The Letters of T. S. Eliot Volume 6: 1932–1933

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ISBN 9780571316342 Format Hardback
9780571316342
Paperback
Published 18/02/2016 Length 896 pages
896

About Book

A vivid and personal documentation of T. S. Eliot's most crucial years, both in his private and public life.

Despairing of his volatile, unstable marriage, T. S. Eliot, at 44, resolves to put an end to his eighteen-year union with Vivien Haigh-Wood Eliot.

To begin with, he distances himself from her for nine months, from September 1932, by becoming Norton Lecturer at Harvard University. His lectures will be published as The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism(1933). He also delivers the Page-Barbour Lectures at Virginia (After Strange Gods, 1934). At Christmas he visits Emily Hale, to whom he is 'obviously devoted'. He gives talks all over - New York, California, Missouri, Minnesota, Chicago - and the letters describing encounters with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edmund Wilson and Marianne Moore ('a real Gillette blade') brim with gossip. High points include the première at Vassar College of his comic melodrama Sweeney Agonistes (1932). The year 'was the happiest I can ever remember in my life . . . successful and amusing.'

Returning home, he seeks refuge with friends in the country while making known to Vivien his decision to leave her. But he is exasperated when she buries herself in denial: she will not accept a Deed of Separation.

The close of 1933 is lifted when Eliot 'breaks into Show Business'. He is commissioned to write a 'mammoth Pageant': The Rock. This collaborative enterprise will be the proving-ground for the choric triumph of Murder in the Cathedral (1935).

A vivid and personal documentation of T. S. Eliot's most crucial years, both in his private and public life.Despairing of his volatile, unstable marriage, T. S. Eliot, at 44, resolves to put an end to his eighteen-year union with Vivien Haigh-Wood Eliot.To begin with, he distances himself from her for nine months, from September 1932, by becoming Norton Lecturer at Harvard University. His lectures will be published as The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism(1933). He also delivers the Page-Barbour Lectures at Virginia (After Strange Gods, 1934). At Christmas he visits Emily Hale, to whom he is 'obviously devoted'. He gives talks all over - New York, California, Missouri, Minnesota, Chicago - and the letters describing encounters with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edmund Wilson and Marianne Moore ('a real Gillette blade') brim with gossip. High points include the première at Vassar College of his comic melodrama Sweeney Agonistes (1932). The year 'was the happiest I can ever remember in my life . . . successful and amusing.'Returning home, he seeks refuge with friends in the country while making known to Vivien his decision to leave her. But he is exasperated when she buries herself in denial: she will not accept a Deed of Separation.The close of 1933 is lifted when Eliot 'breaks into Show Business'. He is commissioned to write a 'mammoth Pageant': The Rock. This collaborative enterprise will be the proving-ground for the choric triumph of Murder in the Cathedral (1935).
  • About T. S. Eliot

    Visit the official T. S. Eliot site here.

    Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1888. He was educated at Harvard, at the Sorbonne in Paris, and at Merton College, Oxford. His early poetry was profoundly influenced by the French symbolists, especially Baudelaire and Laforgue. In his academic studies he specialised in philosophy and logic. His doctoral thesis was on F. H. Bradley.

    He settled in England in 1915, the year in which he married Vivienne Haigh-Wood and also met his contemporary Ezra Pound for the first time. After teaching for a year or so he joined Lloyds Bank in the City of London in 1917, the year in which he published his first volume, Prufrock and Other Observations.

    In 1919 Poems was hand-printed by Leonard and Virginia Woolf. His first collection of essays, The Sacred Wood, appeared in 1920. His most famous work, The Waste Land, was published in 1922, the same year as James Joyce's Ulysses. The poem was included in the first issue of his journal The Criterion, which he founded and edited.

    Three years later he left the bank to become a director of Faber & Gwyer, later Faber & Faber. His Poems 1909–25 was one of the original titles published by Geoffrey Faber's new firm, and the basis of his standard Collected Poems 1909-1962. In 1927 he was received into the Church of England and also became a British citizen. Ash Wednesday was published at Easter 1930.

    His masterpiece Four Quartets began with 'Burnt Norton' in 1936, continued with 'East Coker' in 1940, 'The Dry Salvages' in 1941 and 'Little Gidding' in 1942. The separate poems were gathered together as one work in 1943. Eliot's writing for the theatre began with the satirical 'Sweeney Agonistes' fragments.

    In 1934 he wrote the London churches' pageant play 'The Rock', the choruses from which are preserved in Collected Poems, and the next year he was commissioned by the Canterbury Festival to write Murder in the Cathedral, about the martyrdom of St Thomas à Beckett. The Family Reunion followed in 1939, when he also published his children's classic, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the jacket drawn by Eliot himself. (The Possum was Eliot's alias among friends). He later wrote three more verse plays, all of which were premièred at the Edinburgh Festival: The Cocktail Party, The Confidential Clerk and The Elder Statesman. A film of Murder in the Cathedral was shown at the Venice Film Festival in 1951.

    Eliot's most important literary criticism is collected in Selected Essays 1917-1932, which he enlarged in 1951. There are a number of other volumes of lectures and essays, among them The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, For Lancelot Andrewes, On Poetry and Poets, and two works of social criticism – The Idea of a Christian Society and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture. Eliot was appointed to the Order of Merit in January 1948 and in the Autumn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He married for the second time in 1957, to Valerie Fletcher.

    Eliot died in January 1965. There is a memorial to him in Westminster Abbey, beside those to Tennyson and Browning. His ashes are in St Michael's Church, East Coker, the Somerset village from which his ancestor Andrew Eliot emigrated to America in 1667.

    After his death his widow edited the long-lost original manuscript of the The Waste Land and a volume of his letters. She also commissioned editions of his early poems Inventions of a March Hare and his Clark and Turnbull lectures The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats provided the lyrics for Andrew Lloyd Webber's dance musical Cats, which has been performed all over the world for the past 25 years.

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  • Edited By: John Haffenden

    John Haffenden is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Sheffield, Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of English Studies, University of London, and a Fellow of the British Academy. His publications include a biography of the American poet John Berryman; editions of the works of William Empson including the Complete Poems (2000); and an award-winning two-volume biography of Empson (2005, 2006). He was General Editor of Letters of T. S. Eliot, volumes 1, 2 (2009), 3 (2012) and 4 (2013).

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