"Things ill done"

19 Feb 2020 2:57 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

Will Hale accept Eliot on the terms that he sets for her? His uncertainty continues over the holidays and into 1934, while few letters arrive from California. Vivien also refuses to sign a separation agreement, and all he can do is establish the financial limits of his support. He feels overwhelmed by the task of finding a new flat and buying furniture, blankets, pillowcases, and other domestic items he knows nothing about (5 January). (In his future years of marital separation, Eliot always finds lodging with other people rather than establishing his own household). Finally on 19 January, he receives her letter expressing what he calls a really Christian attitude towards him, though he is unhappy to hear that he has never brought her anything but pain. She would have been better off not meeting him, though she is the one person in the world whom he would most like to make happy. He must have given her a false impression of himself (I feel a sense of déjà vu: similar exchanges about her “misunderstanding” occur throughout their correspondence). Perhaps he has been acting under false pretenses all this time, and if she would prefer him to stop writing to her, he will comply immediately. She has done so much for him, and he foolishly thought that he was giving something in return, indeed that he had almost earned the happiness he receives from her. In time he hopes to love her more finely and appreciate how much better she is than he.

The question of his culpability continues to bother him, and on 26 January he wonders whether he ought to break off their correspondence for several years, for her sake?  His past life begins to seem like a nightmare “of things ill done” and not done, words he will write into Little Gidding eight years later:

And last, the rending pain of re-enactment

            Of all that you have done, and been; the shame

            Of motives late revealed, and the awareness

Of things ill done and done to others’ harm

Eliot wishes her to do only what is best for herself, just as he would only want a woman to marry him because she wanted to, and not out of pity (though, to clarify, he is asking her to accept an indefinite and probably permanent deferment of marriage). But her letter of 6 February lifts his spirits by reassuring him that he gives to her as well as receiving. He promises to continue as long as she wishes, and thereby enjoy what he says is the only real intimacy of his life. He concludes by assuring her that he has kissed her letter many times, especially the signature.


  • 20 Feb 2020 7:00 AM | CR Mittal
    A difficult love.
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  • 21 Feb 2020 8:02 AM | CR Mittal
    Humility is endless, indeed.
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