I've enjoyed the posts on "The Dry Salvages". Some of the points raised in those posts are discussed in Helen Gardner's book, "The Composition of Four Quartets" (1978). For example, the notion that the 'dry salvages' are not a man-made place (like 'Burnt Norton') is echoed in a comment by Eliot's friend John Hayward when he wrote to Eliot, "it is not, like East Coker, a place-name so much as a name of a place, if the distinction is not too subtle".
Rather than my paraphrasing Hayward, Eliot, or Ms. Gardner, I'd like to post some scanned-in sections that the list may enjoy.
-- Tom --
From Page 19:
The Dry Salvages was similarly written at high speed. The first reference to it in Hayward's letters to Morley is in Letter XXVII, January 1941:
The best possible beginning of another year was marked by the arrival on January 1st of the typescript of the first draft of the third poem of Tom's trilogy. No warning that it was even begun - which confirms what I said about the Master's ability to strike quickly once the iron is hot. It is a superb piece - finer, I think, than its predecessors. I attribute its excellence to the beauty of the marine imagery, which provides a haunting background to the recurrent 'Time Past-Time Present' theme. And you know, probably better than I do, with what nostalgic longing the sea affects Tom's sensibility. (Some of the great passages in his poetry - the end of 'Gerontion', the Phoenician sailor, 'Marina' &c. are evocations of the coast of New England and of white sails flying.)
Hayward then quotes the passage beginning 'The sea is the land's edge also' and the first and last verses of Part IV, going on:
These small pieces may give you a foretaste of the whole. - (Perhaps you should keep them to yourself, for I don't know if Tom wishes to be quoted just yet; but I think you should know.) The tentative title is 'Dry Salvages' - which I don't care about overmuch. I think the title should be a proper name and complete the pattern begun by the titles of the two previous poems. I've suggested this with due deference. I've urged him to complete the poem as soon as he possibly can, -so that you may have the MS. without delay.
from pages 120:
THE DRY SALVAGES
Text of Four Quartets (1944)
(The Dry Salvages-presumably les trois sauvages-is a small group of rocks, with a beacon, off the N.E. coast of Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Salvages is pronounced to rhyme with assuages. Groaner: a whistling buoy.)
This note, which first appears in [the fourth draft of The Dry Salvages], was a response to difficulties raised by Hayward, whose first query is 'I) Title. (Dry Salvages in a quotation?)' He also queried 'rote' (l. 30), though he scratched this out but went on '-groaner?? grainer??'. Eliot replied to both queries:
1. 'The Dry Salvages' _is_ a place name (rhymes with 'rampages'). It is ('Les trois sauvages') the name of a group of three rocks off the eastern corner of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, with a beacon: convenient for laying a course to the eastward, Maine or Nova Scotia. It happens to have just the right denotation and association for my purpose; and therefore I am the more disturbed by your comment. It doesn't matter that it should be obscure, but if it is going to lead people quite on the wrong track, then something must be done. I don't like the idea of a note of explanation. Please advise.
2. 'Groaner' . Yes, I was waiting to see what you would make of this. It is the New England word for a 'whistling buoy', which by some arrangement of valves, makes a groaning noise as it rises and falls on the swell. There must be some English equivalent, but that would give the wrong effect. I noted absence from O.ED. This is a pretty problem too.
Ms. Gardner's footnote: Eliot's first response to Hayward's query over the name of the poem was to type '(Les trois sauvages)', underlined for italicization, beneath the title on [the third draft of The Dry Salvages]. On M3 he pencilled quotation marks round the title, as Hayward advised in his letter. Then, having had second thoughts, he crossed through the bracketed addition beneath the title.
The next page of Ms. Gardner's book immediately continues with:
Hayward replied promptly and wittily:
I deplore my ignorance of 'The Dry Salvages', for it was just such a title (now that I understand its significance) that I hoped for - my imagination, as I read, having fixed nostalgically on the coast of New England - in the region of Martha's Vineyard - known to me only through books and in dreams of ten years ago when someone to whom I was greatly attached spent her honeymoon sailing there - as the setting of the poem. My setting - for this is a good example of the kind of sea-change - the expression seems apt - that a poem suffers and must necessarily suffer in the mind of each reader. I remember Valery saying how baffled he was when he tried to imagine one of his poems making a different impression on everyone who read it. But I took Dry Salvages - for you omitted the inverted commas that might have suggested to me that it was a place-name - to be in some sense a reference to what the sea gives up - the torn seine and the dead, and, by extension, memories of a dead life and so on; supporting this interpretation with a vague conviction (unchecked by the dictionary) that insurance companies recognize 'dry' salvage and 'wet' salvage, the former being more valuable than the latter. I think the least you can do is to place single quotation marks round the title. This, I think, should at once suggest a proper name - and one that, perhaps, requires to be defined in this way (like, say, 'The Casquets') because it is not, like East Coker, a place-name so much as a name of a place, if the distinction is not too subtle. (Cf. 'The Hard' Lyme Regis: 'Fastnet', &c.) You could, alternatively add Cape Ann, viz. 'The Dry Salvages' Cape Ann. For irrelevantly personal reasons I should like this because Cape Ann has similar romantic associations for me as Cape Wrath and Bloody Foreland. I do think there is a danger of some people making my mistake about wet & dry salvage, so I hope you will consider adopting one or other of my suggestions if none better occurs to you.
My first reaction to 'groaner' was that it was a buoy of some kind. Then O.E.D. shook me and I assumed it must be a type of vessel (though still with a local name) on account of the following words: rounded homewards - which I then took to refer to the creaking, groaning play of the ship's timbers as, turning the headland, she set a course for home; the springing of timber being a characteristic sea-voice. This is a bit of a problem. At the moment I can only suggest changing the qualifying adjective to one that would, by implication, suggest that 'groaner' is a navigational signal and not a vessel. What about 'warning groaner'? ('moaning' would be a good word but for the repetition of the broad '0' sound). The trouble is that 'heaving' is too good to lose. But something may occur to you along the line of my suggestion that 'groaner' should be explained by its epithet.
from pages 46-47
East Coker arises much less out of the depths of experience and memory than Burnt Norton and The Dry Salvages. Like Little Gidding, it is inspired by a deliberately willed visit to a place whose associations were historic rather than personal. The Dry Salvages is soaked in memories of childhood and youth. In the winter of 1959-60 Eliot visited the United States and went to Boston to receive the Emerson-Thoreau award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In the speech that he gave on this occasion he took as his subject 'The Influence of Landscape upon the Poet' and concluded by a reading of The Dry Salvages. He explained the association of ideas by which he had come to his subject by saying that the Emerson-Thoreau award brought to mind Concord in particular and New England in general, and that his predecessor in the award had been Robert Frost, 'distinctly in the mind of everyone a New England poet'. 'I then asked myself', he went on, 'whether I had any title to be a New England poet ... and I think I have.' Owning to begin with that he came from Missouri and that his father before him was born in St. Louis, he countered the admission by the fact that he 'came East' at seventeen, and that as far back as he could remember and before, his family had spent every summer on the New England coast:
So my personal landscape is a composite. In St. Louis, my grandmother - as was very natural - wanted to live on in the house that my grandfather had built; my father, from filial piety, did not wish to leave the house that he had built only a few steps away; and so it came to be that we lived on in a neighbourhood which had become shabby to a degree approaching slumminess, after all our friends and acquaintances had moved further west. And in my childhood, before the days of motor cars, people who lived in town stayed in town. So it was, that for nine months of the year my scenery was almost exclusively urban, and a good deal of it seedily, drably urban at that. My urban imagery was that of St. Louis, upon which that of Paris and London have been superimposed. It was also, however, the Mississippi, as it passes between St. Louis and East St. Louis in Illinois: the Mississippi was the most powerful feature of Nature in that environment. My country landscape, on the other hand, is that of New England, of coastal New England, and New England from June to October. In St. Louis I never tasted an oyster or a lobster - we were too far from the sea. In Massachusetts, the small boy who was a devoted bird watcher never saw his birds of the season when they were making their nests.
Eliot ended by saying that he hoped his words would shed some light on the poem he was about to read, and 'also substantiate, to some degree, my claim to being, among other things, a New England poet. You will notice, however, that this poem begins where I began, with the Mississippi; and that it ends, where I and my wife expect to end, at the parish church of a tiny village in Somerset.'
from pages 52-54
South of the Dry Salvages is Thacher's Island, so called from a famous shipwreck in 1635.
The story was first told in the words of Anthony Thacher's letter to his brother Peter, first printed in Increase Mather's _Remarkable Providences_ of 1684. Thacher, with his bosom friend the Reverend Joseph Avery and twenty-one other passengers, was sailing a pinnace ... when they were overwhelmed by the sudden hurricane of 14-15 August 1635. In attempting to round Cape Ann the vessel struck on a rock a few hundred yards from an island. There 'Parson Avery' delivered his 'Swan-Song' (as paraphrased by John G. Whittier from Cotton Mather's _Magnalia_), and thence the poop of the vessel floated off, carrying Mrs. Thacher, grounding on the island ever since named Thacher's.
Her husband swam to the island, where he found his wife alive; and they existed there for thirty-six hours until rescued. All the other passengers perished. Among them was a certain 'Mr. William Eliot of New Sarum'. Nothing is known of him except that he was a bachelor who had only been in New England for a few months. Over the years Eliot, in memory, confused his known ancestor, Andrew Eliot of East Coker, with this unknown man, who may well have been of the same family. He wrote in 1964 to Admiral Morison, who had queried his note on the derivation of the Dry Salvages: 'Did you know that the Reverend Andrew Eliot was in the company of the Reverend Mr. Thatcher when they went ashore on Thatcher's Island?' As Admiral Morison points out, Andrew Eliot of East Coker did not arrive in New England until around 1669, more than thirty years after the Thacher shipwreck; but this confusion in Eliot's memory no doubt played some part in, or was caused by, his deep personal feeling for the rocks, reefs, and islands off Cape Ann. In the letter he wrote replying to Admiral Morison's correction of his derivation, he recalls that he and Harold Peters were once storm-bound on a neighbouring island for a couple of days 'and lived chiefly on lobster'. Perhaps this experience contributed to his mistakenly making his remote ancestor a sharer in Mr. Thacher's thirty-six-hour ordeal.
In the note prefixed to The Dry Salvages, Eliot explained the name as presumably deriving from les trois sauvages and said it should be pronounced to rhyme with assuages, that is to say with the accent on the penult. Admiral Morison has no difficulty in disposing of the derivation proposed. He points out that 'Dry' is 'a not unusual designation along the Atlantic Coast for ledges bare at high water, to distinguish them from others which, like the Little Salvages, are covered twice daily .... Moreover "Dry" appears on no map in connection with the Salvages until 1867, when any derivation from trois would be farfetched.' Accepting that 'Salvage' is the old spelling for 'Savage', and owning that local historians are unable to explain the name, he hazards the suggestion that the name may have occurred by 'geographical transfer' from a rock off Cape Neddick, now called Neddick Nubble, but by an early voyager, Gabriel Archer, called 'Savage Rock', 'because the Sauages first shewed themselves there'. Or, he suggests, the name may possibly be owing to Champlain who, in his account of his exploration of 1605, describes Cape Ann (which he called Cap au Isles) with its islands and reefs, and tells how near it he caught sight of a canoe in which 'were five or six Indians (sauuages)' who came towards his pinnace, but then 'went back to dance on the beach'. Champlain may have called the reef of the Dry Salvages, which he describes, though he does not name it or show it on his map, after these friendly Indians he met off the rocks.
These are speculations. The question of the pronunciation is more easily settled. Eliot wrote in reply to Admiral Morison's query: 'My information about the pronunciation of "Salvages" has nothing authentic about it. It is just the pronunciation I learned from my elder brother.' Admiral Morison reports that the spelling 'Salvages', first appeared in The English Pilot of 1689 and is constantly repeated, with one exception, in 1757, where it is Salvigis. He thinks it probable it was originally pronounced Sávages, as he himself heard the rocks called by sailors early in the present century. He notes that as more and more mariners used charts, spelling affected pronunciation and 'Modern yachtsmen pronounce it just as it is spelt, Sálvages, with the accent on the antepenult'. But, he adds,
The Reverend Thomas J. Carroll, who sailed in fishing schooners over thirty years ago, always heard the fishermen call it Salvayges, with the accent on the penult; and Captain John A. Muise, secretary of the Gloucester Master Mariners' Association, assures me that this is the proper pronunciation. So Mr. Eliot's memory is vindicated. Other Gloucester fishermen call it Salvigis, with the accent on the penult.
I feel glad that the pronunciation to rhyme with 'assuages' is thus confirmed as authentic, since it is with this pronunciation that the title of the poem is now known all over the world.
-- end of excerpts from "The Composition of Four Quartets"