In the fall of 1931, Eliot receives an unexpected honor: an invitation to deliver the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard in the following academic year. He announces the news to Hale in a letter of October 27, explaining that there are three reasons to take the position: the unprecedented salary of $10,000; his desire to visit St. Louis, Boston, and New England again; and the possible advancement that might follow from it. He also foresees that if Vivienne doesn’t accompany him, the months away will at least give him a break from caring for her. Strangely, the opportunity to spend more time with Hale, who lives in Boston, is not an inducement. Rather, he says, it would be difficult to be so near to her, and they would see little of each other.
Hale has been considering a teaching position at Scripps College in Claremont, California. It would simplify matters for him if she accepted this offer, he writes on November 6, but he has mixed feelings: he doesn’t want her to take the job just to be far from him, nor does he want to go to the United States without seeing her at all. He continues on November 20 that he cannot predict his emotions on first seeing her, but what worries him more is how they will relate on subsequent meetings. He might be so overcome with feeling that he would only be able to see her twice—on arrival and at departure. The only solution is for each of them to make separate plans.
One can only imagine how Hale received this information, but on December 17, Eliot responds humbly to her clear displeasure; she has described him as “blasting” her. On January 12 he returns in more detail to the scenario he imagines for them: a private meeting when he first arrives in Cambridge, then likely nothing more except a farewell. If he can’t have her company all the time, he says, he prefers an epistolary relationship. He looks forward excitedly to being able to exchange letters more quickly when they are in the same city. By February 16, however, Hale has accepted the job at Scripps, and he congratulates her on her decision.