Reports from the Emily Hale Archive

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  • 08 Apr 2020 11:26 AM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    Eliot’s letters to Hale in May and June 1935 weave together his impressions of the rehearsals and first performances of Murder in the Cathedral with plans to see Hale and reflections on their visits, including one evening that he says was the most wonderful of his life. 

    On May 20, Eliot responds to a letter from Hale in which she has humbly offered some criticisms of Murder; praising her dramatic instinct, he reassures her that even if she takes no credit for her good qualities, she is beautiful, charming, intelligent and spiritual. A few days later, Eliot reports that rehearsals for the play have begun, and he has secured tickets to The Gondoliers, which they plan to see together in London, along with a ballet. On May 30, Eliot writes that he and Yeats see eye to eye on modern poetry—i.e., poets more modern than themselves. In the first week of June, Hale comes to London for a visit and they return together on the train to Chipping Campden for a birthday party (maybe one of the Perkins or her aunt Irene Hale). Their train ride together provided a great and unique thrill, he writes. On his return, she gathered some flowers for him in the garden of Stamford House (where she was staying with the Perkins), flowers whose fragrance he is now enjoying in his rooms.

    Hale must have come back up to London between June 7 and June 13, the day on which Eliot writes to her that he has just experienced one of the most wonderful evenings of his life. She had a headache, and he stroked her forehead. This gave him the opportunity to observe her beautiful nose. He also went out to get some medicine for her, and she kissed him when he left. He has always wanted to take care of her during an illness, and she was kind to allow him to think that he was doing something for her. She responds with a letter that he says (on June 16) is too precious to place in the metal box where he normally keeps her correspondence. She has corroborated what he felt. He wants her to know that their evening together was the great event of his life, symbolizing all that he wants to do for her. The memory of it is sublime. Every meeting with her is more exciting than the last.

    Eliot’s June 16 letter also reflects on the premiere of Murder, performed the previous evening. He is very pleased, especially with Robert Speaight’s rendering of Thomas à Beckett’s sermon, and with the solemnity and silence with which the performance ends. He wants Hale to meet the producer Martin Browne and his Jewish wife—Eliot takes the time to explain that his objection to Jews is religious, not racial. He also doesn’t think that women in shorts should be allowed into the Cathedral. Hale has her own opportunity to see Murder some time before June 26, when Eliot writes that their time at Canterbury was too public, though better than not seeing her at all. They walked the Cathedral grounds as if being watched through a telescope, pursued by chorus girls and autograph-seekers. He likes to see her in the anonymity of London, like the time they rode in a taxi down Ludgate Hill, or—best of all—the evening of her headache.

  • 30 Mar 2020 2:15 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    In early March 1935, Hale receives word that she will not be returning to Scripps, from which she took a leave of absence at the end of the academic year 1933. Eliot’s letters of 16 and 25 March clarify, to some extent, the reasons why she did not return: either she has lost her position because she delayed in renewing her contract, he surmises, or perhaps administrators have maneuvered her out. She has wasted time trying to find a position closer to her relatives on the East coast and now seems unhappy about the prospect of another year spent with the Perkins. In his attempts to console her, Eliot sympathizes with her desire for a more active and useful life, and he hopes she will not resign herself to serving her relatives, for whom (he thinks) she has sacrificed her job opportunities. As unfortunate as her lack of employment seems in March, it makes possible an extended period of time together in the same country—a unique interlude in their lives.

    Eliot sees Hale briefly on two occasions in April as she passes through London on her way to other destinations, towards or away from Chipping Campden. On 11 April, Eliot and Hale see each other for three and a half hours (see Letters 7.592). He accompanies her on her errands and she gives him a cigarette case; he tells her that she looked beautiful in her blue costume. On April 17th, he meets her train from Campden and they have dinner together before he sees her off again on her way to Guernsey for an Easter holiday with Jean McPherrin. He wishes her a peaceful crossing and tells her that waiting for her at the station was exciting. In the meantime, he is off to Inverness for his holiday; both are back in London by May 1, when Hale and McPherrin stay in his rooms in Kensington while he stays at Russell Square. He writes to her afterwards (3 May 1935) that it is a delight to think that she has been in his rooms; the scent of her roses still reminds him of her.  He recalls with pleasure the time they spent together, including an evening alone at the theatre (they saw Henry IV). 

    These brief visits in London continue throughout the summer, with the scent of her perfume or flowers making a leitmotif in his follow-up letters. On 9 May, she has just departed for Campden, leaving a faint odour of sanctity behind in his rooms. He reminisces on the weekend just spent together, including a delightful ride on the back of a taxi and a walk down Whitehall and through the Parks. His memory has taken several snap shots, he says, which he will keep always. For the context of this weekend, see his published letter to McPherrin written on the same day (7.614-15), with plans to “influence [Emily’s] arrangements for the winter,” and to his aunt Susan Hinkley on 11 May: “Emily has been up to town, and seen the King & Queen, and we took a taxi-ride to see the flood-lighting.  I encourage her to come up as often as she can afford to” (7.623). He closes his 9 May letter to Hale by enjoining her to think of their taxi-ride around St. Paul’s Cathedral.

  • 25 Mar 2020 9:32 AM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    Invited in November 1934 to write a play about St. Thomas À Becket for the Canterbury festival in June, Eliot works swiftly on his drama during the months of Hale’s absence. In his goodbye letter on 7 December, he tells her that he hopes to write something worthy of her. On 14 December, scorning the art-loving Anglo-American expatriates of Florence, he asserts that he is interested not in Art but in people--although they are pigs and rats--and in writing plays about them. He isn’t sure about the Canterbury deal, which may fall through and won’t bring him any money, but he finds the subject good. A month later, he has written five pages of his play and is depressed by his pedestrian dialogue; he thinks his choruses are better. In two days, Becket will arrive (in his play) and Eliot will have to find something for him to say. 

    On 24 January Eliot announces that he must finish his play by 1 April in order to get a £125 advance from Faber, and he begins trying titles out on Hale; he will propose three different titles before hitting on the final one.  The first is "The Archbishop Murder Case" (mentioned in several published letters of later date, e.g. 7.523). By 30 January, Eliot says he has brought the Saint to Canterbury and has no trouble making him talk, but none of his characters do anything; only talk and generalize about Church and State. He hopes the second part, in which the Archbishop is murdered, will be easier, but even the murder may turn out only to be talk. He wishes Hale could tell him how to get people to move about more on the stage. The next day he tells her that he is not taking any more engagements until after the Archbishop is murdered.

    Reporting on 7 February that Group Theatre director Rupert Doone likes his lyrical and choral passages but finds the recitative parts dull, Eliot plans to make his play more formal. He explains on 12 February that he is choosing an alliterative middle-English verse, like that of “Everyman," to show his strengths and conceal his weaknesses.  Currently, the Archbishop is being tempted by Spiritual Pride, but he will prevail. Eliot wants Hale to be in London for the performance of his play. On 14 February he tries out another detective-fiction title on her in the form of a question about who killed the archbishop, but four days later confesses he is completely without ideas for what to call his play. He wants a title that suggests a murder mystery, not a conventional church drama, and appeals to all kinds of theatre-goers and readers. He is cautiously optimistic about the success of his play but admits he finds the experience humbling, because the most beautiful poetry cannot save a dull drama. On 27 February he proposes "Fear in the Way" (drawing on Ecclesiastes 12.5; see Letters 7.526). But she doesn’t like this, nor does anybody else, apparently, and in March he wants to avoid titles that imply either a detective novel or an Elizabethan tragedy. He begins the revision process.

    In a long letter of April 2, Eliot intertwines thoughts about his spiritual state, his family, and the play he has been writing. He seems to be responding to Hale’s frustration with her relatives and desire to reach a more tranquil state. His own family, he says, set higher standards for themselves than other people; it was assumed that the Eliots were more favored by God and had to behave accordingly. They believed the rich were wicked to have made so much money and not to have given it away. His Grandfather Eliot dominated their world from his grave and continues to force him to serve on committees and meddle in public affairs. But it is the shade of his mother who wants him to make retreats and keep vigils. He finds it difficult to relinquish the illusory goal of an emotional and spiritual equilibrium that will make life easy, but there is no reaching this goal; one simply must go on trying. This reflection makes him think about the paradox that if one became aware of being a Saint, one would no longer be one. 

    The play is finished, he tells her, and it will be called Murder in the Cathedral

    March 29: Thanks to the arrival of vol. 7 of Eliot's letters at my doorstep, I was able to amend this post to include more information about the working titles of his play.

  • 20 Mar 2020 1:44 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    Apologies for the long delay since my last post. Everyone’s life has been disrupted, and the closure of Firestone Library is the least of it, so I will try to continue my reports on the basis of my notes. I’m awaiting delivery of vol. 7 of Eliot’s letters (1934-35), but in the meantime, please send corrections if you see any discrepancies. 

    From December 1934 through March 1935, while Hale travels the Continent with the Perkins and Jean McPherrin, Eliot writes Murder in the Cathedral. I will cover his letters about the play in another post. Following Hale’s departure for Italy at the end of November, Eliot reflects happily on the time they spent together, including their leave-taking. As he describes it, they were at a party whose guests included Maria Huxley and Sturge Moore, and he said good-bye to her with “a smile and shake of the hand”: consciously or not, he quotes from “La Figlia.” Further drawing on the language of his early work, he writes that everything he has learned about her fits into her existing portrait. He has seen all the pieces of his life fitting together into one real world, and now that she has met his friends, they seem more real to him (for “one real world,” see Prose 1.167 and 1.310). He admits that he enjoyed her time in London more than his in Chipping Campden. He has become quite attached to his neighborhood in South Kensington since her visit, especially the vicinity of the Aban Court Hotel, where she stayed. He is pleased to hear from her that she misses him.  

    During her travels, Eliot expresses his opinions and advice about Italy: he disapproves of Florence, which he associates with Anglo-American decadents like Lady Sibyl Lubbock, Bernard Berenson, and Harold Acton, but he praises Rome and hopes she finds it fascinating. He mentions that although he never went to Frascati (outside Rome), he has always remembered the line “De l’ancien Frascati vestale enamourée” from Baudelaire’s “Les Petites Vielles,” a line he quoted in “Baudelaire in Our Time” (Prose 3.136). Most of all he wants her to get a sense of the Roman Church as the most solid thing in the world.

    Eliot’s attempts to retrieve his property from Vivien’s flat finally produce results in December, he tells Hale on the 13th. Through the action of his lawyer, the sheriff, and bailiffs, he recovers his books and bookcases, most of his pictures, and a teakettle and bell with sentimental value. Vivien also handed over the item he was most eager to recover, his great-grandfather’s seal ring, but it turned out to be a reproduction; she has kept the original. On 3 January he gives Hale reasons why Vivien cannot yet be institutionalized, though he hears she is living in squalor and starving herself. In March he tells Hale that he is playing the role of Orestes again, pursued by Vivien carrying an empty cardboard box and asking for him at the office. He has terrifyingly realistic nightmares of being shut up with her, unable to escape.

    Nonetheless, as he completes Murder, he begins to look forward to Hale’s return at the end of March and plots for ways to keep her in London. He would take an interest in fashion, for example, if she were there to accompany him to the theatre and ballet (20 February).  Instead of staying at a hotel, why shouldn’t she stay at his rooms for free, while he sleeps at his club? She could have her breakfast served there and the rest of her meals out with him (7 March). On 16 March he sends her detailed instructions for the use of his rooms, with the stipulation that she must respect the photographs (of herself). On 4 April he writes with excitement that he will see her in just a week, with her new clothes. 

    Next time: the composition of Murder in the Cathedral. Stay inside and good health to all!

  • 05 Mar 2020 9:51 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    Whatever emotional thunderstorms troubled them in August 1934, Eliot and Hale seem to enjoy clear skies throughout the fall. While Eliot vacations in Wales with the Fabers, Hale and her friend Jean stay in Chipping Campden, coming up to London together in October to do some sightseeing. They have lunch with Eliot on the 11th, and though he felt self conscious in Hale’s company, he writes afterwards, there were several moments. (The language of Four Quartets now begins to appear in his letters more frequently.) Hale and McPherrin go to Paris for a week (he sends roses to her hotel), but she returns alone on 17 October to stay at a hotel near his own residence in London, and thus begins a particularly sunny episode. He is hesitant about obtruding his company on her, and she chides him against “microscopic analysis” of their interactions and “weighing every word” (her language). As the month wears on, he gains confidence and they enjoy numerous dates at the theater, with his friends, and alone over meals. They shop for birthday presents for each other: she wants to give him a tea set, and he looks for a ring for her. She expresses shyness at meeting his famous friends, perhaps especially Virginia Woolf, and he tells her that she cannot appreciate her own gifts, but she should not disparage them. After a lunch meeting one day, he tells her that the longer she stays in London, the happier he will be. He writes that a relationship should always be renewing itself, without turning against the past; it should be both new and old at every moment:  "Not the intense moment/Isolated, with no before and after,/But a lifetime burning in every moment..." For her birthday on 26 October, he gives her a ring with a star sapphire mounted on white gold.

    Eliot seems to make a decision at this point to introduce Hale to his friends and make sure she has a good time in London, inviting her to attend Richard II, a performance of Sweeney Agonistes, to have tea with Ottoline Morrell, and to meet Virginia Woolf. All of these events require some arranging, reflected in his published letters to other correspondents (e.g. he tells Ottoline he would like to bring a friend to tea: “She is quite an exceptional person, though it may not be immediately obvious” [7.357]). The first weekend of November goes exceptionally well and he tells her that it makes him feel closer to his friends when they know her. He also compliments her on her clothing (a black dress with a red jacket) and observes obliquely that her presence has led to more business for English tailors (meaning from him). On 11 November they attend a performance of Sweeney with Virginia Woolf. Eliot feels that their level of intimacy has increased, especially as Hale feels free to discuss her own problems with him. They make plans to have lunch alone, get tickets to see Hamlet and to hear the music of Stravinsky. Their correspondence during this period is sketchy because they are seeing each other often, perhaps continuously. He does note two important events during this time: he has been invited to write a dramatic work to be performed at Canterbury Cathedral, and his lawyers have taken action to retrieve his belongings from the flat he shared with Vivien at Clarence Gate. But he does not allow this to cloud the final weeks of Hale’s time in England. At the end of the month, she leaves for Italy, and Eliot sits down to write her a good-bye letter: it has been the happiest month of his whole life, he tells her. He was able to enjoy her company unspoiled by cravings for what he could not have. And he has delighted in seeing her enjoy herself as well. 

  • 03 Mar 2020 8:16 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    Eliot’s August 1934 letters to Hale form one side of a continuous conversation leading up to his visit to Chipping Campden on the last day of the month. On 10 August he writes that he has fallen into a depression, following the excitement of seeing her, and wonders if she still wants him to visit. On 17 August, he writes that while at first he believed that she was in love with him, by the time he went to America in 1932 she had corrected that impression. He is sorry that she has been troubled by this imbalance in their feelings for each other, which he has accepted without unhappiness; indeed, he does not want her to love him. He finds it strange to learn from her that she has never received the attention of a man in love, as he would have expected the opposite. Nobody has ever been in love with him, and he has only experienced abnormal women, from whom he has taken two lessons: 1) exposing yourself to someone will only result in injury, and 2) people don’t love you, but an idea that you stand for. He does not want to be loved for anything he represents, nor does he love her as a symbol. He wants to continue to worship her for herself. He writes that if he is ever free to ask her to marry him, he will do so. He would want to know, if she accepted him, that she did so for herself, and not out of pity for him. At one time, he concludes, he thought that his devotion was a valuable gift that would flatter her; now he realizes it is worth nothing. 

    Hale must have responded quickly to counteract that view, for on 20 August, Eliot protests that he did not intend his last remark to be bitter or complaining; he only meant that his love truly was worthless. Not only did she misunderstand him, but he has misunderstood her: now he sees that she does not harbor feelings of pity for him. In the end, both of them worry about the same thing: receiving more than they give. She should never feel guilty for her feelings or lack thereof. He himself has experienced much guilt, especially over marrying Vivien without loving her. His feelings of guilt caused him to tolerate terrible things that he has never told anybody (is this a reference to Vivien’s infidelity, which he does not mention anywhere in his correspondence with Hale?). Instead of remaining with a woman he detested, he ought to have separated right away. Feelings cannot be sins: one confesses thoughts, words, and deeds. Confessing a feeling would be to apologize for being yourself. He shifts gears to talk about Hale’s frustration with her lack of proper filial piety towards her aunt and uncle, reassuring her that they could not possibly blame her for her feelings or lack thereof. 

    It seems that they have advanced towards better understanding of each other, Eliot writes on 29 August, though he continues to fear misunderstanding. Two days later, he arrives for a weekend visit at Chipping Campden. On 4 September, he writes a follow-up letter to affirm a deepening of their relationship, which he compares to the growth of a root system. He can look back on the feelings he had towards her four years ago and measure the distance he has come, and he also looks forward to the future increase and growth of his feelings with joy and fear. Whereas at first he relied on his own feelings, though, now he depends on his understanding of what she is. He thanks her for her thoughtfulness at Campden. He hopes that he visited in a less selfish spirit than in California. He can envision a state of perfect contemplation of her where he is no longer concerned with his own feelings. He hopes that someday, she may receive as much from someone as he and other people now receive from her. He repeats a comment by her friend Jean McPherrin, who spoke of Hale's "shriners." Eliot realizes that he may just be one more of these, and he observes that standing in a shrine can be lonely.

  • 26 Feb 2020 9:28 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    In August 1934, Eliot sends nine letters from London to Chipping Campden intensely analyzing his feelings and their relationship. Despite the length and frequency of his letters, it is difficult to say exactly what is happening between them, so I will summarize at least the first one in detail. On August 6 Eliot acknowledges that he has pressed himself on Hale’s attention and encouraged emotions in her that she did not originally have. She seems to have expressed increased affection or desire for him in her last letter, as well as apologized for her previous outburst against the constraints he has placed on himself. He recalls that several years ago, she wrote that they might want each other more as time went on, a comment whose significance he now sees. He cares only about her happiness, and he would rather see her happily married to someone else, although he admits his actions do not promote such an end. He believes that the elements for a great passion exist between them, which could be realized under other circumstances, and he agrees that there should be no Puritanism or shyness between them. At this moment, he wishes that he could talk to her in person, though if she were there, he might be unable to speak. This reminds Eliot of Dante’s acknowledgement in the Vita Nuova on first seeing Beatrice: “Ecce deus fortior me” (Behold a god more powerful than I). However, Eliot substitutes “te” for “me.” (His allusion signals that he still believes his love follows the pattern of Dante’s for Beatrice. It is not clear whether he intends to misquote the original, changing the meaning to "Behold a god more powerful than you".) He could imagine acting on his impulses in such a way that would seem right and yet would make him feel guilty and in need of absolution. He feels a responsibility towards her to keep her from harm. Apparently she isn’t certain about the afterlife and has suggested that they might as well enjoy what they can in the time allowed to them. He feels too much reverence for her to accept this argument. This summer they must find out if there is any basis for their relationship. Lowering the temperature of his letter, he mentions their plans to have tea together with his sister Marian and niece Dodo, who are visiting (creating for Eliot what is perhaps a welcome impediment to seeing Hale alone). All the Eliot children were brought up in a glass jar, he tells her, and Marian still lives there. He concludes by hoping that he has not angered or harmed her, and calls her by several pet names. Overall, in this letter, he tries to conciliate her with praise and expressions of devotion but holds his line against an increased level of intimacy or plans for union.

  • 24 Feb 2020 8:16 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    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.

  • 21 Feb 2020 2:53 PM | Frances Dickey (Administrator)

    From August 1933, when Eliot tells Hale that he has been invited to write a play, to the May 1934 premier of The Rock, his letters contain reflections on drama and the process of writing (what he considers) his first serious verse since Ash-Wednesday. In addition to hoping to create a stronger bond with her by writing for the stage, he sees the pageant play as a way to force himself to write poetry. On 21 October he writes that poetic composition is difficult and depressing work requiring some external pressure to expel it from him. A few days later he tells her that he has drafted four choruses, rather on the grim and ironic side, as he wants to avoid sentimentality or prettiness. In the meantime, he keeps up a lively schedule of theater-going that he describes to her. On 8 December he reports a music hall revival at the Garrick, where he saw Charles Austin and Marie Kendall, particularly enjoying “A Little Bit o’ What You Fancy Always Does You Good” and “Down at the Old Bull and Bush” (an old favorite). He finds London nostalgic for the pre-Boer War days. 

    In the new year (1934) Eliot also goes to see moving pictures, commenting freely and acerbically on them to Hale. Mae West is a bad actress with no personality (6 Feb), but the Marx Brothers are worse (16 Feb). He describes them as low-class Jews peddling crude humor that he finds repulsive (unfortunately, such remarks are not uncommon in these letters). In contrast, he enjoyed two “Silly Symphony” Walt Disney films. He sees plays by Margaret Kennedy and Sean O’Casey (“Within the Gates,” whose poetry he thinks is maudlin). On 24 February he looks forward to attending Cleopatra acted by Cambridge undergraduates and on 16 March reports with amazement on the excellence of the young lead actress in what he deems Shakespeare’s most difficult play. He also sees a performance of Auden’s The Dance of Death, whose characters do not seem like real people. Comparing himself to Auden, he thinks his own characters in Sweeney were more lifelike, but grants Auden a talent for finding a dramatic situation (2 March). Sweeney is on his mind because he has just seen Hallie Flanagan, the director of his play at Vassar in 1933, and finds her thoughtful and intelligent. (Flanagan is to play an unfortunate role in Hale’s future life: shortly after Flanagan is hired at Smith in 1942, Hale loses her job.) On 23 March, he takes Christina Morley to see Congreve’s Love for Love at Sadlers' Wells, noting how dependent the dramatist is on his audience: Restoration comedy must now be played as farce, but is really a somber satire of a kind that audiences no longer understand. However, he expresses cautious optimism about the play he is finishing and the strength of his comic hero, Ethelbert the Anglo-Saxon bricklayer. 

    On 10 May, Eliot thanks Hale for reading and commenting on his poetry, which she seems not to have liked very much. He says he is relieved: if she liked it too much, he would worry that she only liked him as its author. Other people mix him up with his poetry, and he craves some private life.

  • 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.


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