Well, I think Eliot was in many ways a very disturbed person, in relation to
sexuality especially as well as other things. And this was undoubtedly
aggravated by his marriage and his long term financial difficulties and the
stress of overwork. But his way of dealing with that distress was, in my
view, to save himself at the cost of others, and he recognized that. His
late poetry and his plays are full of images of guilt and fantasies of killed or
dead women. But I think he assumed that feeling the guilt was what
defined repentance. That does not help the one you harm. I am referring
here to specific lines in Little Gidding and in plays, for example. In this
context, what I mean by "personality" is the extreme anxiety, tendency to
constant illness ("neurasthenic" apparently much of the time), tendency to
anger and to withdrawal from those who cared about him. He found ways
to protect himself and often by "rules" and limits that were arbitrary and
harsh to others. I do not think it matters how much you talk about religion
and stillness and regret if you do not behave in a way that addresses the
needs and desires you choose to evoke in others. And I do not think that
is erased by regret or guilt. I think when you are absorbed by the "things
done to others' harm," what is at stake is the others and not just your own
"Was he that disastrous?" It depends on which relations you address.
He was charming to many, clearly seemed to love and be happy with
Valerie, liked Groucho Marx, wrote wonderful funny letters with cleverly
witty drawings when he was young, had friends who cared about him. But
he was a disaster for Emily Hale and Vivienne; their relations with him
ruined their lives really. He was hard and erratic in his relations with Mary
Trevelyan. He seems to have left John Hayward as coldly and abruptly as
he did those women. He walked out on what distressed him it seems.
That is a pretty harsh way to cope.
I don't find that overall an attractive personality. Nor do I find his politics or
cultural pronouncements the attitudes of one with much generosity of
spirit. But so often great poetry comes out of the struggle with complex
pain and despair. That does not excuse behavior, but it can produce
astonishing work. Think of the revulsion at life in the extraordinary--even
beautiful--opening of TWL: the cruelty of breeding, mixing, stirring.
Date sent: Sat, 28 Sep 2002 04:14:51 +0100
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: Temur Kobakhidze <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Deluge coming: New online Eliot material
To: [log in to unmask]
On Sep 27 2002, Nancy Gish wrote:
In Eliot's case, I think personality is deeply
> involved in the poems and in a way that partly defines how they affect
> us. But that is not the same as liking it. I think he wrote brilliant
> lines out of his own sometimes very twisted experience. That is what
> matters to me.
No objections at all. I almost completely agree with the above stated, but
could you specify what precisely you mean by ""personality" that is
willing to use others, and I think he did that throughout his life. (Now
the deluge will come.)"
You don't mean his use of other poets' work, do you? Or is what you mean
that he was a cold blooded *consumer* who used people, who exploited
those who were close to him to fit his own purposes? Was he really that
> Date sent: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 12:56:53 +0200 Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot
> Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]> From: Gunnar Jauch
> <[log in to unmask]> Subject: Re: New online Eliot material To:
> [log in to unmask]
> am 27.9.2002 10:21 Uhr schrieb Temur Kobakhidze unter
> [log in to unmask]:
> > Dear Nancy,
> > Did I really say that? Personality does matter, but not so
> > overwhelmingly:)) And when one dislikes both the poet and his
> > personality, you just say one dislikes both. As simple as that.
> > It seems, TSE's way of life was part of his poetical perception of the
> > world. You won't be able to write Four Quartets unless you are a
> > highbrow intellectual and a conservative, at least to an extent:-).
> > And to the same extent disliking the personality does mean disliking
> > the potry. Although the personality and the poetry are by no means
> > interchangeable.
> > To say we are impersonal is just a curious way of asserting that our
> > personality is more deeply involved: the thought is Cleanth Brooks's
> > if my memory serves me right.
> > Regards,
> > TK
> > On Sep 26 2002, Nancy Gish - Women's Studies wrote:
> >> Dear Temur,
> >> Quite apart from the issue of what Kate said, why does one need
> >> to like Eliot's personality to have a passionate interest in his
> >> poetry? Nancy
> Dear Temur,
> you don't seem to understand what Nancy is reiterating: The personality
> of an artist, in this case of a poet, is of minor interest; what matters
> is his/her work.
> There are many examples:
> E.M. Forster had a strange private life, in Kipling's biography "The
> Long Recessional" one learns about some of his not wholly commendable
> views and actions. In "Life with Picasso" Françoise Gilot tells us about
> Picasso, an egomaniac and an unpredictable macho. That does not change
> the fact that they all were touched by a common genius.
> A fabulous exhibit MATISSE/PICASSO, a huge juxtaposition of major works
> by the two giants of modern art, has just opened in the Grand Palais of
> Paris. It will be shown in the Tate Modern in January and later in the
> MOMA. Don't miss it!).
> A prerequisite to write such a masterpiece as 4Q is not merely "highbrow
> intellectuality", but mainly knowledge, spirituality, belief and deep
> wisdom. I fail to see what you mean by "conservative", in my view
> nothing but a generalizing, superficial and useless term in any context.