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TSE  December 2010

TSE December 2010

Subject:

Re: The two Mrs Eliots - an interview with Valerie Eliot

From:

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

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Mon, 13 Dec 2010 21:26:35 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (91 lines)

Tom Colket wrote:
> 
> In the article you cited, Valerie Eliot strongly defends TSE in regards 
> to his treatment of Vivienne. But I remember letters from Vivienne's 
> brother (quoted in "Painted Shadow", which I don't have with me at the 
> moment) expressing tremendous guilt over the fact that Vivienne has been 
> involuntarily institutionalized by her brother and TSE (The line I'm 
> thinking about is something like, "She's as sane as you or me"). I know 
> from past posts that you've read "Painted Shadow". Do you any comments 
> on Valerie's take on Vivienne?

 > In the article you cited, Valerie Eliot strongly defends TSE in
 > regards to his treatment of Vivienne.

Blake Morrison wrote in the article:
    It isn't a pretty or endearing position to be in - having to
    insist on the madness of your husband's first wife. Still, if
    clearing Tom's name requires it, it's work she seems quite
    willing to undertake.

 > But I remember letters from Vivienne's brother (quoted in "Painted
 > Shadow", which I don't have with me at the moment) expressing
 > tremendous guilt over the fact that Vivienne has been involuntarily
 > institutionalized by her brother and TSE (The line I'm thinking about
 > is something like, "She's as sane as you or me").

This appears in the preface to "Painted Shadow" as "She was as sane as
I was" and maybe elsewhere in the book too. This was from notes taken by
Michael Hastings in one of the interviews he had with Vivien's brother.

 > I know from past posts that you've read "Painted Shadow".

Yes, but its been a while since I've read it through though. It's much
better as a reference work than a biography.

 > Do you any comments on Valerie's take on Vivienne?

She doesn't seem unsympathetic. The tone she has in the article is is
certainly due to the following (which is not due to Vivien).  Here
is Morrison again at the start of the article:

    In her position, who wouldn't feel sick? A film has just appeared
    which alleges, or has caused journalists to allege, and which will
    allow large audiences to believe, the following things about her late
    husband:

    1 That he took the credit for writing poetry, notably parts of The
    Waste Land, in fact written by his first wife, Vivienne.

    2 That he betrayed his deep love for Vivienne (and his muse) in his
    crawly eagerness to become a member of the British literary and
    religious establishment.

    3 That he was cold, ruthless, self-absorbed.

    4 That he got hold of Vivienne's money by becoming an executor of her
    father's estate.

    5 That he incarcerated Vivienne in a mental institution when she was
    in sound mental health, cruelly refused to visit her, and - while he
    went on to enjoy world renown - allowed her to languish there for
    nine years until, cheated and neglected, she died of heart failure
    at 58.


Vivien's papers were willed by her to the Bodleian Library and they
thought they had the copyright.  They allowed Lyndall Gordon and Michael
Hastings access and quoting privileges.  After Hasting's play came out
Mrs. Eliot claimed copyright on Vivien's papers (not unreasonably, in
the U.S., at least, possession of a paper doesn't give you a right to 
the words on them.) So I assume that Mrs. Eliot claimed TSE inherited
the rights to his wife's words and then that right passed on to her as
his widow.  Carole Seymour-Jones protested in the courts and it appears
that she won to some degree.

Despite Mrs. Eliot's being an editor of TSE's letters and the supposed
copyright owner of Vivien's written down thoughts I haven't read
anything that indicates that she read Vivien's papers.  She does mention
getting information from TSE himself.  As outsiders I think we have to
be careful about how we rely on what is passed on to us.

Another thing to take into account is that the interview is 15 years
old.  Mrs. E. may have since read the papers and maybe even "Painted
Shadow" (excuse me while I laugh.) Her opinions might have changed
since.

Regards,
     Rick Parker

P.S. Once again the alternative URL to the article is:
     http://tinyurl.com/384jmtm

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