My answer is partly yes and partly no. I do not think Eliot was trying to
compare or invite anything. I think he was putting on paper his own
experience of war nerves. He said that marriage to Vivienne brought her
no happiness and him the state of mind that produced TWL. (see
facsimile ed.), but the war and Vivienne came together for him. His early
married years were just one long hysteria: they were both always ill,
distressed about money and frantically moving about. They were also
always aware of war problems--on which he blamed some of his money
trouble--, Maurice at the front, acquaintances dying, Verdenal dead at
Gallipoli, anxiety and refugees and high prices and inability to go to the
US to see his parents. The letters are constantly about these miseries.
So I think his life was what he found words for. I think the Cleopatra
woman is Vivienne (she apparently assumed so) and she was always
having nerves, and it was constantly affected by the war. It is also true
that the "nerves" of soldiers were then defined as hysteria by most doctors
and treated as such.
I am writing about this, but there are articles that address the war already.
See the opening chapter of Marjorie Perloff's _21st Century Modernism_
and Jewel Brooker's article on Sweeney poems in Modernism/Modernity.
Date sent: Sun, 23 Feb 2003 02:28:17 EST
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Nerves, nerves, nerves (was "Do I dare disturb the universe")
To: [log in to unmask]
In a message dated 2/22/03 6:02:15 PM EST, [log in to unmask] writes:
> A German soldier: …in the drumfire bravery
> no longer exists: only nerves, nerves, nerves.
> When anyone is exposed unto such trials and
> tribulations he is no longer of any use
> as an attacker or defender…
Carrol: These and the other fragments that you sent in are powerful
that remind us all of the realities of war.
To bring this back to Eliot: Your last quote had the phrase "nerves,
nerves, nerves", which certainly reminds me of the nervous woman in "A
Game of Chess" ("My nerves are bad tonight"). Nancy has pointed out the
WW1 references in TWL, including the solders (Stetson and Lil's husband),
and we know Lil's husband appears in "A Game of Chess".
Carrol, Nancy, and all: Do you think that, in part, TSE was trying to
contrast a person made "nervous" while coping with everyday life compared
to a WW1 soldier made "nervous" by the insanities of war? I hadn't
considered such a comparison before, but maybe the reader is being
to compare the Cleopatra woman's "nerves" to a WW1 soldier's "nerves".
-- Steve --