The Letters of T. S. Eliot: Volume 2: 1923-1925

The Letters of T. S. Eliot: Volume 2: 1923-1925These are the years in which Eliot started the Criterion. There are a lot of tedious business letters. Still, just seeing how he did business is interesting.

These were hard years for him, as letters about his wife’s prostrations, his indignation at doctors, his own exhaustion and frequent near-collapse, the effort and expense that went into living with an invalid, working at the bank, editing the Criterion for free, and keeping up an intellectual life all show. At the end there are letters between Eliot and Faber, the deal is arranged, his resignation from the bank, his contract at F & G, the glimpses of the deterioration of the situation with his wife all appear. “And I have made so many mistakes in the past, that I often feel no confidence whatever in my judgment, and act like a frightened rat.”

There is much in these 900 pages. On 11 December 1925, just to mention a curious detail, Eliot wrote Richard Aldington, a steady correspondent, wanting to buy together a set of Migne (standard cheap edition of the Greek and Latin Christian works from the patristic era through the Middle Ages). Eliot’s idea was to divide it between themselves and exchange tomes from time to time, according to the interest of each. One of the things Eliot wanted for himself was Periphyseon.

You will also find, of course, other curiosities in here, and criticism. One chap, for example, had his essay rejected with some advice, which Eliot apologized for, thinking it could come across as forward and perhaps condescending to do so. But he says the chap has a brain and he would like to see him learn to write better. What does he recommend? Study of Swift and Newman.

I’m glad to have lived to see the day of the publication of these tomes. They are well annotated too. Good for studying, good for perusing, good for occasional reading. I must get the next one.

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