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TSE  January 2002

TSE January 2002

Subject:

RE: TSE gay? Should this be discussed?

From:

"Earls, JP" <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 10 Jan 2002 09:21:42 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (525 lines)

Ron--
Discussion of Eliot's sexuality shouldn't necessarily pull a person's
attention away from discussion of the poems.  It's hardly to be equated
with discussing whether he preferred Stilton to Camembert.  That recent
contributions to the list can mention TWL as an elegy for Verdenal
(rather than merely a commentary on the sterility of modern life) is
evidence that talking about his sexuality has had an effect on how some
of us read his poetry.

J. P. Earls, OSB 
English / St. John's University 
Collegeville, MN 56321 

-----Original Message-----
From: Ron Houssaye [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2002 2:13 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: TSE gay? Should this be discussed?


Nancy,

   Yes, clearly Eliot scholars have investigated this and will.  My
reason
for not desiring to is because for me it distracts from discussion of
the
poems.

Ron Houssaye

----- Original Message -----
From: Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2002 8:36 AM
Subject: Re: TSE gay? Should this be discussed?


> In a few words, "Why not, since it has been a topic for serious
scholars
for
> a very long time, including James Miller, Wayne Koestenbaum, Collen
> Lamos, and Tim Dean?"  Or, more important, why should any topic
treated
> seriously be excluded from discussion and debate?
> Nancy
>
>
> Date sent:      Wed, 9 Jan 2002 00:07:15 -0800
> Send reply to:  [log in to unmask]
> From:           "Ron Houssaye" <[log in to unmask]>
> To:             <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject:        Re: TSE gay? Should this be discussed?
>
> Ah, in a word, no.
>
> Ron Houssaye
>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2002 11:18 PM
> Subject: TSE gay? Should this be discussed?
>
>
> > Rick Seddon wrote (1/8/2002):
> >
> > >  Steve and Rick P are both convinced that TSE
> > >  was gay (just joking, just joking).
> >
> >    Well, Rick P has already spoken for himself, so let me say that,
yes,
> >    I
> > think that TSE was gay, or had gay desires, whether or not he acted
on
> them.
> > Why does this matter?? It only matters if you conclude, as I have
> concluded,
> > that a powerful force behind TSE's poetry is his guilt over these
> > desires
> and
> > how God would judge a man with such desires.
> >
> >    You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. Carole
> Seymour-Jones,
> > the author of "PAINTED SHADOW: A LIFE OF VIVIENNE ELIOT" also
clearly
> > indicates (repeatedly) in her book that she thinks TSE was gay,
although
> she
> > presents scant direct evidence. For the curious, here's a few
excerpts
> from
> > "Painted Shadow" that will show you what I mean. The excerpts are
> > scanned
> in,
> > so please forgive any typos from the scanning process.
> >
> >   And, yes, the 600 page book is centered on **Vivienne**, despite
the
> > impression these excerpts may give that the book is only about TSE's
> "secret
> > sex life".
> >
> > -- Steve --
> >
> > ==================================
> >
> > >From "Painted Shadow":
> >
> > P211
> > In his twenties, it seemed, Eliot struggled with contradictory
urges, to
> > confess and yet to repress his homosexual feelings: it was a kind of
> torture,
> > but one which explains to some extent the obscurity of poetry in
which
> > so many secrets demanded concealment.
> >     Among those secrets was his grief for Jean Verdenal...
> >
> > P 348
> > The flat Tom rented in early 1923 was to be the hub of his secret
life,
> > a place where he could throw off conventionality. Burleigh Mansions,
a
> > block
> of
> > portered flats on Charing Cross Road, looked out on St Martin's
Lane,
> > and
> was
> > favoured by actors. Ellen Terry and Donald Wolfit both at times
lived
> there.
> > Eliot rented number 38, thus securing for himself a pied a terre in
the
> heart
> > of theatreland. At Burleigh Mansions he underwent a metamorphosis:
here
> > he was no longer 'Mr. Eliot', banker and dutiful husband, but
'Captain
> Eliot',
> > hero of the Colombo verses, captain of his crew. Among that crew was
in
> all
> > probability Leonide Massine, who danced the French sailor in Les
> > Matelots,
> a
> > 'light-hearted romp' which he choreographed for Diaghilev after
> > divorcing
> his
> > wife Vera in 1924 and returning to the bosom of the Ballets Russes
and a
> > bed-sitting room in Bloomsbury .
> >    Osbert Sitwell noticed, when he visited Eliot in the 'bizarre'
> atmosphere
> > of the Charing Cross Road flat, that 'Visitors on arrival had to
enquire
> at
> > the porter's lodge for "The Captain", which somehow invested the
whole
> > establishment with a nautical - for I cannot say why, I took the
title
> > to
> be
> > naval rather than military -a gay, a gallant feeling.'
> >
> >   The room in which Osbert and Sacheverell dined was high up at the
back
> of
> > the block, looking down on the revolving glass ball lantern of the
> Coliseum
> > music hall, where the Russian ballet performed. Osbert sat next to
Tom
> > on
> one
> > side, Sachie on the other:
> >
> > "Noticing how tired my host looked, I regarded him more closely, and
was
> > amazed to notice on his cheeks a dusting of green powder -pale but
> distinctly
> > green, the colour of a forced lily-of-the-valley. I was all the more
> amazed
> > at this discovery, because any deliberate dramatisation of his
> > appearance
> was
> > so plainly out of keeping with his character, and with his desire
never
> > to call attention to himself, that I was hardly willing, any more
than
> > if I
> had
> > seen a ghost, to credit the evidence of my senses."
> >
> > Osbert was almost ready to disbelieve what he had seen, but he went
to
> > tea with Virginia Woolf a few days later. 'She asked me, rather
> > pointedly, if
> I
> > had seen Tom lately, and when I said "Yes" asked me - because she
too
> > was anxious for someone to confirm or rebut what she thought she had
> > seen -whether I had observed the green powder on his face -so there
was
> > corroboration'
> >
> > p359
> > Illness was not, however, the only cause of Eliot's spiralling costs
> during
> > that summer. He had begun a relationship with a young man which was
also
> to
> > prove expensive, both to his purse and his temper . In May 1923 he
> > invited the 'foreign young gentleman', to whom Vivien referred in an
> > undated
> letter
> > to Mary, to stay at 2 Milestone Cottages, Old Fishbourne ('During
May!J.
> came
> > to stay .') Ostensibly the young man had come to lend a hand during
> Vivien's
> > illness, but there is little doubt that he was, in fact,
romantically
> > and sexually involved with Tom. The youth's name was Jack and he was
> > German, recalled Vivien, who recorded the eventful summer in the
> > 'stunning sort of instant doggerel' with which, remembered Maurice,
she
> > had been accustomed
> to
> > amuse her family at Anglesey.
> >
> > p362
> > It would appear that Jack had successors. The Ron. Philip Ritchie,
> > eldest
> son
> > of Lord Ritchie of Dundee, a beautiful and gay young man to whom
Lytton
> > Strachey was attracted, stayed on occasions at Burleigh Mansions
with
> Eliot,
> > so Frank Morley, a Faber director, admitted to playwright Michael
> Hastings;13
> > in 1923 Ritchie was an Oxford undergraduate, but he was not the
> 'squint-eyed
> > Oxford youth' noticed by Virginia on 17 December, for Ritchie was a
> > friend
> of
> > the Woolfs and Roger Fry and would have been recognised. The
homosexual
> > novelist C. H. B. Kitchin was also reputed to be a guest of 'Captain
> > Eliot's', as was Roger Senhouse, the art critic.
> >
> > p 365
> >  Eliot's conscience tormented him. He could not repress the
knowledge
> >  that
> he
> > had rejected Vivien within weeks of his marriage to her, and that
> > Vivien's affair with Russell, rather than being, in Ronald
Schuchard's
> > words, a vicious sexual betrayal of Eliot, had in fact been one in
which
> > he had knowingly colluded in order to further his career, relieve
> > himself of conjugal responsibilities, and to gain financial
advantage.
> > Nor could
> Eliot
> > deny the strength of his own homosexual desires, which were leading
him
> into
> > a web of deceit. . . .Writing in the first person, Eliot boldly
exhorts
> his
> > reader to buggery, 'again and again and again'.
> > Proclaim to the morning, he cries, that  'a r s e  spells  arse'.
> >
> >    Eliot's obscene verse testifies to the violence of his feelings,
and
> >    it
> is
> > hard to believe that they were never acted upon. But, even if the
> > strength
> of
> > the poet's will, inhibition, or fear of exposure ensured that his
> > desires remained in the realm of sexual fantasy, they affected both
his
> > and
> Vivien's
> > lives powerfully. Eliot's secrets shaped his biography and his
poetry.
> > And the balance of probability seems to lie with the argument that
> > Eliot, like Lytton Strachey and other members of the Bloomsbury
Group,
> > had a physical relationship with the young men like Jack or Ritchie
with
> > whom he
> consorted.
> > Why should he have felt such a degree of shame and self-loathing had
he
> not
> > sinned -in his own eyes at least? Eliot's grinding sense of his own
> > sexual sinfulness overwhelmed him, a legacy of his puritanical
> > upbringing and the prejudices of the period in which he lived. It
was
> > Vivien's misfortune
> that
> > not only did her very femininity repel him, simply looking at her
> > reminded Eliot of the Russell affair, and of her immorality which he
> > later roundly condemned. In his eyes Vivien was the harlot who
> > bewitches, emblematic of Eliot's own immorality and sexual betrayal.
> > Vivien now represented for her husband his shadow side, the dark
anima
> > behind Eliot's urbane exterior of which he speaks in The Hollow Men
> > (1925): 'Between the desire And the
> spasm.
> > ..Between the essence And the descent Falls the Shadow.'
> >
> > p449
> > on 29 November 1939, Eliot confessed to his companion John Hayward
that
> > he had never loved a woman or enjoyed sexual intercourse with her:
'I
> > never
> lay
> > with a woman I liked, loved, or even felt any strong physical
attraction
> to.'
> >
> > P472
> > Eliot grew nervous of blackmail; such was his reputation that the
writer
> E.
> > W. F. Tomlin felt it necessary to state that his friendship with the
> > poet
> was
> > 'devoid of sexual feeling ...' despite the 'persistent insinuations
that
> > Eliot, owing to his friendship with Jean Verdenal and perhaps with
> > others, was either homosexual or, as one fellow-poet remarked,
> > 'suppressed homosexuality'.
> >
> > p495
> > Eventually it was Virginia who indirectly solved Eliot's
accommodation
> > problem - by reintroducing him to a fellow Hogarth Press author, the
> > homosexual novelist C. H. B. Kitchen, who took pity on the poet and
> offered
> > him 'sanctuary' in his flat in Great Ormond Street. At the end of
the
> > year Eliot moved in with Clifford, and his two gay flatmates.
> >
> >    Eliot experienced his time in Great Ormond Street as liberation.
It
> >    was
> an
> > all-male establishment: the poet's flatmates were his old friend,
> > novelist Clifford Kitchin, Richard Jennings, a gay book collector,
and
> > Ken Ritchie, later Chairman of the Stock Exchange, who had a
policeman
> > lover. It was, recalls the novelist Francis King, 'a gay household',
in
> > which Eliot felt free to venture out in the evenings, wearing 'a bit
of
> > slap'. 'Clifford
> told
> > me how Eliot went out rouged and lipsticked, with eye shadow,' says
> > King. 'Clifford was absolutely convinced he was carrying on a gay
life
> > then.'
> All
> > three men liked to bring back 'trade' to the flat; and why, asked
> Clifford,
> > would Eliot choose to lodge in such a house were he not gay?
However,
> > it
> was
> > still a period in which discretion was all-important for a man like
> > Eliot, who depended on his income from his work, and could not
afford
> > the aristocratic disdain shown by Osbert Sitwell, who was living
openly
> > with David Horner. Eliot kept his own counsel, and did not discuss
his
> > nightly jaunts with Kitchin. But Stephen Spender, who had met Eliot
in
> > 1928 and
> had
> > been published by Faber, was aware that Eliot wore cosmetics; in May
> > 1996 Spender's widow Natasha confirmed the truth of the Sitwells'
> > stories of Eliot's use of 'pale green powder' to Alec Guinness, who
> > played the psychiatrist Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly in The Cocktail
Party.
> >
> > P523
> > Eliot wove into 'Little Gidding' the ideals of Ferrar and Herbert
which
> > he associated with St John of the Cross's detachment from earthly
> > desire, arguing for 'love beyond desire', and borrowing, too, the
words
> > of Julian
> of
> > Norwich, one of the fourteenth-century mystics who followed the via
> negativa:
> > 'Sin is Behovely, but/ All shall be well, and/ All manner of things
> > shall
> be
> > well.'
> >    But was the pull of sensuality banished as completely as Eliot
was
> > pretending? It seems not. The period immediately after his
separation
> > from Vivienne was a time in which homosexuality seems to have been
at
> > the forefront of his mind. Eliot's correspondence with Ezra Pound in
> > 1934 is
> full
> > of obscene jokes about bestiality, elephants in chastity belts, and
> Pound's
> > plan to send him an elephant's vagina under the 'snotty nose' of the
> postal
> > authorities; it was a time in which Tom was open about his sexual
> > prowess
> to
> > Ezra. 'About COARSENESS I don't want to boast,' he wrote on 3
January
> 1934,
> > so he wouldn't tell Ezra what one sea-captain had said about Eliot
to
> > another: that apart from old Ike Carver of Mosquito Cove -and 'He
was
> > the
> man
> > who fucked the whole of Marshall's Island in one night, at the age
of
> > 70',
> so
> > it was only fair to except a man like that- Tom was unbeatable in
bed.
> > The obscene verse he included in this letter dwells, with violent
and
> > tedious repetition, upon the pleasures of buggery:
> >
> >   'Grasp hard the bastards by the short hair.
> >    Not once, or twice, shalt thou bugger 'em, in our
> >    rough island story ,
> >    But again and again and again and again, leaving
> >    their arseholes all glory.'
> >
> > Compulsively he continues:
> >
> >   'And when I say, again and again, I mean repeatedly, I
> >    mean continually, I mean in fact many times.'
> >
> > The orgiastic hero of Eliot's verse, 'Lord of a hundred battles', is
> > proud
> of
> > his '1000 hard won scars'.
> >    Even Pound was shocked by his correspondent's language: 'Dearest
> >    Possum
> > you pertinacious old whoreHound,' he wrote. 'I aint nebber heeerd
sech
> > langwitch not even from de deacons in the methikerkiskpiple church.
> > ..Jess try to normalfy your vices.' But Eliot felt he could afford
to
> > let the
> mask
> > slip in letters to his old friend, to whom he opened his heart just
as
> > he
> did
> > to John Hayward, whose proud boast to American writer John Brinnin
> (Director
> > of the New York Poetry Center) in 1950 was that, in Eliot's bedroom
> > 'confessional' at 19 Carlyle Mansions, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, where
the
> > two men lived together after the war, 'He tells me everything.'
Pound,
> > too, probably knew 'everything'. 'Dearest Possum,' wrote Ezra on 3
> > February
> 1935,
> > when an over-worked Eliot was busy helping to edit the New English
> > Weekly, whose editor A. R. Orage had died in late 1934, 'Where is
your
> > blushing Ganymede? Why don't he collab?? [orate].' In all
probability
> > this was an allusion to George Every. How was Eliot's 'pimp and
pansy
> > series' (his
> poetry
> > list at Faber, which included Auden, Isherwood and Spender), asked
> > Pound:
> 'I
> > commend you for putting all the flowers in one box.'
> > In Eliot's letter of 25 June 1934 to John Hayward, he made very
plain
> > the nature of the attraction priests had for him. His suggestive pen
and
> > ink sketches of a row of headless male torsos in various stages of
> > undress,
> the
> > first wearing plus fours, the second shorts, the third underpants,
and
> > the fourth nude but for a single fig leaf, are labelled figures one,
> > two,
> three
> > and four, and described accordingly: 'cold, cool, hot, torrid'; the
nude
> > torso is decorated with exuberant radial lines which, according to
> > Eliot's 'key', indicate the 'peculiar emanation or rather effulgence
> > which usually accompanied with the odour of violets is accustomed to
> > envelop the limbs
> and
> > torso of very Holy persons'. The erotic charge which priests held
for
> > the poet is indisputable.
> >
> > ============================================================
> >
> >
> >
>
>

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