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,Nancy>>> Peter Dillane 08/11/13 7:16 AM >>>
Not sure we are disagreeing davidPete
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?
On 11 August 2013 10:16, Peter Dillane <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Hi Nancy,I am inclined to believe it is important but I find it difficult to see the impact in his letters. Do you think this diminished presence paradoxically might signify its importance. Why does he say so little? For example what mention is there of Jean Verdenal's death which I would have thought was a major war event for him ? The joshing Bolo letter to Conrad Aiken of 10 January 1916 is it as far as I can see which says: sorry I've been busy, my wife's sick, jean Verdenal died, Martin Armstrong is missing, my publisher may be conscripted and "… we are very blue about the war, that living is going up, and that King Bolo's big black…etc". What is this - whistling in the dark? Or does it suggest that these matters are given a privileged silence. But I also observe that his letter to his mother of 22 December 1917 discussed his brother in law George's enlisting in very unsentimental and calculating terms "I can't see what good it will do him…no one will give him work for being patriotic. Five years from now everyone will have forgotten whether he was in France or not...the motive seems a very trifling one".For my part I don't see the "personal and wholly insignificant grouse" line as anything more than faux modesty or wry provocative talk. Taken as a whole as it is a contra to the first proposition which is pretty grand" Various critics have done me the honour to interpret the poem in terms of criticism of the contemporary world, have considered it , indeed, as an important bit of social criticism. To me it was only the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life; it is just a piece of rhythmical grumbling."Oh yeah sure it is.The more amusing thing is that it is planted at the start of the facsimile edition after all the historical introduction and apparatus detail. It reminds me of an observation often made in my country about football that people seem to act as if it was about life and death but in fact it is more important than that.Cheers Pete
On 11/08/2013, at 1:10 PM, Nancy Gish wrote:
Dear Rick,I agree that a link or citation is not only valid but useful--if it is part of a discussion. I do not think a constant stream of one person's interests with no context is the same as what I wrote.I raised this topic because I think it both important and, though discussed in a few key books and articles, not discussed in the depth of other topics. So it seems, with the centenary of WWI next year, a potentially rich idea to consider anew. I am interested in the reactions of others.Best wishes,Nancy
>>> "Rickard A. Parker" <[log in to unmask]> 08/10/13 8:26 PM >>>
On Sat, 10 Aug 2013 11:29:35 -0400, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>This sending of articles one agrees with as if they were somehow proof
>of an opinion is pointless because the history of Eliot studies is far
>too extensive and controversial. There are many readings, and unless you
>have an argument for specifically why this is somehow "true," it is not
>really relevant to discussion. I rather doubt you would appreciate it if
>I sent citations and quotations and statements from my own books and
>articles and those of others I find compelling.
Nancy, I don't think this is really fair. It's the same thing that goes on
in footnotes all the time. Your previous post actually had something similar:
>One would think, from some of the responses to this topic, that it
>was some radically unconventional topic thought up by me. I wish I
>could take credit, but as it happens Paul Fussell in The Great War
>and Modern Memory showed how frequently it appears in the allusions,
>and Vincent Sherry, in The Great War and the Languages of Modernism
>included a long section on Eliot and the War.
For a discussion list I think a either a link or a citation is valid. Its a
way of saying that here is something similar to what I think but I'm sorry I
don't have time to write a dozen or so pages about it in an email.