In March 1934, Hale informs Eliot that she will be leaving her job at Scripps; she plans to join the Perkins in England during the summer and travel Europe with friends in the fall. He is delighted by this news because he detested California and, more importantly, her travels will bring her closer to him. She has worked hard at Scripps, too hard, he thinks, but her position gave her the opportunity to direct plays, including Milton’s Comus (which turned 300 in 1934). She gives few details about her summer plans, and he spends June wondering out loud about her arrival, which occurs between his letters of 8 July and 24 July. Her aunt and uncle have taken a house in the remote Cotswold village of Chipping Campden, to which she travels directly upon landing, without seeing him in London. In his letter of 24 July he affirms something she has written about hoping for an open understanding between them without dissimulation.
Readers in the archive who zeroed in on summer 1934 looking for references to Burnt Norton were puzzled and disappointed, for none were forthcoming. It turns out that the famous visit took place in 1935. Eliot and Hale did see each other in Chipping Campden in 1934, but a series of relationship letters exchanged that summer imply they had some misunderstandings to work through. On 30 July he thanks her and the Perkins for their welcome during his recent visit, and wonders if it may have fatigued her, what with early rising, taking walks, and getting wet. He admits he slept badly himself. The visit produced great strain, great pain, delight, and a quiet happiness in him. He remarks that she seemed more beautiful than before (especially her Greek nose), but most of all he noticed her dominating personality, despite her self-effacing ways. For himself, his feelings were stronger than ever, so strong that they were inexpressible, which made it easy for him to control himself. All of this doesn’t suggest an idyllic visit, and Hale must have responded to his letter with frustration, for on 2 August he writes that he feels wretched and accepts her reproaches for the pain he has caused her. He calls himself a bloodsucker (a term he has used in the past to describe his sister Margaret). He agrees with her description of their life as a mutilated one and swears again that he would give his eyes to be able to marry her, if only he could. He worries that the strain is affecting her health. He continues to examine his feelings and plead with her in several long letters of August that I will describe in my next post.