If you have not gone through this, the "grain of truth" is that we all create a fantasy of those we love but, in this case
, according to Lyndall Gordon, it is not true
Gordon, too, found Eliot’s statement belittling of Hale, but also said there was a “grain of truth” to his description.
“We have to think about the fact that all of us, when we’re in love, there’s an element of fantasy about the beloved,” Gordon said. “And so, what Eliot is doing is rebranding that in a belittling way — it was a delusion, it didn’t exist. And that’s not true, when you read the actual letters.”
In general, I think Frances Dickey is spot on. But I don't think this is any more "beneath" Eliot than his treatment of John Hayward; it was not an aberration. He was a mixed figure, and he was often disloyal and/or unkind to people who loved him.
I see no point in justifying any of that--OR in saying it diminishes the poetry. It was not justified, and the poetry is great anyway. Poetry is about what is or could be, good and bad, not a test of personality. But personality can be revealing of poetry.