Eliot's attempts to serve in WWI are well documented in his letters
of the time. He wanted to be in specific parts of the military that
would provide him sufficient money to support Vivienne, and he also
had medical issues. He was turned down, in any case, but the
details are easily found in the letters.
It is increasingly recognized by several critics that Eliot's poetry
during WWI can be seen as "war poetry" in important ways. I
consider TWL, for example, a war poem rather than a post-war
poem and am writing an article to that effect. It does, in fact,
reference the war in many ways, most obviously (but not only) by
the scene in the pub when Albert has been demobbed. But as early
as Paul Fussell's THE GREAT WAR AND MODERN MEMORY, the
many war images were noted.
Date sent: Wed, 3 Dec 2003 12:21:08 -0500
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Politics and Poetry
To: [log in to unmask]
Well stated, as usual, Richard.
Not to quibble, but just to avoid confusion (and inform myself if I've
missed something), I believe your comments about Eliot attempting
"on his own terms" applies to WWI, at which time he was American
and therefore had little enough time for time to legitimately "run out"
him. By WWII, he was a British subject and had about six years,
rather too much time to run out on someone trying to serve. Rather,
think by reason of his age and stature, he never seriously considered
serving in WWII, other than in a civil defense capacity (which he did,
If you did mean that he attempted to serve in a military capacity in WWII,
I'd be interested in hearing more about that.
In a message dated 12/2/2003 10:07:02 PM Eastern Standard Time, Richard
Seddon <[log in to unmask]> writes:
>Eliot wrote two pieces of war poetry that I know of. There may well be
>I would encourage you to read "Defense of the Islands" and "A Note on War
>Poetry" and start to draw your own opinion of Eliot's feelings concerning
>Eliot tried to serve in WW II , albeit on his own terms, but was unable.
>Joining the armed forces was not simply a matter of showing up, swearing
>in and shipping out for Eliot but something that needed to be negotiated.
> The negotiations drew out to the point that he ran out of a war to
>serve in. He did serve as an air raid warden in London. He was a fairly
>famous literary person during the war and did not, to my knowledge,
>speak out against it. It would have been easy for him to find an audience
>for any anti-war feelings that he might have wanted to express.