On Sep 28 2002, Nancy Gish wrote:

  I have said before that if
> I were married to someone who went to America and came back without
> letting me know and served me separation papers through lawyers and never
> came home or even talked with me once in my life afterwards, I might have
> behaved a lot worse than Viv.

Dear Nancy,

With all due respect, no one can say for sure (yourself included) what you
might have done if you were married to T.S.Eliot:-))) Part of great men's
greatness is that they are different from you and me. They just SEEM to be
like the rest of us. Sadly enough, we will never know their real motives. I
am not making an enigma of Eliot's personality - it's just the way it is.

In fact, even when discussing ordinary people's lives you can never be sure
you know truth about their marital affairs... In such cases people never
know truth themselves, as the truth they know is always one-spouse-sided.

Re Emily Hale. So what? He might have got tired of her (who knows?) It is
not unfair to say "no" to a relationship at any moment of time. Sometimes
it's the only way to remain honest.But again, we will never know what his
inward drives were. Even if we heard reasons of this breakup from Eliot
himself, I am not quite sure we would have understood him correctly.

It is also true that for some people sooner or later any protracted
relationship becomes a bore, and Shakespeare was pretty well aware of the
fact when he killed Romeo and Juliet in the very beginning of the affair
(grin). Otherwise there would have been no great tragedy at all but an
everlasting routine, which (who konows?) TSE might have quite consciously
escaped. This does not entitle us to judge him from the point of view which
we think is fair.

It seems Lyndall Gordon shows traces of slight personal hostility to her
subject from time to time, which may quite well be unattempted, but is
enough for not considering her book as totally trustworthy. As for Vivien,
it is commonly known that besides being definitely psychopatic, she was
unfaithful to her husband. She cheated Tom with their friend Bertrand
Russell. I am sure you know.

Sadly enough, the truth that remains sounds like “Judge ye not…”, as

What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation  (grin).

Or judge only the poetry. In this case at least we have the TEXT.


On Sep 28 2002, Nancy Gish wrote:

> First of all, I was responding to a specific question about the relation
> of the life and poetry. So it is not valid to shift the terms of the
> question as a way of dismissing my point. I did not say "simply in terms
> of"; I merely noted that those images are in the play. "Simply" is your
> addition.
> As for what he could have done for Vivienne, I have said before that if
> I were married to someone who went to America and came back without
> letting me know and served me separation papers through lawyers and never
> came home or even talked with me once in my life afterwards, I might have
> behaved a lot worse than Viv. He could have done the pretty common thing
> of facing up to the need to leave and made an attempt at honesty. On
> Emily Hale, yes, he gave her a ring, said he loved her, corresponded with
> her for 30 years, visited her in America and had her visit in England to
> the point that his family members also thought they would marry. Then she
> learned of his marriage to Valerie after the fact and had a breakdown. So
> she was a naive lady from New England. That seems to have been why he was
> attracted in the beginning. This is all too bad to bother disagreeing
> over. I think you should read Gordon if you want to know. But most women
> (and men I assume) would think 30 years of sustained relationship and
> visits that included being, for example, taken to Virginia Woolf's and
> other friends as one's companion means something.
> No one is asking for stone throwing. I don't think much of Pound's
> broadcasting for Mussolini, but it has not hurt "In a Station of the
> Metro," let alone the Cantos and the rest. But the reason I care about
> this is that so often Eliot is treated as if his ability to write
> brilliant poetry made him a person with moral standing to pronounce
> truth. It is quite the opposite of any interest in throwing stones--with
> the caveat that he did write very personal poetry despite all his
> disclaimers. TWL is often, in Pound's words, "too photog." So I am more
> concerned to resist hagiography than to make any judgment. One may be
> interested in the sources of poems without taking moral stands on the
> poet either way. But it does matter, for example, that "on Margate sands/
> I can connect nothing with nothing" was written when he had just been to
> Margate and was having a breakdown. Nancy
> Date sent: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 22:54:27 -0700 Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot
> Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]> From: Peter Montgomery
> <[log in to unmask]> Subject: Re: Deluge coming: New online Eliot
> material To: [log in to unmask]
> From: Nancy Gish [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> His late poetry and his plays are full of images of guilt and fantasies of
> killed or dead women.  But I think he assumed that feeling the guilt was
> what defined repentance.  That does not help the one you harm.  I am
> referring here to specific lines in Little Gidding and in plays, for
> example.
> ======================================================
> =======
> I guess I half way agree, Nancy. Except what could he have done
> for the woman? As I remember he pretty much let it all hang out,
> in ways one might think contradicted the principle of de-
> personalisation in THE FAMILY REUNION. Was he not chided for
> wearing his heart on his sleeve therein? At least that's as far as
> Viv goes. As for Emily Hale, I just don't know enough. Did
> he really lead her on to believe that he would marry her,
> or did she do that to herself? I realise it's ignorance
> on my part. I just haven't followed the issue. He was obviously
> quite happy with Valerie. If he was a man of pained
> conscience, it's hard to see how that could have been.
> Then of course there are the figures of the Erinyes that
> are alluded to even in Sweeney Ag. and that appear in
> one form or another in the other plays. Was he looking at the
> universal dimensions of conscience and obsessive guilt,
> or just his own? Was his own simply a jumping off point
> to get at the core of the whole thing?
> He may have been a patronising slummer in his early
> days, but it sure seems like he was trying to make
> his own class take a long hard look at itself in the
> later work. If he used his own experience transformed
> to do that, what's to be criticised there? Joyce did
> something similar with Stephen Daedalus.
> Bottom line, I don't think one can read the plays
> simply in terms of Eliot's own guilt and repentance, or
> working out his feelings about it for his own sake.
> I think he was trying to make a much more serious
> contribution in line with his thoughts on the social
> function of poetry. There was a maturation process.
> As for judging how he lived his life and whether one
> likes it or not, well I'm not going to throw the first
> stone. I owe him far too much.
> Cheers,
> Peter