Saturday, 3 January 2015

Some thoughts on The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume 1

The different voices he has writing to his different correspondents come over remarkably like the different voices of The Wasteland. It is almost uncanny. The popular nonsense sections sound like large parts of his correspondence to Conrad Aiken, which really makes one wonder about his motives there in contrast to the interpretations of the critics. The high-minded philosophic letters (their implications) with Bertrand Russell are the very positions he later laments and suffers for. Throughout it all the increasingly paranoid correspondence of Vivien runs through the playfulness &c. like a sinister jinx.

All of Eliot’s early letters display a deeply felt response to others, a perfectly formed sense of expression, but vivacity, charm, wisdom ready to be tested. The stunning moment after his father’s death where he mourns for all that his father wished to do with his own life and never achieved; hoping that he can be everything his father would be proud of, then asking for his father’s fun drawings of cats. In one fell swoop, the germ of the Practical Cats. Could they be Eliot’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik?  

Entry in Notebooks, 22nd March 1990 

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