Words After Speech

13 Jul 2020 1:35 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

Hale’s departure from London on 11 December 1935 unleashes a flood of writing from Eliot: eight letters to her, as well as twenty-seven to other correspondents, before the end of the year. He is immersed in the agony of separation and the glory of love, he tells her on the 12th. He marvels in the new experience of their embraces that brought bliss while shutting out the rest of the world. Only in writing poetry does he find any relief from the pain of separation (this comment indicates he is working on “Burnt Norton”). He praises her spiritual and physical beauty, using a term of endearment for Hale that he will repurpose in “How the Tall Girl and I Play Together,” written for his wife. 

On the 13th he looks back over highlights of the last three weeks, including a journey to Whipsnade, a smoky afternoon in the City (perhaps “the moment in the draughty church at smokefall”), and outings to Dulwich and Finchampstead, moments of intimacy in which he discerns a developing pattern. Similar patterns emerge in the evenings they spent together: under the yew-tree, on his birthday, on hers--when she requested a birthday kiss--and especially on the last night. He mentions the ring she has given him; he swears he will not take it off. 

Eliot’s rush of emotion continues on 16 December in response to Hale’s own expressions of affection in recent letters. He feels overpowered by love when he writes to her; the experience of giving himself and being completely understood in return dazzles him. He reveals that his long-held desire to write for the stage came from wanting her praise. He would like to write a play with a role for her, and one for himself in the opposite part, but excess of feeling might prevent him from acting well.

After her arrival in Boston, Eliot feels he should put more news in his letters, and he inquires how she is getting along with Miss Ware, an older Boston Brahmin with whom Hale often lived. He reflects on the great change that has come over them both, which binds them together for the rest of their lives, no matter what should happen. And he ventures to hope that they may one day find themselves in the same place.

The violets she left behind in his rooms kept their fragrance through Christmas Day, he tells her, though now they have faded and lost their scent. He has moments of ecstasy when he reflects on the beauty of what has happened between them, and he misses the feeling of walking arm in arm with her. He is no longer the same person as he was a few weeks ago. In his last letter of the year, Eliot writes about the ring she has given him: it means all to him that a wedding ring can, and it will always bind his finger.


  • 13 Jul 2020 5:28 PM | CR Mittal
    “And time future contained in time past.”
    Link  •  Reply
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