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TSE  July 2007

TSE July 2007

Subject:

Re: Prufrock and prostitution

From:

"Rickard A. Parker" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Tue, 3 Jul 2007 11:36:02 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (93 lines)

Steven Kulash wrote:
>
> Can any of you scholars direct me to some information that might
> relate The Love Song to possibly frequenting brothels? I have
> searched many critiques and come across not a single one, but I have a
> theory that I am trying to propose and would appreciate it if anyone
> might have some information that could assist me in my research on
> publishing a new way of looking at prufrock.

Steven,

Though it will not be a direct help, I think that you should look into
Boston's old Scollay Square neighborhood. Eliot MUST have wandered
its streets. I've captured what I wrote in two older posts and pasted
it below my signature. But first, a starting point on the web:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_Center%2C_Boston%2C_Massachusetts

Regards,
   Rick Parker


------------------------------------------------------------------

No matter how much I picture in my mind that the action of "Prufrock"
is taking place in Paris, the city that Eliot pictured in his mind
must have been Boston. The "sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells"
may have been in the seedy Scollay Square section of town (since
"urbanized" to be the landscape desert of Government Center near the
new City Hall.) This is just a short walk from both Beacon Hill and
the waterfront and near the locally famous Union Oyster House.

------------------------------------------------------------------

The Cityscapes page in The Boston Globe Magazine (comes with the
Sunday edition of the paper) has before and after shots of buildings
and neighborhoods, typically with decades between each. This week's
edition (3/21/04, p.54) has pictures of 1911's Scollay Square and this
year's City Hall Plaza. I was able to find a similar picture of the
two at http://architecture.mit.edu/~alynn/4211/scollay-before-after.jpg
(which is a 1024 x 1017 blowup of a picture on this webpage:
http://architecture.mit.edu/~alynn/4211/assn2c.html )

The reason I send this is because possibly Scollay Square is the locale
for "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (completed in 1911).

    Let us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    Like a patient etherised upon a table;
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
    The muttering retreats
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument
    Of insidious intent
    To lead you to an overwhelming question...
    Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
    Let us go and make our visit.


Scollay Square (demolished in the 60s to make way for the hideous New
City Hall and even more hideous plaza) was not far from the waterfront
and the famed nearby Union Oyster House still exists. From all I've
heard and read this neighborhood would have been a great stomping
ground for TSE. Note the curving streets. This may have helped lead
to the imagery of "Streets that follow."

Many of you (Americans most likely) who think you have not heard of
Scollay Square probably have. The place is mentioned in "The
M.T.A. Song" (aka, "Charlie on the M.T.A").

    Let me tell you the story
    Of a man named Charlie
    On a tragic and fateful day
    He put ten cents in his pocket,
    Kissed his wife and family
    Went to ride on the MTA
    ...
    [Charlie was doomed to ride the MTA forever when
    he could not pay his exit fee of a nickel.]
    ...
    Charlie's wife goes down
    To the Scollay Square station
    Every day at quarter past two
    And through the open window
    She hands Charlie a sandwich
    As the train comes rumblin' through.

This song was actually a campaign song of Walter A. O'Brien, a man
running for mayor in 1948. This webpage has the lyrics and the
background. The author even tells how Charlie would have finally
escaped his doom in the 1980's.
    http://www.mit.edu:8001/people/jdreed/t/charlie.html

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