Emily Hale's Treasure

24 Dec 2019 7:57 AM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

“sieti raccomandato il mio ‘Tesoro,’

Nel quale vivo ancora; e più non cheggio.”

Poi si revolse

Inferno XV 118-120

So Eliot inscribed his book Ara Vos Prec with lines from the Inferno, when he sent it to Emily Hale in 1928. The damned writer Bruno Latini addresses Dante, whom he knew in better days, asking to be remembered by his book rather than his shade in Hell: “Let my 'Treasure,' in which I still live, be commended to thee; and more I ask not. Eliot and Hale had been close friends in America before the poet’s unhappy marriage; how unhappy is suggested by this inscription. 

Following the renewal of their friendship, Eliot and Hale visited each other and corresponded frequently for the next decade, with letters continuing into the 1950’s: ultimately, Eliot sent well over one thousand letters to her. These were her treasure, which she ultimately donated to Princeton Library in 1956, to remain sealed until 2020. On January 2, the public will have their chance to learn more about a part of the poet’s life that has been a matter of speculation until now.

Although Eliot was unhappy with Hale’s choice to deposit his letters at an archive, rather than in the fireplace, those personally concerned have now passed away. Reporters and scholars will soon be lining up at the door of Special Collections in the basement of Firestone Library to discover what secrets the poet may have revealed in his letters. 

Mindful of the restrictions on quoting Eliot’s texts, I will be offering a folder-by-folder account of the archive on this site starting January 2, recording the gist of the letters and providing closer description of important moments. 

This project is made possible by research support from the University of Missouri, where I teach, and by the sponsorship of the International T. S. Eliot Society. I take responsibility for my posts, however. If you are interested in contributing to this blog, please contact me at dickeyf@missouri.edu.

In the meantime, the finding aid for the Hale letters contains some useful information about its genesis and contents. 


  • 30 Dec 2019 3:58 PM | Sara Fitzgerald
    Thanks for doing this. I'm sure many people will appreciate your blog, particularly those who cannot make it to Princeton.

    The posting of the Finding Aid made it all seem much more real. And an exciting discovery was that Emily Hale did leave behind some sort of "memoir" about their relationship, though it was likely edited from her first draft.
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    • 31 Dec 2019 11:37 AM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)
      Yes, thanks for mentioning Hale's narrative, which I hope to be able to describe here this week. The finding aid states: "Includes several drafts of an account of the relationship between T. S. Eliot and Emily Hale, written by Emily Hale. Also included are letters from Hale to former University Librarian William S. Dix concerning corrections made to the drafts."
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      • 31 Dec 2019 11:44 AM | Anonymous
        The Estate of T S Eliot and Faber & Faber have undertaken to publish the letters within a few months. No one will have to wait very long. I have waited for fifty years.
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      • 05 Jan 2020 7:45 AM | Graham Cunningham
        Very much looking forward to your forthcoming description of Hale's narrative - and as detailed as possible? The internet is currently awash with Eliot's statement but much less interested in Hale's account of the relationship. Will a digital version of any of her drafts eventually be available?
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        • 05 Jan 2020 12:02 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)
          I described Hale's narrative in my second post ("Let the record speak"), with some limited quotation. Nobody knows what the copyright status of her narrative is. I would think it could be published by Princeton Library as soon as they see fit, but that's just my opinion and I'm no lawyer. I agree that it's important to get her side out there, especially since she is so even-handed.
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      • 08 Jan 2020 5:42 PM | Bernard White
        so grateful to you. what a new year's gift. blessings and love on your continuing journey. Fare forward!
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