Emily's Letters (December 1930)

03 Jan 2020 7:52 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

In Eliot’s first two letters to Hale, he pours out thoughts and feelings that he has harbored in silence for years. After this, the real correspondence begins, in the sense that Eliot responds to Hale as well as telling her about himself. Though he later destroyed her letters, his writing is full of their presence: he applauds the delivery of her letter or worries when one does not arrive; he worries about how she will react to what he has said; he praises her answers and points to them as evidence of her fine qualities; he wishes she would write more; responding to what she tells him, he expresses concern for her happiness, safety, and health; and finally, he obsesses over the physical letters themselves. In addition to memorizing her words, he craves the touch and sight of her letters and has begun collecting them in a locked box. He has entrusted this box to Geoffrey Faber as his literary executor with orders to burn it, although his real intent, he says confusingly, is to entrust it to the Bodleian Library to be opened after sixty years. The idea of saving her letters for posterity, along with his own papers, is thus present in their correspondence almost from the beginning—along with the other possibility, of burning them.

In the remaining letters of 1930, Eliot evaluates his new feelings with wonderment, commenting on the pain as well as the happiness of intimacy, of sharing thoughts and feelings with another person. This pain is not something he merely mentions in passing but he leaves the cause undefined. An element of worry (about her, about being a burden to her, about not satisfying her, etc) enters his letters in December. He confesses various faults, in particular his craving for alcohol, as well as pride and anger. He also begins to tell her more about his life, such as describing a trip to Chichester where he stayed in the less than comfortable Bishop’s palace. These passages are similar to accounts of his activities found in his correspondence with other recipients. The final letter of the year encloses, among other items, a beautifully penned letter from John Hayward to Eliot, expressing appreciation for “Marina.” Through these measures Eliot reveals more of himself to Hale. This trend continues in the letters of 1931, as his initial phase of ecstasy shifts to accommodate the reality of his, and perhaps to a lesser extent, her life. 


  • 04 Jan 2020 10:06 AM | Jewel Spears Brooker
    How wonderful that it is possible to re-construct (in part) her letters by reading his. And sharing Hayward's praise of "Marina" with its theme of loss and recovery, its yearning to return to America, is significant.
    Thank you, Frances!
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    • 04 Jan 2020 1:26 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)
      thank you, Jewel. These letters are so rich, I'm not quite sure where to start. I'll just have to pick and choose, but there is much, much more for you and other scholars to notice when you are able to read them for yourselves.
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      • 04 Jan 2020 6:21 PM | Jewel Spears Brooker
        You are doing a great job. Each entry is clear and well-written and so helpful.
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  • 04 Jan 2020 7:55 PM | Elisa Kay Sparks
    Thank you for these daily reports. When I was a grad student, I dreamed of becoming an Eliot scholar so I cd be there to read the Emily Hale letters once they were open. Although I deviated to Woolf, you are fulfilling a long-held dream.
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  • 06 Jan 2020 11:10 AM | Gabrielle McIntire
    Let me add my voice to the chorus, Frances: thank you SO much for sharing from these letters *as you read.* It makes so many of us feel as if we can be right there, too, in this amazing January moment that so many of us have awaited for so long. Your descriptions really capture the fact that the correspondence is rich, nuanced, and complex. Thank you!
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  • 06 Jan 2020 11:11 AM | Anonymous
    Thank you for sharing these letters and for doing this work.
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