My guess is that Verdenal's death was a major part of the impact of the War on Eliot. It may even have been at least part of what drove him into that sudden marriage with Vivien not long after (that is clearly speculation). But the breakdown was clearly a kind of PTSD. At the time it was called hysteria, when women showed such symptoms, and neurasthenia when men did. But the recognition of the source in trauma was a significant result of the masses of men who came back from the Front with all the symptoms of "hysteria." They changed the name to "shell shock" in the belief that there had to be a physical basis. If you read Vittoz's book (not very good but revealing), you see that he treated what was then seen as neurasthenia, which was Eliot's diagnosis. I agree that Eliot's own life had become increasingly traumatic from many sources.
In any case, in response to Peter--I think you and David are onto similar lines, and I'm especially interested in the connection about the absence of very massive discussion of the War. But it is, in fact, there very often if not at length. That may be because it was the kind of internal despair Eliot masked, or it could well be because of censorship during the War. Very little could be written about it. But I think Eliot's admiration for John Maynard Keynes's The Economic Consequences of the War and his years working on payments and reparations after the armistice also could not have been other than very difficult. And all that would have been government secrets.
So there are several key points where I think the War is "palpable" (I don't mean there are not many others): 1. the letter he wrote to his mother about having to get out of Germany when it started and the unusual emotion he expresses there about seeing a woman wave to a German soldier leaving on a troop train. He says she must know she will never see him again. 2. the many passages about how hard it is living during the War and the lack of understanding (interestingly, soldiers also frequently said how no one at home could understand). Much of this is implicit in his constant talk of taking Viv out to the country and having to take the train and having no time and always being ill. This is in part, of course, Viv's illnesses, but also London was not safe and was being bombed even in that war. Food and medicine were hard to get. So his difficulties and money worries are linked to it as well as to Viv's condition. 3. the work at the end and the recommendation to his mother that she read Keynes--and his admiration for Hesse.
In the poem it is surprising if one notes the parallels in his life. It starts in Munich with Marie, who is linked to the Archduke Ferdinand (not the same one but an intensely strong word). It then has a pub scene about being demobbed and the impact on Lil. Section III originally had a long passage of allusion to Dido and Aeneas, and Tiresias is connected to the wars in Sophocles as well as being both sexes. One can see links between section IV and Verdenal. And Hesse turns up in V.
So your points about absences and privileged silences, and about Verdenal seem to me important to follow up.
Thanks for all that,
>>> Peter Dillane <[log in to unmask]>08/11/13 7:16 AM >>>
Not sure we are disagreeing david
On 11/08/2013, at 8:11 PM, David Boyd wrote:
I have to disagree about the impact of Verdenal's death and indirectly of the First War: can't recall exactly which Eliot / Verdenal letters we were studying just recently under some expert guidance in a seminar, but the closeness of that relationship was obviously immense and was palpable. On occasions, the two individuals merged into one, and one had to consult the headers or the footers to distinguish who was the writer and whom the recipient.
It must have been an almost-inconceivable-to-we-onlookers personal shock to Eliot that Verdenal got slaughtered in the Dardanelles: recall we discussed the 'death by water' etc bits of TWL that fairly-obviously refer to this (those attempted landings were ptimarily mass-drownings before the invaders ever reached the shore).
On reflection, might not Eliot's Margate etc breakdown have been rooted in his Verdenal trauma, compounded by his further ones with Valerie? - post-traumatic stress disorder and all that?