Richard, I may be projecting my associations on to Eliot's adjective, but he could have written "marble men" or "wooden men," both of which echo his "hollow men" more than ivory men do. I believe his word choices to be of the utmost precision. It's our job to figure out what he was being precise about! So my question is: why ivory? Diana

From: Richard Seddon <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: The ivory men
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2007 09:39:53 -0600



I think that this might be an example of applying the sensibilities of today’s actively concerned people to an era when big game hunting was one of the mark’s of true gentleman status.  The Ivory tusks of many an elephant graced the libraries of gentlemen clubs and did not in the least trigger any guilt among the patrons.  I don’t think Eliot was any more concerned about the Ivory trade than he was about the perils of smoking and using Tobacco.


Many a ragtime great hammered away on the “ivories” of tack pianos playing the music that TSE grew up with.  Ivory was in common use in his day and the plight of the African elephant was not a concern of intellectual society.


Richard Seddon



From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Diana Manister
Sent: Friday, June 29, 2007 9:14 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: The ivory men


Carrol, "slaughter of innocents" may be too strong, but Eliot would not have used "ivory" without an awareness that the ivory trade involved killing. To me the fact that the pieces are ivory and not wood or marble or any other material he might have chosen adds a bloody life-and-death tonality to the "game" played by Tom and Viv. Diana


From:  Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:  "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To:  [log in to unmask]
Subject:  Re: The ivory men
Date:  Fri, 29 Jun 2007 09:42:47 -0500
Diana Manister wrote:
> Yes, expensive. Especially for the elephants. Eliot would have taken
> this resonance of the word into account. Ivory men are men who trade
> in ivory as well as chess pieces made from ivory. A game of chess then
> includes the symbolic war taking place on the board and the slaughter
> of innocents. Diana

Interesting, but I suspect anachronistic. Is there any evidence
elsewhere in Eliot's works that he gave a damn what happened to
elephants -- or that he would have applied the term "innocent" (or
"guilty") to other than human agents?


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