Any view of what happened when Eliot "separated" from Vivien can only--at
this point--be based on the biographies we have. Both Gordon and
Seymour-Jones, for example (very different kinds of writers), describe Eliot
returning to England from America in 1932 and going to stay with Frank
Morley without even telling his wife he had returned. Vivien was "frantic"
because she thought he had drowned, according to Seymour-Jones. Both report
that he saw no need to give Vivien any reason except that he thought it
best, that he refused to see or speak to her at all, and that all their
mutual "friends"--whose diaries and journals are quoted--also refused to
acknowledge any connection with him or to retain any with her. She found
herself totally without anyone, and he would give no reason. This
"separation" was not an event that just occurred, by any extant account;
Eliot simply disappeared without explanation or even, initially, her
knowledge. Moreover, several men simply forced their way into her flat on
two occasions later and took all Tom's things, including books, papers,
pictures. That would be traumatizing to anyone, disturbed or not.
Their marriage had been horrible and mutually destructive, but the
"extraordinary behaviour" Raine reports (fascist uniform, chocolate [denied
by Valerie], and "marches" about looking for him) all occurred after the
"separation," not before. The slippage in time in this excerpt thus gives a
very false impression. I have yet to read Raine, so I don't know if the
whole story is more accurate than this suggests. I hope so.
In any case, anyone who tries to imagine the total disappearance of a spouse
without any reason given and without any discussion or even meeting--and
subsequent silence, total avoidance, and protection from all shared friends
from contact -- should be able also to understand that a completely stable
person, let alone Vivien, would be frantic and distressed beyond bearing.
If there is to be a continuing discussion of this, I would hope it would be
based in some information and not speculation and unfounded opinion.
For someone like me, not an Eliot scholar, this thread offers somewhat
interesting detail as "background" for the later poetry. But regarded as a
serious discussion of Eliot and his poetry¸ it is empty¸ since those who
know something find themselves in a pointless debate with two cultists who
clearly have no interest in the actual poet and his life and work but seem
only concerned with attempting to relate a private fantasy of their own to
that historical person named T. S. Eliot.
It would be more interesting if Nancy and Rick to continue their
conversation without out reference to expressions of that private fantasy of
two on the list.
Is there any useful way to relate these episodes in Eliot's private life to
the persona created in the Four Quartets. Nancy has mentioned the Family
Reunion. Are there other possible linkages. Or, as is sometimes the case,
not just with Eliot but with other poets, such linkages merely obscure
rather than illuminate the poems?
That Eliot was, objectively, a heel in his relations with his first wife is
fairly clear and seems not worth debating. But heels (a) are only heels in
some, not all, of their relations, and (b) their behavior does not fall from
the sky or ooze from their bone structure but has its own complexities.
Needing to argue the obvious is a barrier to a richer understanding of