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Volume Two covers the early years of his editorship of The Criterion (the periodical that Eliot launched with Lady Rothermere’s backing in 1922), publication of The Hollow Men and the course of Eliot’s thinking about poetry and poetics after The Waste Land. The correspondence charts Eliot’s intellectual journey towards conversion to the Anglican faith in 1927, as well as his transformation from banker to publisher, ending with his appointment as a director of the new publishing house of Faber & Gwyer, in late 1925, and the appearance of Poems 1909-1925, Eliot’s first publication with the house with which he would be associated for the rest of his life.
It was partly because of Eliot’s profoundly influential work as cultural commentator and editor that the correspondence is so prolific and so various, and Volume Two of the Letters fully demonstrates the emerging continuities between poet, essayist, editor and letter-writer.
These long-anticipated letters are shrewd, graceful and courteous.
The human narrative is more fully told than ever before by these two volumes, from Vivien's excitable early letter describing how Eliot's friend the philosopher Bertrand Russell is "all over me" (though it is not until Volume Two that the footnotes acknowledge there may have been an affair) to her paranoid but poignant pursuit of Eliot via intermediaries 10 years later. In between, however, there are also letters of affection, complete with lovers' nicknames (Wee and Wonkypenky), and the doomed saga of their search for mutual health and happiness in a country cottage. ... What is new and valuable in these letters for admirers of the inspired poet, acute critic and urbane editor is the full portrait of a man living with the esteem of having written The Waste Land.'
(An) essential book - and the prospect of Eliot's whole corpus being properly edited and made fully available over the next few years is one of the great publishing events of our time.
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