Eliot's "creaking heart"

18 Jan 2020 4:22 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

Hale seems to express her displeasure with Eliot by writing only infrequently in the early months of 1932. He worries out loud that she might be ill and begs her to send him a postcard now and then if she is too busy to write a letter. Now that she has decided to go to Scripps, he proposes to visit her there, if he can do so without violating propriety. He will subsist on the hope of seeing her, if only for a moment. He asks her where Scripps is; perhaps, he jokes, if he goes to Hollywood, he can get a walk-on part in a film. 

When she writes back in the middle of February, apparently she threatens to withdraw her letters from his planned donation to the Bodleian.  In this context Eliot tells her that his poetry cannot be understood without them (see my post of Jan. 10, “That is not what I meant at all”). On March 4 he bewails his dependence on her, and makes an offering of a poem he has just written while riding the subway, “Lines to a Persian Cat." Set in Russell Square, the poem frames despondent feelings and “sharp desires” with lighthearted references to animals: “There is no relief but in grief./O when will the creaking heart cease?” 

On March 15, Eliot acknowledges Hale’s observation that she no longer writes to him with the same “excitement” that she did at first (her word). But what is her reason, he asks again, for wanting her name removed from the record he wishes to leave behind? By March 19, Eliot has collected himself, and he counsels her to find serenity during Holy Week; for himself, he hopes to lead a useful life, takes solace in religious exercises, and looks towards death.


  • 19 Jan 2020 5:07 PM | Landpn.Jones@verizon.net
    What a wonderful job you are doing, Frances. Thank you! Pia de Jong and I wrote a short piece for the Wall Street Journal this past Thursday about the letters, but you are doing so much more and with such insight.
    I am from St. Louis and heard Eliot speak there in 1959.
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  • 20 Jan 2020 2:21 PM | CR Mittal
    “If I'm sincere today, what does it matter if I regret it tomorrow?”
    ― José Saramago, ‘Blindness’
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