With his visit to Hale behind him, and the ordeal of convincing Vivien to grant him a legal separation ahead, Eliot seems dissatisfied with himself and others. “One of my most constant temptations is to a feeling of exasperation with human beings,” he writes to Paul Elmer More on 18 May, capturing the tone of many of his letters to Hale in spring 1933. In addition to criticizing others, he feels beset by temptations. He is tempted to use his wit to attack powerful people or to defend the underdog. Intellectual battle serves as a drug and flatters his pride. He is tempted to be a man of action, a Samson, rather than of thought (in Murder in the Cathedral, Thomas refers to one of his temptations as “Samson in Gaza”). Work is a drug. He must also struggle against daydreaming, however, and he tells her that he often revises his letters to her to make them less ardent. He wonders why he should have to struggle against so many cravings; he has long since put sensual temptation behind him.
The grain of sand in Eliot’s shell seems to be the question of divorce. Hale must ask him about it, because he explains in a long letter dated “Holy Saturday” that he has become a symbol of the Anglican church to many people. If he sought a divorce, which the church does not allow, it would be a catastrophe of the same magnitude as Newman’s conversion to Catholicism. In consolation to them both, he quotes Matthew 20:22: “But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?” Apparently this doesn’t satisfy her, as his explanation continues on June 1: he wishes a divorce were possible, but under English law, Vivien would have to divorce him for adultery. She would never do this if she knew he wanted to marry someone else. So even if he could get an annulment from the church, he would still not be free. And, furthermore, divorce is wrong absolutely because it undermines the authority of the church, which, in turn, is all that keeps men from turning into beasts.