Reports from the Emily Hale Archive

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  • 06 Oct 2020 7:40 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    With “Burnt Norton” behind him, Eliot’s poetic sense continues on high alert. Two days after the publication of his Collected Poems on 2 April 1936, Eliot muses on birds in a delightful letter describing the sound of the nightingale. He awoke from dreaming about Hale to hear a nightingale singing in the middle of the night, he tells her, and he heard it again in the morning. But the nightingale doesn’t sing so much as clang: its harsh song seems to express a knowledge of good and evil, unlike the bawdy shout of the cuckoo or the piping of finches, wrens, and chiffchaffs. He compares the sound of the nightingale to the clanging of Dr. Roylott of Stoke Moran’s safe (in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”). Birds are dependent upon poets, he observes: the mocking-bird is only as great as Walt Whitman has made her, and the nightingale is supported by Sophocles and the myth of Philomel. He hopes that he has done something for the hermit thrush (alluding to its “water-dripping song” in The Waste Land, and perhaps to the thrush in “Burnt Norton”).

    On 11 May, Eliot encloses a positive review and some letters from admirers praising her poem. “Burnt Norton” is about her, he says, and also about time. It is more about her than about the moment in the garden that serves as a pretext. Ten days later, he writes about his upcoming excursion to what will be the site of his final Quartet: Little Gidding, where he plans to “shed a few tears over Crashaw, Mary Collett, Nicholas Ferrar and John Inglesant.” On 26 May 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 countryside was covered with hawthorn, elder, lilac, and buttercups in bloom, which he wishes she could have seen; he wanted her with him (“If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges/ White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness”).

    A month later (18 June), Eliot encloses his photos of Little Gidding and describes his second momentous excursion: to George Herbert’s church at Bemerton (disappointing—no air of holiness) and to East Coker in Somerset, the ancestral home of the Eliots until their departure for Massachusetts in 1663. Eliot praises East Coker’s church (except for an ugly stained glass window put up in honor of the family by an American cousin), the inn where he stayed, and the country, where he feels at home. He concludes the letter by describing a film he has just been to see, Show Boat, with Paul Robeson singing “Ole Man River” and some Mississippi scenes which made him homesick. Thus in person or in imagination, Eliot visits the settings of the other three Quartets within the space of a month.


  • 06 Sep 2020 9:08 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    Perhaps encouraged by his greater intimacy with Hale, Eliot reminisces about his family and upbringing in the letters of early 1936. On 6 January, he writes that his grandfather (William Greenleaf Eliot) may have been less a Saint than a Personality, whose accomplishments were built on sand; he thinks the Unitarian service is only effective if led by a Saint. About his parents, Eliot says they always seemed distant to him: kind and indulgent, but also neglectful. He did not entrust them with confidences, and he believed they cared more about Henry than about him. After marrying, he decided not to ask them for help (though in earlier letters he explained that his father continued paying his rent after he married, and this was why he could not separate from Vivien); his father probably thought he had got what he deserved. Eliot was not intimate with his mother, he says, but his literary reputation consoled her for her own lack of acclaim as a writer. When she was older, he writes on 19 February, he felt that he had to keep up a pretense of being happy and successful. He devotes the most attention to his sister Ada, whom Hale occasionally sees in Cambridge; Ada is his favorite family member, he tells Hale, and the affection is mutual. She is shy and reserved, but not cold; indeed, he himself is extremely reserved with other people apart from Hale (19 January). Ada never received the approbation she deserved from their parents, fighting for a college education and professional training (she became a social worker); Eliot hints that the two of them share a bond from feeling unappreciated by their parents. He thinks Ada, who takes a maternal attitude towards her husband, Sheff, has been lonely and emotionally unfulfilled (19 February). Like Ada, Eliot says, he is reserved and constrained; only with Hale, he repeats, can he be himself, rather than making up a selection of himself in order “to meet the faces that you meet.” Finally, responding on 19 March to Hale’s description of an extended family gathering, Eliot remarks wistfully that he envies people with an old house in the family; his family has never stayed long in one place, always picking up and moving to another house ("Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,/Are removed, destroyed, restored.." East Coker I).

    Eliot’s letters also reflect on current events: Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland on 7 March, violating the treaty of Locarno, and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia intensified, with aerial bombing and use of poison gas. Eliot understands how Germany’s actions were driven by wounded national pride, and he blames the League of Nations (9 March). By 23 April, he sees the European situation degenerating into chaos, driven by an inhuman and impersonal fate, which people watch apathetically as if hypnotized by a snake. A dictator lets a genie out of a bottle and can’t get it back in; in order to keep control he must always do something more. When Henry criticizes Murder in the Cathedral, referring to his brother’s “notions of persecution” (Letters 8.184), Eliot tells Hale with a trace of irritation that England is much closer to Europe than New York is, and events in Germany are very real from such a short distance. To his brother, he replies drily on 28 April, "The 'satire' on the totalitarian state I should hardly expect to convey very much to an audience in a country where the problem does not exist as it does throughout Europe" (L 8.184).

    Next time: Eliot's trips to Little Gidding and East Coker.


  • 19 Aug 2020 1:14 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    By 4 February 1936, Eliot has written and set up in proof all of "Burnt Norton" except the last lines, but he does not send the poem to Hale until March 24 (just a week before its publication in his Collected Poems 1909-1935), telling her on 17 February he does not want her to see it until he is satisfied with his work. Meanwhile, several letters discuss the obscurity that he jokingly boasted of in his 13 January letter. Unintentional obscurity is a weakness, he explains on 5 March, but intentional obscurity may be justified if the poet can achieve his effects no other way. The experience that “Burnt Norton” deals with is obscure, and so the poem must be too. On 19 March, responding to her prompting to be more intelligible, he provides a fascinating explanation of some of the poem's more difficult lines. The passage beginning “Garlic and sapphires in the mud” (BN II) expresses a feeling that does not lend itself to rational description, he says. The feeling is of two beings together—not in an embodied way—for whom the world has the appearance of patterned sunlight (“We move above the moving tree/In light upon the figured leaf”). Life’s horrors, like war, continue unabated: “Below, the boarhound and the boar/Pursue their pattern as before.” There is a feeling of triumph (“the trilling wire in the blood”) after wounds (“inveterate scars”). The poem in general evokes an experience of temporarily escaping time through a feeling of unmoving, transcendent love—not the yearning of desire. He is particularly proud of the line “The crying shadow in the funeral dance.” The “funeral dance” is a primitive funeral ritual in which a hooded and robed figure performs a “loud lament”; the “disconsolate chimera” is drawn from Flaubert’s Temptation of St. Anthony, and the passage pertains to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness and the temptation of despair. He hopes he has clarified the poem a little for her (although he has not yet sent her the text).

    Eliot may have delayed sending her the love poem he promised in January not only because he was tinkering with the final lines, but also out of reluctance to show her passages whose obscurity does not conceal their pessimism, such as part III: “Here is a place of disaffection….Descend lower, descend only/Into the world of perpetual solitude…” This side of his thinking comes out clearly enough, however, in pained passages to Hale on the impossibility of marrying her. He broaches the subject on 21 February in a cold tone that contrasts with his previous love letters, telling her that they cannot hope to be united and ought to live as if it is an impossibility. They should not live for a future that probably will not come to pass. He would take any lawful opportunity to divorce Vivien, and he reassures Hale that he has never loved anyone but her, nor is he capable of loving anyone else. On 3 March he goes into further detail about the legal obstacles to divorce and loftily forgives her for not appreciating the Christian perspective on marriage. He hopes one day for her baptism. On 11 March, responding to something she has written, he worries that her love for him has been based on a misunderstanding. He will always continue to love her, but the thought that he may have harmed her causes him pain. On 13 March, he answers her forlorn letter by wishing that he could comfort her (she is struggling to find a job and short on cash, so there are plenty of reasons why she might express unhappiness). On 24 March, in a letter enclosing the corrected proofs of “Burnt Norton,” he objects to her characterization of his views as intolerant and oppressive. A Christian must believe in the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. He does not elevate himself as a better Christian than herself: Unitarians are not Christians. This is an impersonal matter of doctrine. Along the side of the text of “Burnt Norton,” Eliot types a comment to the effect that people believe they can all have their own philosophies of life, but the Word of God is universal. He also annotates the text lightly, indicating that “a place of disaffection” is the Piccadilly Railway Tube Station, and the “world of perpetual solitude” is the Dark night of the Soul.

  • 03 Aug 2020 4:09 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    Eliot writes at high intensity throughout January 1936, floating on his newfound feelings of union with Hale. His output for the month includes thirteen letters to her—sometimes two on the same day—as well as nearly forty to other correspondents, along with “The Naming of Cats. These were merely background for the labor of “Burnt Norton”: far from working on it throughout 1935, as was previously thought, Eliot composed all but the first fourteen and the last few lines of his new poem in late December and January. His letters resonate with its language, such as on 6 January, Epiphany, when he wonders at the increase in meaning of the moments they have shared together: the meaning is greater now, on reflection, than it was at the time of the experience (“only in time can the moment in the rose-garden…be remembered”). He describes his desire to re-experience multiple forms of intimacy at once, such as being both close enough to feel her breath and far enough away to see all of her. He wants her to be childish with him, for he has a childish side that he can only show to her (“the leaves were full of children,/ Hidden excitedly, containing laughter”). He writes in the present tense of having her with him and resenting any interruption that takes his mind off thoughts of her—except for writing verse. He does not know if his poem is any good or if he will finish it in time for the publication of his new volume. 

    Eliot’s letter of 13 January reveals a significant intertext of “Burnt Norton”:  Shelley’s “Epipsychidion” (I have written about this connection in a short piece for the next T. S. Eliot Studies Annual and a longer article for the December issue of Twentieth-Century Literature). He tells Hale that his poem is a new kind of love poem, and very obscure, so that when it is published, she will fairly be able to say that she does not understand it or that she does, according to her convenience. He quotes the epigraph of Shelley’s “Epipsychidion,” written for a woman named Emilia: “My song, I fear that thou wilt find but few/ Who fitly shall conceive thy reasoning, / Of such hard matter dost thou entertain” (as it turns out, Shelley’s epigraph is—surprise!—from Dante). Eliot suggests that he has made his poem difficult on purpose to conceal its real subject matter, and he tells her that he has chosen two quotations from Heraclitus as his own epigraph, to make the poem even more obscure. This important letter was accidentally omitted from the digital scans at Special Collections, and I only found it by chance on a day when I was using the originals. 

    On 16 January 1936, Eliot continues his remarkable reflections on their poem (using the first person plural possessive adjective). It rounds off his Collected Poems and signals a fresh start, along with Murder in the Cathedral. He thinks of it as a quartet for strings, rather than a symphony, and he seeks the same effects as Beethoven achieved in his late quartets. It is similar to The Waste Land in having five parts, though in other ways is different and deeper. The poem includes passages from Heraclitus, St. John of the Cross, Flaubert’s Tentation de S. Antoine (this will be one for the scholars to investigate), and personal memories from the underground station at Gloucester Road and other incidents that only she will recognize. He also tells her that he is going to separate her love letters—written since 18 November—from those she sent before. He wishes to kiss the sole of her foot and run his fingers through her hair. He needs her to tell him what to do and what not to do (echoing Ash-Wednesday’s “Teach us to care and not to care”?). 

    NB: I have deleted reference to the photographs that I mentioned in an earlier version of this post. Katerina Stergiopolou tells me that these photographs were enclosed in Eliot's June 18, 1936 letter, but must have been misplaced into the digital scan for January. Thanks for the correction!


  • 13 Jul 2020 1:35 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    Hale’s departure from London on 11 December 1935 unleashes a flood of writing from Eliot: eight letters to her, as well as twenty-seven to other correspondents, before the end of the year. He is immersed in the agony of separation and the glory of love, he tells her on the 12th. He marvels in the new experience of their embraces that brought bliss while shutting out the rest of the world. Only in writing poetry does he find any relief from the pain of separation (this comment indicates he is working on “Burnt Norton”). He praises her spiritual and physical beauty, using a term of endearment for Hale that he will repurpose in “How the Tall Girl and I Play Together,” written for his wife. 

    On the 13th he looks back over highlights of the last three weeks, including a journey to Whipsnade, a smoky afternoon in the City (perhaps “the moment in the draughty church at smokefall”), and outings to Dulwich and Finchampstead, moments of intimacy in which he discerns a developing pattern. Similar patterns emerge in the evenings they spent together: under the yew-tree, on his birthday, on hers--when she requested a birthday kiss--and especially on the last night. He mentions the ring she has given him; he swears he will not take it off. 

    Eliot’s rush of emotion continues on 16 December in response to Hale’s own expressions of affection in recent letters. He feels overpowered by love when he writes to her; the experience of giving himself and being completely understood in return dazzles him. He reveals that his long-held desire to write for the stage came from wanting her praise. He would like to write a play with a role for her, and one for himself in the opposite part, but excess of feeling might prevent him from acting well.

    After her arrival in Boston, Eliot feels he should put more news in his letters, and he inquires how she is getting along with Miss Ware, an older Boston Brahmin with whom Hale often lived. He reflects on the great change that has come over them both, which binds them together for the rest of their lives, no matter what should happen. And he ventures to hope that they may one day find themselves in the same place.

    The violets she left behind in his rooms kept their fragrance through Christmas Day, he tells her, though now they have faded and lost their scent. He has moments of ecstasy when he reflects on the beauty of what has happened between them, and he misses the feeling of walking arm in arm with her. He is no longer the same person as he was a few weeks ago. In his last letter of the year, Eliot writes about the ring she has given him: it means all to him that a wedding ring can, and it will always bind his finger.


  • 22 Jun 2020 8:47 AM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    Many years in the making, a turning point for Hale and Eliot arrives on 18 November 1935, when she writes her first love letter to him. (In January tells her that he draws a line between all the letters she has written beforehand, and the true love letters she has written to him since the 18th). While they first exchanged kisses on his visit to Scripps in 1933, the physical dimension of their relationship has clearly become more passionate, and Eliot describes their recent kisses with tender amazement on 22 November. He delights in knowing that she needs his letters as much as he needs to write to her. They have been seeing each other frequently in London and writing less (there is a two-week break at the beginning of November), but something happens to precipitate her letter and a sudden intensification of their relations —perhaps Eliot's encounter with Vivienne on the 18th at the Sunday Times Books Exhibition (see Letters 7.841). Hale departs for America on 11 December.  The last three weeks they spend together are both consequential and somewhat mysterious. On 25 November, Eliot describes his excitement and a combination of agony and delight at receiving her most recent letter. (On 26 November, Virginia Woolf records her rather negative impression of Hale following tea at her house—again, like Ottoline, perhaps motivated by jealousy.)

    On 5 December, Eliot writes happily about the previous day spent together—from the Fuller’s shop in Walbrook to the cart-horse in Queen Victoria Street—assuring her that no other woman in the world could have done for him what she has done. He always thinks of her in the morning before anything else, and last thing at night. His next, dated 11 December, is a passionate love letter addressed to Hale at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, her last stop in England before embarking on her transatlantic crossing. One of these two letters, I think the second, contains an important enclosure:  the first seventeen lines of “Burnt Norton.” Eliot wrote the first fourteen lines—up through “the door we never opened/Into the rose-garden”—the previous March for inclusion in Murder in the Cathedral, long before their visit to the gardens at Burnt Norton. The passage was cut from the play before its first performance, and Eliot repurposed it for this occasion with the addition of the following lines: “My words echo/Thus, in your mind.//But to what purpose/Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves/I do not know” (lines 14-17). We will have to wonder whether the “dust on a bowl of rose-leaves” refers to Eliot’s twenty-year-old love for Hale, finally reciprocated.

    Eliot’s 11 December letter is one of his most ecstatic and explicit, describing the previous evening and the morning of her departure, when she came to say good-bye. After she left she came back a second time to reassure him that when she is gone, she is also there with him. He feels dazzled and humbled by the thought she loves him; he is a new person who belongs to her. He is in two places, just as she is also. He wishes that he could be with her now to brush her hair and help her get ready for travel, but instead he faces their love, a thing far greater than he is. He signs the letter by combining their names.


  • 13 Jun 2020 3:06 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    Eliot begins the month of October 1935 in the glow of his recent birthday celebration, writing on the 3rd(exactly five years since the renewal of their correspondence) that the words of their letters have gained in value and meaning as their relationship has deepened. He takes pleasure in using the pronoun “we” rather than “you and I.” He tells her that he has preserved the different flowers she has given him for his buttonhole, but he now particularly treasures the sprig of yew that she picked for “us.” This is the first of numerous references to the yew, a tree that memorably appears in “Burnt Norton”: “Will…Chill/ Fingers of yew be curled/Down on us?”

    From 8 October 1935, Hale stays in London with her aunt and uncle, with many opportunities for seeing Eliot. (For his mixed feelings about her family ménage, see his published letter to Jeanette McPherrin, 7.791.) Despite frequently meeting in person, Eliot continues to send regular letters, for writing is not the same as talking, he tells her, and when he forgets to write something, he can always add a postscript, while an omission in conversation can never be remedied. He invites her to a performance of a Bach Brandenburg Concerto by the Busch Quartette and a Group Theatre production (not Sweeney, he says, which was playing at the Westminster Theatre in double billing with Auden’s Dance of Death), plans a tea party with Ottoline Morrell, and hopes to take her to see Virginia Woolf (this occurs on Nov. 26). He tells her that he is at her disposal and wants to see her as much as possible. Later in the month he offers to take her to hear Jelly D’Aranyi (a celebrated Hungarian violinist who was also a friend of Georgie Yeats) play Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata. These invitations underscore Hale’s appreciation of music and her influence on Eliot’s taste in the time of his writing Four Quartets.

    Hale accompanies Eliot to a poetry reading on 13 October, where he is more conscious of her than of the young people in the audience; her presence—he tells her the next day—gives him the dizzying sense of living on two planes at once. He remarks that wherever she goes, people become dependent on her; of the four people currently drawing support from her (presumably the two Perkins, Mrs. Hale, and himself), he feels he takes the most from her and worries that he gives little or nothing in return—adding that her face becomes more and more beautiful to him as he studies it (perhaps this is an attempt to give something back). On the 17thhe is glad to hear her say that she also receives from him, but he suspects that he gains the most from the relationship. He adds in French that he kisses her hands.

    For another, perhaps jealous perspective, Ottoline Morrell’s diary records a chance encounter with Eliot on 20 October when she sees him with “a very obvious severe mouthed, American Parson” and three American ladies including “the dominating efficient Hales” at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. She continues to complain on 24 October after a gathering at her house how Eliot brought “that awful American Woman Miss Hales with him—she is like a Sergeant Major quite Intolerable—How can Tom take her about everywhere—She has perhaps been a School mistress” (quoted in Letters7.816). 

    On 22 October, with Murder soon to open at the Mercury Theatre, Eliot enjoys a feeling of collaborating with her on a production, though he feels he isn’t qualified to take part, and she is too modest to do so. On Monday, 30 October, he thanks her for supporting him socially at dinner with the Maritains, whom he particularly wanted her to meet, praising her charm, grace, and ease. Sunday evening marked yet a further stage of progress in their relationship, entailing a feeling of self-surrender and of responsibility to her for all he does and thinks. This is not a feeling of the moment but a permanent change, as if he were possessed by her.

  • 30 May 2020 8:20 AM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    Over the weekend of 26-29 September 1935, Eliot celebrates his birthday in Chipping Campden with Hale and the Perkinses. He writes on Monday to his hostess, thanking her for a "perfect weekend" and "the happiest birthday party I have had since I was a boy" (L 7.781). Hale's aunt and uncle are leaving Stamford House, and he tells Mrs. Perkins that he had "come to feel 'at home' at Campden in a way in which I had not felt at home for some twenty-one years, anywhere." (See also the poem Eliot writes to her during this weekend, "A Valedictory/Forbidding Mourning: to the Lady of the House," praising her gardening skills and declaring, "since you came, /Nothing in Campden is the same" [L7.780]). 

    On the same day, Eliot also writes an ecstatic letter to Hale, addressing her as his nightingale. He begins by describing a scene from the previous evening when they stood in the garden together in their raincoats, her hair touching his face. His evokes this moment in lines similar to Ash-Wednesday's “Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,/ Lilac and brown hair.”  His happiness was so great that he felt it as pain—suffering for her, for himself, and for them both together. His heart sang and is still singing, even as he is aware of her present situation. Emily must have traveled to Oxford on Monday, for he imagines her sitting in cold lodgings pumping her energy into her other aunt, Irene Hale, with a feeling of weariness towards the future. (Perhaps this letter attempts to warm her from a distance.)

    Eliot recalls a moment on Thursday evening, his birthday, when she stroked his face. Afterwards, he was awake during the night with a vision of her beauty, which radiates from the inside out. In this vision he saw her face as a transparency revealing her spirit; unlike other women, her beauty is the embodiment of her spirit. What she calls his idealization of her is not detached from reality.  He describes how she appears to him: human and humorous, intelligent without being bookish, modest and humble (a virtue he struggles to achieve, being given to arrogance and disdain himself). Her good taste and sense of right and wrong are unerring; she is a perfect companion whose conversation moves smoothly from large questions to small ones and back again. She is a true patrician, so superior to the common people that she is not even aware of her superiority (again, he says, unlike himself).

    On Sunday night he felt more united to Hale than ever before. He apologizes to her for any words of bitterness that might have come from him last year, which were unjustified. He wants her to know how his life and work have been shaped around her.  If she realizes what she has done for him, that may help her to realize what she is herself.  He recalls his emotions of the evening—his own, and another feeling of union with her.

  • 24 May 2020 1:14 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    Our narrative of Hale and Eliot left off in early August 1935, with his rhapsodic description of their day spent walking the countryside near Chipping Campden and lingering in the garden of Stamford House at night. Through the rest of the month, Eliot enjoys the afterglow of their last evening and wonders how he will feel when he sees her again. He will be both tender and awkward, he predicts. He recalls how she put her head on his shoulder, in a moment so meaningful and dazzling that “my eyes failed” again (Eliot quotes himself). He feels that she brings out the best in him, and he hopes that it will prove so, though he is not afraid of her seeing his faults. He chides her not to feel inferior nor suppress her wonderful sense of humor. On 23 August he sends her “Rannoch, by Glencoe,” the fourth of his “Landscapes.”

    After not seeing each other for five weeks following their time in Chipping Campden at the end of July, Eliot and Hale get together at least three times in September. The first is something of a disappointment. Hale comes up to London to dine with Eliot and the Thorps—Willard, the Princeton English professor who will eventually secure Hale’s donation of the letters, and his wife Margaret, an author and Hale’s longtime friend. Eliot says that he felt like a wax model on display, and Willard in turn was a skeleton at his feast. He blames his paralysis partly on the emotions he felt in the aftermath of their last visit, and partly on his sense that Willard finds him lacking. Then on the weekend of September 6-8, Eliot returns to Chipping Campden, where there seems to be some tension between Emily and her aunt, perhaps exacerbated by comments from Eliot. He reminisces about being in the rose-garden at Burnt Norton with her, one of the permanent moments for him; probably, as mentioned in my previous post, he refers to his visit at the end of July. By the middle of the month, Eliot is planning another trip to Chipping Campden for his birthday on the 26th, and he mentions that he wants to have a few new poems to add to the edition of his work that is to appear in the spring (that new poem will be “Burnt Norton,” not yet written).

    Readers of Vol. 7 will have noted the inclusion of a sixteen-page letter from his brother Henry, analyzing the motives for his conversion and sharply criticizing his repudiation of Unitarianism in a “fanatically intolerant and shocking tirade” delivered to the Boston Association of Unitarian Ministers in 1933 (7.754). Eliot receives this letter on 20 September, telling Hale that he is already aware of many of the criticisms, and others may be true or misunderstandings; Henry knows much about him, but not the essentials of his private life. Not seeming offended by his brother’s letter, but wearied by it, he tells Hale that Henry blames his faults partly on his friendship with Bloomsbury group members.  Perhaps Eliot has this criticism in mind four days later when he regales Hale with the names of Woolf and Bell family members whom he has just seen at Vanessa’s house for dinner, and at the Keynes’s a few days later. Maynard is building a theatre in Cambridge for his wife, the former ballerina Lydia Lopokova, and has offered to produce Eliot’s next play there; they discussed Mussolini and Italy. He writes that the only Bloomsbury members who truly interest him are Virginia (though he never reads her work) and Keynes, whose brilliance exceeds his character. He concludes his letter of 24 September by looking forward to spending his birthday in her company.

  • 25 Apr 2020 9:12 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    One of the highlights of the Eliot-Hale correspondence is his description of their time together in Chipping Campden at the end of July 1935. Eliot’s first letter of the month sets the date for this visit—22 July—and continues to negotiate the terms of their meetings.  He would like her to come back to London, but only at his expense. He appreciates her sense of duty, which is one of the qualities that attracts him to her but wishes she would direct her principles at the right objects. Their consciences do not always align. He promises to enclose a poem that I. A. Richards liked, “Cape Ann” (first published December 1935), with its notes of yearning and resignation. 

    On 5 July, Eliot thanks Hale for her compliments on the conclusion of Murder, while expressing anxiety about the use of his own poetic powers. Sometimes he feels like a child playing with dynamite. With all his faults, he is not the same as the cause he stands for; also, it is a delicate operation to keep his love of the cause pure from the taint of power.  Likewise, he hopes that she will not be distressed by her feelings of inadequacy, a temptation only for noble minds, but dangerous. Eliot seems to be reflecting on temptation in connection with both Hale and his play.

    In his letter of 9 July, Eliot confesses to missing Hale’s company and feeling low since Canterbury. He likes merry old ladies and is looking forward to seeing Olivia Shakespeare tomorrow, but international news is depressing, especially Mussolini’s maneuverings in Africa (on this day, talks at the Hague between Italy and Ethiopia broke down, a step towards the war that broke out on 2 October). Eliot does not write again in the month of July except a note on the 15th, indicating that they briefly saw each other again in London. On 22 July he travels to Chipping Campden and stays until the last day of the month. He writes to his hostess, Edith Perkins, on 1 August thanking her for “a very happy and unforgettable week” (7.708). This polite letter is the only published hint of what transpired. On the same day, Eliot writes to Hale expressing his intense emotions, both ecstasy and pain; he experienced a sense of glory, a sense of transport to another world, when she rested her head on his shoulder.

    Eliot’s letter of 11 August describes the incidents of their week in vivid detail. They went to Tewkesbury to see the Abbey and a performance of Samson Agonistes, which he enjoyed, but even more so, their ride home in the back of the car and the half hour they spent together in the garden. One day they walked round and through Stanton and Stanway, eating lunch under a hawthorn tree in a field and having tea at the Crown in Blockley (these are all locations within a few miles of Chipping Campden, and the Crown Hotel is still operative). His memory preserves snapshots of the innyard, the iron tea-table and the hollyhocks there. On the last evening they sat together in the garden for an hour, coming in at midnight, and she said what he most craved to hear. It was a moment of glory, for which he feels unworthy. Well done, he tells her, calling her a princess descended from kings. He thanks her for her letter of August 8 in which she displays her sense of humor, one of the things he loves her for, if he loves her for anything. 

    Eliot only mentions Burnt Norton once, on September 10, leaving unclear when they visited the manor house and garden. However, no other day receives the same ecstatic review as the one spent sightseeing in the little villages near Chipping Campden, so it seems likely that their “moment” in the rose garden took place on this walk.

    My apologies for the long break in posting; the semester ends in a few weeks and I hope to go back to writing more regularly.

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