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TSE  May 2002

TSE May 2002

Subject:

Re: Eliot's finances: a reply to Nancy and Rick (was, 'Printing of TSE's work')

From:

"Nancy Gish" <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 13 May 2002 10:09:39 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Dear Jennifer,

I did not say he was not in financial difficulties but that the question was 
how he got there--i.e. was it being irresponsible.  And that he expected or 
hoped without sufficient thought to be supported at first is also part of the 
issue.  For example, on 10 Sept. 1915 he writes to his father, "Without 
Wellesley too, we should have been almost entirely dependent upon you.  I 
have put our position as clearly as I could.  You will see that until January 
we shall be in urgent need of funds,  and that we shall need some money 
very soon."  He had managed to get the school job, but it would not bring in 
pay for months.  Marrying with no prospects is almost a stock 
representation for irresponsibility in 19th C novels, and I think it quite valid 
to see that here.  "Genuinely in need" in the later part of 1916 and 1917 
may depend on whether one counts trips to the seashore for health as 
essentials, and of the rest times came from Russell, who, if he was 
sleeping with Vivienne was also paying for a great deal. I think I also 
pointed out that the period I meant was mainly 1915-1917, not later when 
he was making a salary, however inadequate.  

You may of course disagree about how to label this, but I do not think we 
have any difference on what is being labeled as I also know all the details 
from the letters, biographies, etc., about how he did without taxies and 
needed a new suit.  But the expectation of being supported by a father after 
marriage would not have been seen as simply natural and ok by the world 
he came from.
Nancy

Date sent:      	Mon, 13 May 2002 13:58:11 +0100
Send reply to:  	[log in to unmask]
From:           	"Jennifer Formichelli" <[log in to unmask]>
To:             	<[log in to unmask]>
Subject:        	Eliot's finances: a reply to Nancy and Rick (was, 'Printing of TSE's work')

Nancy,

May I say flat out that I disagree with this conclusion: "I think you are
right about how difficult it is to read his letters and tell if he > was
just irresponsible or was genuinely in need". It seems perfectly clear to
me that Eliot was genuinely in financial difficulties. He was very
reluctant, in fact, to ask for money; and his mothers presents were either
holiday gifts or unsolicited spontaneous gifts. This is why Eliot refused
the Bel Esprit scheme, in the end: he wanted to work, and he did not wish
to accept the responsiblities involved in taking this particular form of
charity. That to me shows no signs of irresponsibility. Moreover, Eliot
(as his concentration on financial concerns shows) was very careful with
money: he purchased it seems one good suit a year; he took care to write
his expenses in his book as W Lewis tells us; and, as Bonamy Dobree 
says,
he never took a taxi (even when he could have well afforded it) if a Tube
was readily available. He also consistently remarks in book reviews on
whether or not he thinks the price of a book to be fair.

As far as his salary at the bank goes, it must be taken into consideration
that after the war prices skyrocketed and therefore money was effectively
worth less (additionally, goods were hard to come by, hence his mother's
occasional presents). It was not until 1923-4 that Eliot was making a
decent amount of money (he did take a pay cut to join Faber's at 4/5th of
his bank salary). During the years when he was working full-time as well
as writing and editing The Criterion (not, I think, the mark of an
'irresponsible' man), Eliot was responsible for caring for a sick and
sometimes helpless wife (hence the servant; most people had one servant 
at
least,  simply because one could not prepare meals for themselves in flats
without kitchens, as many London flats were in the days before and after
the war). The Eliots moved continuously, and this incurred expenses;
Vivien[ne] needed almost constant medical treatment, as did Eliot himself;
and she also required a place to stay in the country, from which Eliot
often had to travel back and forth.  In the meantime, there is very little
evidence that during this time Eliot borrowed any large amount of money
from friends, or from his parents. Some of the money given to him by his
mother was his legitimate inheritance from his father's death. He was
never, as far as I can see, in any debt. Part of the reason he insisted on
staying at Lloyd's was because the bank would pay Vivien[ne] a widow's
pension should anything to happen to. Also not the mark of an
irresponsible person. When they were away, the Eliots often sublet their
flat. I remind Rick that Lloyd's was giving him sick pay when he was at
Luzanne (also, I remind him that Dr. Vittol was known for charging very
modest prices, and Eliot's letters about entering the treatment also
inquire about price)

I think one should consider the facts of the case before coming to a
conclusive judgment about Eliot's irresponsibility. Empson makes it clear
that his father's inheritance did not come to him, as it did to his
siblings, directly, but was held in trust because his father (we presume)
disapproved of his decision to marry Vivien[ne]. In the meanwhile, Eliot
made some poor decisions with his shares of the Hydraulic Brick Company,
mainly because he was forced to sell them at half the price he could have
raised (as did his siblings) had he not been forced to use the shares as
part of his income (because he did not have ready access to his
inheritance).

The anguish over financial situations in his letters seems to me the
genuine anguish of someone under a lot of various pressures and with a
great deal of responsibilities and very little time. Not to mention that
financial concerns are, if you will forgive me for saying so, account for
one of the great concerns in human life.

Yours, Jennifer

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