** High Priority **

Dear Jim,

I'm fascinated by your remark on Russell.  (I'll order the book this week, but I don't have it yet.)  Russell's engagement with the Eliot's was undoubtedly pernicious, but it was also initially financially and emotionally helpful (weirdly), from all I've read, and very much encouraged at first by T.  My question is whether Miller (and you, who know so much bio) see Russell as the main cause of the trouble or one of a set of interacting people, all part of the problem?

I had my own encounter with the estate, which was similar.  I was a graduate student and not at all sophisticated about how to do these things.  A friend who was working on Russell told me about the letters at McMaster, and I went there and read them.  I wanted to quote from them just to write a kind of bibliographic piece--or just to note their existence because at that point I had never seen them cited anywhere.  Gordon did, not long after.  I got an equally firm and more neutral note that they were to be published soon and I could not quote.  I was too clueless to just go ahead and describe them.  And the letters were years in coming.

>>> [log in to unmask] 09/11/05 1:21 PM >>>
I read Miller's book in Ms, which was very readable, full of interesting anecdotal material, which gives a more rounded sense of TSE's personality (as a young man) than maybe any other bio now in print. For instance, it rightly stresses the importance of key friendships, such as those with Aiken and Harold Peters.
Miller did not get much cooperation from TSE's Estate -- one recalls the many strictures attending Ackroyd's bio, and one sees more of the same here. (I can sympathize, having been turned down with efficient politeness in a form letter from Valerie when I applied for minor assistance from the Estate.)
Miller does a fine job of integrating TSE's bio with his emerging sense of himself as poet. It is strongest in its summation (and follow-through) of earlier researches into TSE's schooling, including Harvard and Oxford. 
As one might expect, it returns to the matter of TSE's sexual identity (you've been noting Miller's previous book in this e-list). It overlaps to some extent with Gordon's bio of TSE's Early Years, but the emphases are quite different. Where Gordon sees TSE as a solitary given to night vigils, etc., Miller places TSE more squarely in his collegiate context, and he deals extensively with influences from Harvard philosophy to doctoral study at Merton, and the pernicious interference of Russell in his marriage during the harried years as lecturer in London. I was surprised to note that the Ms did not deal with gay or queer theory, and it did not reflect Rainey's findings in TWL as published in various articles (it was written concurrently with Rainey's books, but the articles were in print in Yale Review and elsewhere). Perhaps these deficiencies have been corrected in the published book.
In a way (to me, not necessarily to Miller), TSE's or Bildung (i.e., youthful phase of intellectual development) recalls Wordsworth's self-constitution as recollected in The Prelude (subtitled "The Growth of the Poet's Mind" [I guess Miller borrowed WW's idea in his title (see below)]): Just as WW was a child of Nature (and educated by Nature), so TSE was a child of the City and of books and formidable tutors (he may be the best-educated poet ever). This "Bildung," along with influences from the Continent, e.g., urban Symbolistes like Laforgue, made TSE impatient with the British Romantics. And this in turn led to Modernism's radical break with British Romantic/Victorian poetic tradition. It's interesting to note Anglophone poetry's return to its British roots (e.g., Hardy; cf. Basil Bunting, Heaney, et al.) after WWII, when TSE's poetic influence was on the wane.  --  Jim Loucks

T.S. Eliot: The Making Of An American Poet, 1888-1922 (Hardcover)

by James <>  <> E., Jr. Miller <> 


Pasted from <> 

James Loucks, Ph.D.
Ohio State University-Newark
1179 University Dr.
Newark, OH 43055-1797
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fax 740.366.5047


From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. on behalf of Nancy Gish
Sent: Sat 10-Sep-05 11:12 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: {{very OT}}RE: Echoes of Eliot

I agree with you about the value of Miller.

Nearly all of Eliot's poetry is filled with pain, as was much of his life--and the lives of those he cared about and betrayed and abandoned.  My concern was not with "pain" but with "commemorate"--to honor the memory of with a ceremony or to serve as a memorial.  I thought and think now that there is nothing unique or exceptional in Eliot's pain (except the sharp brilliance of his words about it) and certainly nothing to honor.  While he was having marriage miseries and the flu, millions were dying in trenches and on barbed wire and in gas attacks.  And when this message came, thousands in New Orleans were pleading for help and dying in the streets and shelters with nothing to ease them.

It is a credit, perhaps, to Eliot that he wrote of Gerontion that he was "not at the hot gates,"  not bitten by flies or fighting.  He understood with real precision the kinds of suffering he experienced and its comparisons.  He made a very telling comparison of himself with Maurice when the latter came back from France and described the trenches and nights in freezing water shooting rats.  ("He is thoroughly WORN OUT and from some of the horrors which he once entertained us with I am not surprised.  A boy of nineteen [for he had his twentieth birthday with us] who is quite used to the sight of disjecta membra and has spent nights when he couldn't sleep in shooting rats with a revolver, makes me feel comparatively immature--TSE, Letters, 147)) And yes, there are valid comparisons of suffering:  it is not an issue of competition but of kinds of meaning.  Making a kind of personal or moral figure of iconic suffering or virtue out of a poet who had the insight not to do it of h!
 imself (and god knows he was scathing about others) seems to me to make this discussion meaningless. 

The great value of Miller was that he showed just how personal the pain was, how the poetry revealed it, and what its source might well have been.  I'm eager to see his new book.

As for "bleeding hearts"--a cliché of more-than-usual vacuity--, better a bleeding heart than no heart.

>>> [log in to unmask] 09/10/05 9:26 PM >>>
Nancy Gish wrote:
> I am not clear about what point is being made.  Why are you
> "commemorating" Eliot's pain--especially since it was an apparently very
> personal psychoneurosis (his own account, not mine--"aboulia," emotional
> not mental, etc., see letters) in a time when very terrible death and
> sorrow is occuring to thousands?

On my first real encountering of Eliot (specifically TWL in a poetry
class) I was extremely frustrated.  Fortunately the university library
had a copy of "T.S. Eliot's Personal Waste Land: Exorcism of the
Demons" by James E. Miller Jr. (now once again in print.)  Miller's
explaination of TWL was a portrayal of Eliot's personal pain through
WW I and the immediate post-war years.  It was Miller's book that
attracted me to TWL and to TSE and caused me to sympathize with
Eliot's problems.  It got me hooked in a big way.

    Rick Parker

And, at teh hi risk of encurrin' Jaceks rath, hear are sum URL's pushin'
  Miller's new book:
  His "Personal Waste Land" book: