.’

“She stared at me blankly. ‘Do you think so?’ she asked. ‘I’ve always disliked February, myself.’ “

The full article is here.

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“How T.S. Eliot foresaw Just Stop Oil”, June 2022

In The Telegraph of 22nd June, columnist Michael Deacon writes that a passage from TS Eliot’s The Cocktail Party “perfectly describes the nauseating self-regard of 21st-century ‘activism’.”

“Half of the harm that is done in this world,” Deacon quotes from the play, “is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm – but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

“These words feel more pertinent today than ever,” writes Deacon. “This is because they perfectly describe the narcissistic vandalism of Just Stop Oil – and other sanctimonious Left-wing “activists” who will stop at nothing in their quest to demonstrate their moral superiority.”

His Comment piece can be read in full (£) here.

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T.S. Eliot Studies Annual Vol 6, June 2024

The 2024 edition of The T.S. Eliot Studies Annual has just been published and is available online.

The Annual contains some fourteen contributions on Eliot-related subjects; essays, articles, notes and reviews from leading Eliot scholars including Anthony Cuda, Megan Quigley and Frances Dickey.

Articles cover a wide range of subjects, from the architecture of Eliot’s St Louis, to Eliot’s experiences in Portugal. In ‘Eliot’s Fugitive Prose’, Jayme Stayer presents Eliot’s “previously unrecorded and unattributed notes from The New English Weekly”.Anita Patterson looks at how Eliot’s legacy figured in the development of the Black Arts Movement, and Benjamin Crace considers the philosophy of emergentism, and its relevance for ‘The Dry Salvages’

A Forum presents six essays on aspects of the TS Eliot-Emily Hale letters; Frances Dickey looks at Emily Hale’s transformation into Pipit, while Sara Fitzgerald explores Hale’s views about poetry, and how Eliot’s opinions of Hale’s “taste” in poetry tracked the arc of their romantic relationship.

And in ‘Of Silk Hats and Yorkshire Wealth’, Society Chair Paul Keers writes on The Waste Land’s Bradford millionaire.

The annual also contains three book revies, and a TS Eliot Bibliography for 2022 and 2023.

The new edition is here, with accreditation required for full access.

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Eliot books and memorabilia for sale, June 2024

The latest Modernisms catalogue from Blackwell Rare Books contains several interesting and unusual Eliot items.

There are books signed by TS Eliot such as Poems 1909-1925, Animula and Triumphal March;  and First Editions of works including The Rock, Sweeney Agonistes, The Three Voices of Poetry and The Sacred Wood.

But there are several items outside the usual definition of “rare books” – a photocopy of jazz composer John Dankworth’s unpublished score for Sweeney Agonistes; a copy of the Order of Service from Eliot’s Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey; a greetings card signed by Eliot; and a letter, laid into a First Edition of  Murder In The Cathedral, in which Eliot thanks Donald Nicholson, later Revd Canon Nicholson, for his “kind note of appreciation” for the play .

“I am by no means overwhelmed or sated with
correspondence of this kind, I assure you” writes Eliot.

The full PDF catalogue, with further images, can be downloaded here.

 

 

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The ‘unique aura’ of The Hogarth Press, Eliot’s early publisher, June 2024

TS Eliot’s Poems  and the first UK edition of The Waste Land  were both published by the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press, and in a Genealogies of Modernity article, ‘“My Fingers are like Cauliflowers:” the Material Productions of the Hogarth Press’, Reanna Brooks examines the physical characteristics of their books.

“The distinguishing feature of the Hogarth Press,” she argues, “lies not only in the authenticity of their entirely handmade publications but also in their rudimentary binding and covers. Their books were bound with bright paper wrappers, often repurposed from discarded wallpaper, and hand-painted by friends from the Omega Workshops… Consequently, the materiality of Hogarth Press works imbued them with a unique aura absent from other publications”

She contrasts their production values with such contemporaries as John Rodker’s Ovid Press, renowned for its use of handmade paper, cloth spines, coloured boards, and intricate typography, and which published Eliot’s Ara Vus Prec, but which went bankrupt within a year.

“Their deliberate handmade approach,” she writes of The Hogarth Press, “indicates a keen understanding of their audience, resonating with a post–World War I readership disillusioned with grandiose displays of wealth and power and more interested in substance and authenticity.

Reanna Brooks is a DPhil candidate in English at the University of Oxford, specializing in the material production processes at the Hogarth Press and their influence on Virginia Woolf’s early works.

Published in the Genealogies of Modernity journal, the article is open access here.

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Prufrock, Godot and the modern poetics of inertia, June 2024

In ‘Waiting for Godot at Prufrock’s Cheap Hotel’, a short essay by writer, teacher, and translator Leonardo Salvatore, the author examines the poetics of inertia as displayed by TS Eliot (in ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’) and Samuel Beckett (in ‘Waiting for Godot’).

Beginning with The Divine Comedy, he argues that “If Dante’s poetry revolves around a cohesive metaphysical order that warrants action, the modernists portray a seemingly irreconcilable lacuna between knowledge and deeds.”

“Typified in Eliot’s tentative and scattered style, this abstention from action corresponds to a general loss of metaphysical integrity.“

“Is aimless hesitation satisfactory as an existential mode?” he wonders. “Can we turn instead to a more hopeful paradigm that embraces but ultimately subsumes night under reigning light? Or must we, like Prufrock, await ourselves into oblivion?”

The essay is on the Medium platform here.

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TS Eliot in Translations, June 2024

A newly published collection of ten essays considers issues in translations of TS Eliot. The essays were originally prompted by an International Conference held in Paris on 13-14th October 2022, as part of the ‘The Waste Land’ anniversary celebrations.

Several essays address the historical backdrop against which poems were worked and reworked. “The context in which poetic pieces are translated brings insights into the reception of the poet by the cultural and linguistic area to which it is transferred.”

Essays consider such issues as the “improvements” in as many as fifteen Italian translations of ‘The Waste Land’ decade after decade; how the censors of Franco’s regime approached Eliot’s plays and how translators designed authorial strategies to dodge the regime’s censorship; and parallels in the various translations of ‘The Waste Land’ with Croatian history, from the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to its newly regained full independence.

Other essays look at “translations’ of Eliot into film and graphic novels – and the issues in translating the nursery and nonsense forms in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

The essays are published by the journal Arts of War and Peace, IV No 2, Review, Volume IV, online with open access here.

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TS Eliot in Poetry magazine, 1915-1916, June 2024

Three issues of Poetry magazine, each containing poems by TS Eliot, are coming up for sale.

The June 1915 issue contained the first publication of ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’; Eliot is described in the issue’s notes on contributors as “a young American poet resident in England, who has published nothing hitherto in this country.”

The October 1915 issue published three of Eliot’s poems – ‘The Boston Evening Transcript’ (titled simply ‘The Transcript’), ‘Aunt Helen’ and ‘Cousin Nancy’ – while under the title “Observations”, the September 1916 issue published ‘Conversation Galante’, ‘La Figlia Che Piange’, ‘Mr Apollinax’ and ‘Morning at the Window’, attributed in a misprint to “T.R. Eliot”.

With an estimate of £700 – £1,000, details of the copies of Poetry are here.  They are being sold as a single lot by Dominic Winter Auctioneers on 20th June, in a sale which also includes First Editions of Poems 1909-1925, Four Quartets (UK), Anabasis, and a signed Officina Bodoni edition of The Waste Land.

UPDATE: The three copies of Poetry magazine together sold for £2,100.

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Journal of the T.S. Eliot Society published, June 2024

The 2024 edition of The Journal of the TS Eliot Society (UK) has now been published.

The new edition contains academic essays and notes on subjects ranging from Eliot’s studies in Indian philosophy, his sartorial imagination, and his ‘moment in the rose-garden’, to his influence on Ralph Ellison and a Law and Literature approach to his plays.

The Journal of the T.S. Eliot Society (UK) is a peer-reviewed journal that annually publishes scholarly essays by leading as well as early career academics. For the first time this year, the Journal has been made open access digitally, with a printed version also available.

Full details, contents, download link and print version details are all on the Journal page of this website.

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A Little Gidding Thought for the Day, June 2024

In BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day broadcast on 5th June, Michael Hurley, Professor of Literature and Theology at the University of Cambridge, used ‘Little Gidding’ as inspiration.

Beginning with Eliot’s “haunting” line, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality”, Hurley traces a recent visit to Little Gidding. He explores the use of euphemisms as an alternative to reality, before considering the unreality of social media, and its potential to leave people “Distracted from distraction by distraction”.

Hurley explains why St John’s Church in Little Gidding was, for him, “a fruitful place to think about these things”, and how inspiring such a place, “where prayer has been valid”, can be.

You can listen to this Thought for the Day here.

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Ben Okri on T S Eliot, May 2024

English Heritage have posted online a 15 minute talk given by author Ben Okri in their 5×15 series inspired by their blue plaques.

Starting with two of Eliot’s blue plaques – in Homer Row and Kensington Court Gardens – Okri talks primarily about The Waste Land, of which he has given several readings, and his motivation to learn the poem by heart. He talks of Eliot as “a man of masks”, and considers whether there is “a Black dimension” to his work. And in “a time of tragedy and sadness”, he finds that the “corpse” buried in the poem “haunts me in this hour when so many corpses are being buried across the world.”

A video of the talk is online here.

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John Boyne chooses The Waste Land  for his Desert Island, May 2024

The Irish writer John Boyne, perhaps best known for his 2006 novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, has chosen The Waste Land as his book choice on Desert Island Discs.

He told interviewer Lauren Laverne, in the BBC broadcast on 26th May, that “I’m really surprised by the book that I ended up choosing. I spent a lot of time thinking about this one. I don’t read a lot of poetry, I have to say, I’ve always struggled with poetry. But the book I’ve chosen is a book of poems, actually – it’s The Waste Land, by TS Eliot.

“And the reason I’ve chosen it is, it’s a book I go back to, time and again. I’ve read it many times. There’s such storytelling in it. I’m still probably only ten per cent of the way in terms of understanding what it’s all about, and I thought, this book is something I could read over and over and over again, all the sections, the different voices, the different characters that come in, and find something new in it every time, which – like with the best albums – that’s what you want, you want to find something new every time. So I thought I would take that with me.”

The full recording can be heard here, and John Boyne’s book selection is at 54:36.

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Study of Eliot’s Beethoven series, May 2024

A British Academy-funded study will reassess T.S. Eliot’s Beethoven-inspired poetry and Eliot’s artistic and political engagement with the composer’s legacy.

The University of Brighton will receive £94,264 to fund the study, by Dr Aakanksha Virkar and Professor Daniel Chua. “Bringing together literary and musicological analysis, the project radically proposes that Eliot’s interest in Beethoven was not only a response to the 1927 Beethoven centenary, but a powerful critique of Nazi cultural ideology and rhetoric during the inter-war years.”

T.S. Eliot and Beethoven: Aesthetics, Music and Politics 1870-1945 will investigate how Eliot’s poetic series ‘Four Quartets’ (1942) and ‘Coriolan’ (1932) explore the myth and meaning of Beethoven. “For the first time, the research will examine Eliot’s Beethoven series as deliberately satirising and resisting the arguments of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’, through a celebration of fin-de-siècle Vienna and the Jewish artist as creator of culture. Far from the politically disinterested or reactionary poet imagined by the public and scholarly community, this project repositions Eliot as a poet whose engagement with Beethoven’s legacy was an artistic and philosophical defence of art against Nazi cultural and educational policy or ‘Kulturpolitik’.”

Full details of the project are here. For Dr Virkar’s essay, Max Klinger’s Beethoven (1902), Nietzsche’s Übermensch and the Anti-fascist Poetics of T.S. Eliot’s Coriolan I “Triumphal March” (1931), recently published in the Journal of Modern Literature, scroll down to January 2024.

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Stephen Sondheim’s volumes of Eliot, May 2024

The Collection of Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist who died in 2021, is to be auctioned in New York on 18th June, and contains two volumes of TS Eliot’s poems annotated by Sondheim.

Lot 256 contains an early printing of Four Quartets, “with much pencil annotation in the hand of Stephen Sondheim”, and a 1948 volume of Collected Poems 1909-1935, also “with much pencil annotation in the hand of Stephen Sondheim”. Pictured here are some of his annotations to ‘The Waste Land’. (Click to enlarge.)

The estimate is $200-$300, and full details are here.

UPDATE: The Eliot books sold for considerably more than their estimate at $12, 160.

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Hercules, Heraclitus and the dove in ‘Little Gidding’, May 2024

In ‘The Unfamiliar Name: T.S. Eliot on Hercules and the Pentecost’, Mateusz Stróżyński explores how ‘Little Gidding’ draws deeply on Heraclitus, Sophocles, Seneca and the sad fate of Hercules. His article is published in Antigone, “a new and open forum for Classics in the twenty-first century”, to mark Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles.

Stróżyński considers first the nature of Eliot’s ‘dove descending’, regarded by many scholars as a reference to a German WWII bomber. He observes that the dove “is also the common symbol of the Holy Spirit”, and writes that “Eliot here invokes His fiery descent at Pentecost.” He then considers how “the reference to the fiery descent of the dove…invokes Heraclitean fire as the symbol of the First Principle or the Logos.”

He goes on to explore the significance to the poem of the death of Hercules. “The key metaphor of the first stanza of ‘Little Gidding’ IV is ‘the choice of pyre or pyre’,” he writes. “Already here Eliot alludes to the death of Hercules, which becomes the central point of the second stanza. He uses, in particular, the tragedy Hercules Oetaeus (Hercules on Mt Oeta), attributed to Seneca the Younger.” The article considers this parallel in full.

Mateusz Stróżyński is a Classicist, philosopher, psychologist, and psychotherapist, working as an Associate Professor in the Institute of Classical Philology at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland.

The article can be read in full here.

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Two new books on The Waste Land, May 2024

A pair of books by William K Brannigan explore what has been described as a “powerful constellation of ideas” informing The Waste Land.

The first, A Modern Eve: The Typist in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, “explores the relationship between the ‘young man carbuncular’ of the poem, the carbuncle eyes of Satan in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the sacred carbuncle gem in the Church of St Magnus the Martyr.” The book “reveal[s] the mythic layer which unifies the poem…as the dark Adam of egoist modernity assaults the typist as Eve, and as all women.”

The second, The Primal Chorus of the Sacred Wood in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, “follows the poem to the dawn of human culture and language, tracing the question of what it means to be an individual in society back to its tribal fireside genesis.” This volume explores “how the primeval beginnings of rhythm, dance, music, language and culture are represented in the poem, and how that informs the modern world.”

William K Brannigan completed an MA by Research at Durham University on Anarchy and the Violet Hour: Eve, Adam and the Cult of the Individual in The Waste Land, which provided the basis for the books. Both are published by Alep Press, and details are here.

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‘Usk’ handwritten by Eliot in album of autograph poems, May 2024

An autograph copy of ‘Usk’ by TS Eliot forms part of “an outstanding and unique” compilation of handwritten poems by leading poets of the twentieth century.

This extraordinary album, titled ‘The Personal Anthology of Eric Walter White’ was created over a period of thirteen years for Eric Walter White, CBE (1905- 1985), who was the first Literature Director of the Arts Council, music critic and writer, and poet. From his remarkable literary connections, it appears that White sent the contributors the book and invited them to write by hand their favourite poem from their own body of work.The 58 handwritten poems include examples by Auden, Hughes, Larkin, Heaney, Lowell, Spender, CS Lewis and others.

This post-publication autograph copy of ‘Usk’, containing two variations in punctuation, is recorded in its textual history in The Poems of TS Eliot II,465. Eliot directed his secretary to return the album to White on 4 August 1964, “hoping that you will be pleased with the verses that he has chosen”. The album was sold in 2013 for £23,750, and is now to be auctioned at Forum Auctions in London on 30th May, with an estimate of £20,000-£30,000.

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Exchanges… Spring issue, May 2024

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

Its contributions from members include an article on ‘Ash Wednesday’ and sublimation; the latest in our personal series, Eliot and Me; and an assessment of Jason Allen-Paisant, the winner of the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry 2023.

You can download this new issue here.

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Emily Hale biography for Autumn publication, May 2024

The first full-length biography of Emily Hale has been scheduled for Autumn publication in the UK.

The Silenced Muse: Emily Hale, T. S. Eliot, and the Role of a Lifetime, by Sara Fitzgerald, is to be published by Rowman & Littlefield in the UK in September. The 296-page book, which Lyndall Gordon has said “gives Emily Hale the substance she carried throughout her life”, will have a cover price of £30.

Sara Fitzgerald has contributed essays on Emily Hale to issues of our Journal of the T.S. Eliot Society, and our quarterly Exchanges, as well as to the T.S. Eliot Studies Annual. In 2020 she published The Poet’s Girl: A Novel of Emily Hale and T. S. Eliot.

Full details will follow prior to publication.

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The Waste Land Revisited’ – and an ‘episcopal’ Eliot, April 2024

The Yale Review has recirculated from its archives ‘The Waste Land Revisited’, an essay, first published in December 1990, by Helen Vendler, the scholar and critic whose death at 90 has just been announced.

The essay focusses on the content which Eliot sacrificed in order to achieve “an eclectic self-portrait”. She writes that “Eliot’s voluntary sacrificing of important and finished passages, (representing important and finished parts of his own consciousness) in order to accede to the poem’s own demands—articulated, rather than invented, by Pound—seems to me an act of stunning self-abnegation.”

In addition, the essay includes personal material including her experience of seeing Eliot after a reading at Harvard. Vendler  “saw Eliot descending the stairs from the stage in a fashion that can be described only as episcopal, bowing wearily left and right to acquaintances, extending a benevolent hand to friends, with a smile so withdrawn and remote, and a physical languor and control so foreign to my experience that I recall it to this day.”

The article is available to read here.

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Ralph Steadman’s vision of TS Eliot, April 2024

A rare Ralph Steadman poster, How Pleasant To Meet Mr Eliot, was put up for sale on HeadVision.

The poster was created for “A Celebration of the Centenary of the Birth of T.S. Eliot”, an event staged at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London in 1988. It has come from Steadman himself, who “has been searching through his studio and has provided a number of posters and prints which HeadVision has put on its Steadman page.”

The “birthday celebration of poetry and music” featured Harold Pinter and Suzanne Bertish reading from Eliot’s poetry; a performance of a John Dankworth setting of Sweeney Agonistes; and performances by the English Chamber Choir and musicians of the Park Lane Group. And along with readings from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, “vibrant choruses” were sung from “Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s dynamic musical” Cats, which had opened in 1981.

Priced at £175, the poster has since been sold.

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TS Eliot on anonymity, April 2024

“I remember how the occasional deletion of a phrase, by the editorial pencil, taught me to temper my prejudices and control my crotchets and whimsies.”

The TLS has republished from its archives a letter from TS Eliot, first published on 17th January 1958. It was part of a debate at the time on anonymous reviews, which F. W. Bateson and Hugh Trevor-Roper among others opposed, but Eliot supported.

“The young reviewer needs access to at least one prominent journal in which his name will appear,” wrote Eliot, “and to at least one in which his work will be unsigned.”

The letter is republished by the TLS here; it is also available, with editorial notes, in the Complete Prose VIII, 243-244 for those with access.

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TS Eliot Research Fellowship at Cambridge University, April 2024

Magdalene College, Cambridge, is inviting applications for an Armstrong TS Eliot Research Fellowship, to conduct research into the writings of TS Eliot, an Honorary Fellow of Magdalene, and his contemporaries.

The College expects to elect this stipendiary (Junior) Research Fellow with tenure for three years from 1 October 2024. “The Research Fellow will have access to archival and other written materials in the College collections and is expected to contribute to the scholarly understanding of these materials. There will be an expense allowance for the Research Fellow to visit other archives.”

Candidates are expected to have completed a PhD or equivalent within 6 years of taking up the post. The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday, 31st May 2024, and further details are on the Magdalene College website here.

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Tiresias, the whirlpool and history, April 2024

An essay in the Journal of NeuroPhilosophy argues “that both Tiresias and the whirlpool motif reveal Europe’s post-war anxiety about its exceptionalist self-image”, and suggests that “both figures offer productive models for thinking about our position in history.”

In ‘Hegel’s Wasteland: Situating T.S. Eliot’s Representations of History in Conversation with Hegel’, Virginia Moscetti suggests that “Tiresias, through his sexual plasticity and historical moveability, undermines both prongs of Hegel’s dialectic, Spirit and Nature, while the whirlpool motif subverts the idea that history’s temporal progression can be subordinated to a dialectical logic.”

She concludes that we “are bombarded with frameworks that tell us who we are, what our past is, and what our future will be. By looking to Tiresias, we can shield ourselves from the totalizing power of these frameworks, adjusting our eyes to the murky landscape of human experience throughout time.” The open access essay is here.

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‘Prose style’ in Four Quartets, April 2024

An essay in The Review of English Studies considers the ‘prosaic’ passages in Four Quartets, and what “Eliot’s mimesis of prose style”… “might mean for the poem’s relationship to other forms of discursive writing, chiefly…literary criticism”.

In ‘Four Quartets: Criticism in a New Key’, William Burns suggests that “so-called ‘antipoetic’ passages are actually anticritical, insofar as they serve to radically qualify the claims of academic interpretation, while conversely affording a greater role to an earlier mode of reading displaced by the institutionalisation of literary criticism: judgement.”

He begins by considering whether “philosophy appears [in ‘Burnt Norton’] as one of many discursive practices that the poem may temporarily adopt, then negate—analogous to Eliot’s early pursuit, then refusal of a philosophical career”

William Burns is researching the relationship between American modernist poets and the modern American university, at University College, London. The open access essay is here.

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TS Eliot and Succession, April 2024

In ‘Entering the Whirlpool’, a piece for the Dublin Review of Books, David Barnes makes some intriguing connections between Eliot’s poetry and the award-winning TV series, Succession.

He pinpoints the “Prufrockian perambulations” of lawyer Frank Vernon, and observes that “Frank’s references to ‘Prufrock’ locate the action in an Eliotic hellscape, where the super-rich are imprisoned in and by the sins of their own making.”

“Critics note that one place can feel very much like another in Succession, a billionaire’s life one of interchangeable, transnational luxury in a soft-furnished underworld: ‘Alexandria/ Vienna London/ Unreal’.”

David Barnes is a lecturer in modern literature at the University of Oxford. He has written/broadcast for the BBC, Lithub, London Times, The Guardian, New European, Times Higher Education and Times Literary Supplement, and recently taught a six-week course on Eliot’s The Waste Land at 100 for the City Literary Institute in London.

He considers the drownings in the series, “which echo not only the subterranean world of Prufrock and his ‘sea-girls’ but the themes of Eliot’s next major poem, The Waste Land.” And his title derives from the fact that, as they prepared to film the final eisode, writer and producer Jesse Armstrong sent lead actor Jeremy Strong a single line text: “Entering the whirlpool”.

The essay is here.

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TS Eliot signed card, April 2024

An RSVP card signed by TS Eliot has been put up for auction in the US.

Eliot responds that he “shall not attend the Convocation on October Thirty-First, 1954”. The address he gives is that of Faber & Faber’s offices at the time.

The card will be sold with a Letter Of Authentication from Beckett Authentication Services; bidding begins at $100 ($122 with buyers premium) and details are here.

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Call for contributions to the 2025 T.S. Eliot Studies Annual, March 2024

The editors of the academic T.S. Eliot Studies Annual are inviting contributions for Volume 7, to be published in Summer 2025. The Annual is a joint production of the International T. S. Eliot Society and Clemson University Press in association with Liverpool University Press.

“All critical approaches are welcome, as are essays pertaining to any aspect of Eliot’s work as a poet, critic, playwright, editor, foremost exemplar of modernism, or his influence on twentieth-century and contemporary literature and culture.

“Each volume of the Annual provides a selection of original, peer-reviewed essays (5,000-9,000 words) representing the best in current Eliot scholarship. In addition, the Annual publishes shorter research notes (2,500-4,000 words), book reviews, and a comprehensive bibliography of Eliot-related publications

“The Annual has also regularly featured special forums that organize a set of articles around a unified topic or theme.  For Volume 7, the forum will be guest-edited by Patrick Query, around the theme of “The Eliot We Need.” In a time of extensive reevaluation of Eliot’s legacy, this forum invites research notes (up to 5,000 words) or longer essays on Eliot’s use. In what contexts of cultural, social, or political debate can you imagine productively invoking Eliot’s words? When you look out at the world, what do you think we need from Eliot?”

Full details of the call for papers are here. The deadline for submissions is 15th July 2024.

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Steve Harley, Eliot enthusiast March 2024

Steve Harley, the songwriter, singer and Cockney Rebel frontman, who has died aged 73, was a lifelong enthusiast for the poetry of TS Eliot.

Harley discovered Eliot when young. “My battered paperback copy of TS Eliot’s Collected Poems  has travelled everywhere with me since 1973,” he once said. “Life would be hard to endure without the comfort that Eliot’s mastery of language brings me.”

In 2011, he appeared on Celebrity Mastermind, with the specialist subject of Four Quartets, and as part of his research visited both Burnt Norton (“I, too, found a little magic, but nobody was home, and no soul approached me while I ambled for twenty minutes or so among the rose bushes and fruit trees. I was technically trespassing, so didn’t stay long.”) and Little Gidding (“It, too, is a special place, tranquil and over-brimming with mystery. I sat alone in that tiny place of worship and took a few deep breaths. Seldom have I felt calmer.”

And as a recording artist himself, he favoured Eliot’s own reading of The Waste Land. “Nobody has ever read it better,” he said. “It’s dull. He was a bank manager. Biut it has his voice. The authenticity. The expression can be trusted.”

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New source, new annotations for The Waste Land, March 2024

In Essays In Criticism, Jim McCue, co-editor with Christopher Ricks of The Poems of T.S. Eliot, presents a new source for a passage in The Waste Land, and concludes with the additional annotations which it justifies.

Through ‘serendipity’, McCue stumbled across a passage describing a chemist’s shop in a Rudyard Kipling short story, ‘Wireless’. Drawing comparisons between this passage and the description which opens ‘A Game of Chess’, McCue goes on to present “the evidence that TSE had Kipling’s story somewhere in mind when writing The Waste Land.”

Appreciating that “the case needs substantiating as fully as possible,” McCue does so, further incorporating references from Keats which Kipling used in his story, and which connect with Philomel – before considering “how much…of this exploration of a possible source for The Waste Land is suitable for annotation in an edition of TSE?”

His consideration reveals something of the thinking behind other annotations in The Poems of T.S. Eliot. “The case,” he explains, “depends upon accumulation and triangulation with these canonical poems”.

And in the end, McCue offers four additional annotations to be added to The Poems, which are presented at the conclusion of his essay.

The Kipling story, ‘Wireless’, is in the collection Traffics and Discoveries (1904). Jim McCue’s essay (academic access required) is ‘An Intuition about Kipling: New Annotations for Eliot’

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Modernist approaches to TS Eliot, March 2024

The latest issue of The Modernist Review contains two articles relating to works by TS Eliot.

David Strong, of the University of Glasgow, presents a theopoetic approach to Eliot’s The Rock. Theopetics, he writes, is “a theory of religious art whereby the aesthetic experience of religious truth and beauty substantiate the presence, possibility, and value of the divine.”

In ‘We will build with new speech’: A Theopoetic Approach to T. S. Eliot’s The Rock (1934)’, Strong argues that in The Rock. “Eliot anticipates the philosophical rethinking of the relationship between modern theology and aesthetics and provides an early artistic model for the new theopoetic.”

“Approaching The Rock from a theopoetic perspective,” he writes, “re-enshrines religion as one of the animating forces of Eliot’s turn away from the complex modernist poetry of his earlier career and provides a way of understanding his drama as radical in its own way.”

In the same issue, Lucy Wright, of Leeds Trinity University, explores the artist Francis Bacon’s fascination with the manuscript of The Waste Land, and with the relationship between Eliot and Ezra Pound. “On reflection of [Bacon’s] personal and professional life, alongside the infatuation with the facsimile,” she writes, “it seems as though Bacon had placed Eliot and Pound’s partnership on a pedestal in which he both envied and admired.”

In ‘Re-Imagining Eliot: Francis Bacon’s Painting (1978), Wright references Bacon’s “almost two-decade visual poetic response to Eliot’s (and in this case, Pound’s) work, from 1967 in Triptych Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s ‘Sweeney Agonistes’ to 1982 in A Piece of Waste Land.” Focussing here on Bacon’s Painting (1978), she writes that “A specific example is the out-stretched foot as it turns the key to door, of which Bacon says: ‘I don’t know why I made it turn with the foot – it very much came from that poem of Eliot’s: ‘I have heard the key / Turn in the door once…”’

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First Edition of Poems 1909-1925 to be auctioned, February 2024

A “remarkably fine copy” of T.S. Eliot’s Poems 1909-1925 is being auctioned by Bonhams, London. This was the first of Eliot’s books to be published by Faber & Gwyer. and the first printing of The Waste Land to carry its dedication to Ezra Pound, “il miglior fabbro”.

This First Edition copy has the book’s rare dustjacket, with its cover statement that “This collection contains all Mr. Eliot’s poems so far published, which he wishes to preserve, including ‘The Waste Land’ and many others which have been for some time out of print, as well as some not previously collected.”

(The notion of his collections containing the poetry which Eliot “wishes to preserve” was continued on the dustjackets of the subsequent volumes, 1909-1935 and 1909-1962.)

The copy was from the Estate of the late Hilary Gerrard (1933-2023), formerly Business Manager to Ringo Starr from the 1970s onward; details are here,  and it has an estimate of £1,000–£1,500.

The auction, which ends online on 21st March, also includes a 1922 Boni & Liveright First Edition copy of The Waste Land from the same Estate, also with its original dustjacket and glassine cover. Details are here, and this item has an estimate of £6,000–£8,000.

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Printed version of Eliot’s After Strange Gods, February 2024

The Dissident Review, who state that “our mission is to publish controversial, banned, and subversive historical research”, have announced a reprint of T.S. Eliot’s After Strange Gods.

After Strange Gods has been practically buried in the world of literary culture,” they state, “but now it returns to print, with a re-typeset, modern edition by The Dissident Review. This print edition brings Eliot’s words back into circulation, discussing the roles of religion and heresy in developing fiction, poetry, and culture.”

After Strange Gods, the Page-Barbour lectures delivered by Eliot at the University of Virginia in 1933, was “suppressed” by Eliot himself; later commenting that “the whole tone of After Strange Gods is of a violence that I now deprecate” the book was not reprinted during his lifetime.

At present, the print-on-demand paperback can only be ordered through Amazon sites in Canada and Japan.

The Canadian Amazon listing provides a brief sample of its text. However, even within this sample, there are significant variations from the Faber & Faber First Edition of 1934. There is a missing word; an Americanised misspelling; an erroneous plural; and three spelling variations in its textual epigraph. The typeface lacks the æ character, and the book’s dedication is absent.

The book is not likely to be made available in the UK, where Eliot’s works remain in copyright. The correct text is available in The Complete Prose of T.S. Eliot.

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Exchanges… Winter issue, January 2024

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

Its contributions from members include a new perspective on ‘The Elder Statesman’, in the light of the Emily Hale letters; and another look at ‘Journey of the Magi’ – or ‘Old Gentlemen Prefer Silken Girls’, as Eliot himself described it – together with several shorter items of news and interest.

You can download this new issue here.

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Film premiere of The Waste Land, January 2024

A new “creative documentary” film, The Waste Land, by Dutch director Chris Teerink, has its world premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), running from 25th January to 4th February.

Teerink’s approach, explained in an article in See NL has been to focus “on the theme of uncertainty that runs through the work, both in terms of Eliot’s verse and the impression it leaves on the reader.”

The director gathers an array of speakers who discuss Eliot’s poem from their own perspectives, from economist Guy Standing to sociologist/urbanist Richard Sennett, from critic and poet Roz Kaveney to opera director Tatjana Gürbaca and Dutch novelist and poet Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer. All of the contributors read lines from the poem, as does Eliot himself, accompanied by images of the original manuscript, replete with annotations and corrections.

A trailer from the film can be viewed here.

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TS Eliot and ‘Eastern Europe’, January 2024

An essay in Critical Quarterly explores what TS Eliot meant by “Eastern Europe” – and the ways in which it differed from his conceptualisation of the Central Europe of Vienna.

Drawing on Eliot’s letters and cultural criticism, Juliette Bretan argues that “Eliot’s references to the region suggest more than generically resonant conditions of decline and hope, for they are also revealing of his anxieties about ‘Eastern European’ nationhood”.

She explores “the tensions which emerge within his work about the region, as his support of cultural tradition and control chafed against a perceived heterogeneity, political contestation and excessive nationalism on the geopolitically tense ‘Eastern European’ plains.” And she explores “how Eliot’s references to the region in The Waste Land contradict his aesthetic and political ideas”.

Juliette Bretan is a PhD student in English at the University of Cambridge. Her research explores representations of Polish and East-Central European geopolitics in Anglophone and Polish modernism.

T.S. Eliot, Post-War Geopolitics and ‘Eastern Europe’ is available to read in full with open access here.

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A new reading of Eliot’s Triumphal March, January 2024

In a fascinating study of a little-considered work, Dr Aakanksha J. Virkar of the University of Brighton argues that TS Eliot’s ‘Triumphal March’ “is in fact an anti-fascist work that celebrates Beethoven, Nietzsche, and the work of the Jewish artist Max Klinger whilst deliberately satirizing and rejecting the fascist cultural politics of this time.”

In the Journal of Modern Literature, Dr Virkar suggests that a series of ekphrastic references specifically reveal Max Klinger’s polychromatic 1902 sculpture, Beethoven (right), as the model of the heroic figure in the poem.“’Triumphal March’ celebrates the artist-hero as against the military-hero,” she writes, “attempting to reclaim Beethoven’s legacy from the distortions of right-wing politics in contemporary Germany.”

The essay counters some previous interpretations of Eliot’s Coriolan series as ‘proto-fascist’. “If Eliot’s concern with fascism in his 1931 Coriolan series finds as its primary object Klinger’s Beethoven monument—in other words, the work of a Jewish artist celebrating the composer-as-Übermensch—then it seems that a fundamental re-reading of Eliot is necessary.”

Her essay considers the significance of E McKnight Kauffer’s illustrations to the poem, and the influence of Nietzsche’s philosophy, and traces the later recurrence of lines and motifs in ‘Burnt Norton’. “What Eliot upholds in ‘Triumphal March’ and Four Quartets, through Beethoven, Nietzsche, and the Vienna Secession artists, is a hope for a future,” she concludes, “in which art, morality and spirituality are reconciled, and the transcendence of art becomes also an aesthetics of resistance.”

Max Klinger’s Beethoven (1902), Nietzsche’s Übermensch and the Anti-fascist Poetics of T.S. Eliot’s Coriolan I “Triumphal March” (1931) can be read in full with open access here.

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TS Eliot Festival & Summer School dates for 2024 , January 2024

Dates have now been confirmed for the 2024 TS Eliot Festival and TS Eliot International Summer School.

The Annual TS Eliot Festival will be held at Little Gidding on Sunday 7th July 2024. Full details will follow when confirmed.

 

The TS Eliot International Summer School will run from 6th to 14th July 2024. For the first time this year, its lectures and seminars will be held at Merton College, Oxford, with most events taking place in the TS Eliot Theatre and meeting rooms. Its speakers, under Executive Director Professor Anthony Cuda, include such Eliot luminaries as Frances Dickey, Jeremy Diaper, Ron Schuchard, Megan Quigley and John Whittier-Ferguson. Full details of the programme, location, fees and scholarships are available now on their new website at https://tseliotschool.com/

Members of the TS Eliot Society UK can enjoy a discount on fees for the Summer School – details are in the Members Area.

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Frank Skinner on The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, January 2024

In the latest episode of Frank Skinner’s Poetry Podcast, the comedian and broadcaster examines The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.

Skinner describes Eliot as “a man not afraid of wearing his brain on his sleeve”, but is disappointed that many people see The Love Song as “a sort of gateway drug to The Waste Land…a ramp to the great epic. I think that is misusing The Love Song,” he says. “It’s brilliant in its own right and if I had to be pushed on it I probably love it more than The Waste Land.”

He draws some unusual comparisons, such as viewing The Waste Land as equivalent to the film version of the sit-com On The Buses, lacking the “tight precision” of the shorter version. “Can I really enforce this?” he asks. “I can and I have.”

His line-by-line analysis of the poem highlights the ways in which “even in the most lyrical, beautiful moments the ordinary keeps creeping in”, and he summarises the poem as “a battle between that inner part of us that reaches for poetry, and the world constantly dragging us back down to earth.”

And he confesses that he finds Eliot’s own readings as “kind of hilarious – I know it’s disrespectful to a poetic great but when I listen to him reading his own stuff I do sometimes laugh out loud.”

The 57-minute podcast can be heard here.

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AbeBooks’ second most expensive book was The Waste Land, January 2024

A First Edition of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land was the second most expensive book sold on AbeBooks in the latter half of 2023, selling for a remarkable £28,480.

“The book is bound in the publisher’s black cloth and is in great shape with minor wear to the boards,” read its description. “The binding is tight with no cocking or leaning and the boards are crisp. The pages are clean with no writing, marks or bookplates in the book. The original dustjacket is rich in color with minor repair”

AbeBooks, an ecommerce pioneer now a subsidiary of Amazon, lists millions of books and other objects for sale by thousands of sellers in more than fifty countries. “Our epic selection stretches from manuscripts created before the invention of the Gutenberg Press to the latest signed bestsellers.”

The most expensive book sold in this period? A deluxe edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray  signed by Oscar Wilde, which sold for £38,150.  The full list is here.

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‘Opening Day’ of the Emily Hale letters, January 2024

On the fourth anniversary of the unsealing of the Emily Hale letters, on 2nd January 2020, an article by Sara Fitzgerald recalls their opening day.  “I traveled to Princeton University Library for that day,” she writes, “a decision I have never regretted and a time I’m sure I will remember all my life.”

“‘Opening Day’ was a very cold morning,” she remembers, “but we were permitted to gather in the warmth of the library lobby before the Special Collections Room downstairs opened its locked doors an hour later.

“Initially there were six of us, all women, joined later in the day by two male reporters capturing inserts for stories in London newspapers. I was fourth in line, behind three Eliot scholars, including Lyndall Gordon, the first scholar to recognize Hale’s important role in Eliot’s work, and Frances Dickey, who planned to share details from the letters in blog posts for the International T. S. Eliot Society.”

She recalls the particular areas which she choose to research in the time available; and how work was interrupted by Covid, shutting down the library – and she looks forward to her forthcoming biography, The Silenced Muse: Emily Hale, T. S. Eliot and the Role of a Lifetime.

Her article can be read in full here; and essays by Sara Fitzgerald on aspects of Emily Hale are in the 2020, 2022 and 2023 editions of The Journal of the TS Eliot Society (UK).

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Eliot rarities and curiosities, January 2024

Blackwell’s Rare Books have issued a New Year list of over 30 items, including signed books, letters, limited editions and First Editions, relating to TS Eliot.

Highlights include signed copies of Murder In The Cathedral, Triumphal March, Animula and, unusually, a signed limited edition of Baudelaire’s Intimate Journals to which Eliot contributed an introduction.

There are also curiosities including a restaurant menu signed by Eliot, and a copy of Savonarola: A Dramatic Poem by his mother, Charlotte Eliot. The full list can be seen here.

 

 

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