>>> Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]>04/05/11 9:48 AM >>>
Nowhere do Eliot's biographies or other sources give even a hint of any mental abnormality in the poet which may be equated with "hysteria" -- except the fact that at the peak of a dark phase of personal depression he did suffer from a temporary nervous breakdown for which he got his treatment at Laussane. The depression might have been termed as "a form of hysteria", as has so often been iterated at this list, but it is nowhere evident in the poet's life before or after this brief incident.
Yes, Eliot must have been aware of the psychological aspects of "hysteria" and, like other writers, he does make a creative use of its symptoms, making them visible in his characters like Prufrock in the fragment "Prufrock's Pervigilium":
And when the evening woke and stared into its blindness
I heard the children whimpering in corners
Where women took the air, standing in entries
Women, spilling out of corsets, stood in entries
Where the draughty gas-jet flickered
And the oil cloth curled up stairs.
And when the evening fought itself awake
And the world was peeling oranges and reading evening papers
And boys were smoking cigarettes, drifted helplessly together
In the fan of light spread out by the drugstore on the corner
Then I have gone at night through narrow streets,
Where evil houses leaning all together
Pointed a ribald finger at me in the darkness
Whispering all together, chuckled at me in the darkness.
And when the midnight turned and writhed in fever
I tossed the blankets back, to watch the darkness.
Crawling among the papers on the table
It leapt to the floor and made a sudden hiss
And darted stealthily across the wall
Flattened itself upon the ceiling overhead
Stretched out its tentacles, prepared to leap.
And when the dawn at length had realized itself
And turned with a sense of nausea, to see what it had stirred:
The eyes and feet of men -
I fumbled to the window to experience the world
And to hear my Madness singing, sitting on the kerbstone
[A blind old drunken man who sings and mutters,
With broken boot heels stained in many gutters]
And as he sang the world began to fall apart . . .
However, any attempt to ascribe these symptoms in the poet's characters to the poet is invalid, if not downright malicious.
--- On Fri, 4/1/11, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote: