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TSE  July 2013

TSE July 2013

Subject:

Vivien 1926

From:

"Materer, Timothy J." <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Fri, 26 Jul 2013 22:58:08 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (12 lines)

Thanks to the list for their suggestions when I asked about an incident concerning Vivien in 1926 just before she entered the French sanatorium. I asked because I thought the way Vol. 3 of the letters handled it was confusing. My review of Vol. 3 is now published in the journal of the TSE Society, Time Present (Summer 2013). Here is what I wrote about the incident:

I hope it doesn't seem that I made too much of a couple of misleading footnotes. I believe there are many such peculiar footnotes in the volumes.

***
	The first indication of this crisis appears in Vivien’s letter to Ottoline Morrell from London on April 16, 1926: “I am in great trouble, do not know what to do. In great fear” (145). The footnote to the letter merely states, “See TSE’s letter to Osbert Sitwell, 13 Oct. 1927.” Some 600 pages later the reader finds a three-page footnote that tells virtually nothing about Vivien’s letter to Morrell. Eliot’s letter states that he was upset with Sitwell because Vivien had written to him “over a year ago from Rome, and . . . you did not reply” (749). In footnote three to Eliot’s letter, we learn from Sitwell’s unpublished memoir (1950) that Vivien’s letters to him and his sister Edith “declared that we should have inevitably heard of the scandal to which she was referring, and in which she was involved. We should be aware, however, that if she returned to Tom, it would inevitably bring disgrace upon him . . . . (749). The Sitwells had heard of no scandal. The footnotes do not explain from where or whom Vivien might return to Tom. The only context for this incident appears in the Biographical Commentary:

At some point during this period, Vivien writes to Osbert Sitwell, and separately to Edith Sitwell, saying that she has been involved in some sort of scandal and asking for their imperative help. The “scandal” presumably refers to her attempted suicide in Paris: there is no evidence that she became involved in any other form of scandal. (xvii)

	If the scandal concerned this suicide attempt, why is Vivien writing to Sitwell from Rome rather than Paris? The footnote to her April 16 letter connects the two letters to Morrell and Sitwell with the attempted suicide in Paris. However, the dates of the letters show that there is no connection. Footnote three quotes Sitwell’s reply to Eliot that he received Vivien’s letter on “the first day of the General Strike.” The note does not explain that England’s General Strike of 1926 began on May 3—more than two weeks after Vivien’s letter to Morrell. The commentary claims that Vivien wrote to Sitwell at “some point during this period,” which is the period in May just before Vivien entered the sanatorium; this is highly misleading because of the April date of the letter to Morrell. 

	The editors might have given supporting evidence that there was no other “form of scandal” in spring 1926. Their statement contradicts Carole Seymour-Jones’ claim in Painted Shadow (441-43) that Vivien was infatuated with another man and while in Rome was planning to leave her husband.  Seymour-Jones’ information is suspect because she gives the name of the man (basing her identification on a second-hand reference to Morrell’s diary) incorrectly as Haden Guest rather than Stephen Haden-Guest, and she incorrectly claims that Vivien’s April 16 letter was sent from Rome. However, Vivien’s infatuation is also referred to in The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell (ed. Nicholas Griffin). Russell wrote on March 20, 1926 that Eliot was “sending express letter about Guest’s sins.” The note to the letter reads, “Vivien Eliot had become infatuated either with Dr Leslie Haden-Guest . . . or with his son, Stephen” (Vol. 1, 254). Writing to his brother from Rome at the time of this crisis (May 12, 1926), Eliot says he is leaving for Germany (“do not mention that we are going to Germany,” 151); but the sketchy footnotes to the letter require the reader to depend upon the commentary to learn of the trip “from Rome to Freiberg in Germany - to consult with Dr Karl Martin”(xvii). The footnotes, generally so comprehensive, might have clarified the “scandal” that occurred in Rome and apparently motivated the trip to Freiberg. Instead, the reader is sent into an editorial maze.

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