Eliot, the retired president of Harvardnand a cousin of Eliot’s grandfather,nwasn’t convinced by Eliot’s expatriation.nAs he told Tom in a letter ofn1919: “My last word is that if you wishnto speak through’ your own work tonpeople of the ‘finest New Englandnspirit’ you had better not live muchnlonger in the English atmosphere. ThenNew England spirit has been nurturednin the American atmosphere.” Nevertheless,nas these letters make plain, thencraft and cunning of Eliot’s siege ofnLondon manifestly involved an appearancenon his part of helplessnessnand an appeal to the goodwill of others.nI do not mean to suggest that Eliot wasnungrateful: these letters are repletenwith expressions of sincere gratitude. Itnis simply that the affairs of genius were,nin his case, as in many others, managednby an apparent affectation of helplessness,none of Old Possum’s manynmasks.nIn the meantime, as Eliot becomesnmore and more immersed in hisnbanking and literary duties, the lettersnbecome less indiscreet and revelatory,nand more impersonal, more concernednwith literary business. If, in 1917, henconfided to Eleanor Hinkley that hensometimes thought “it is better to writenbrief letters — unless one had one par-nThanks for stickingn34/CHRONICLESnMSHRSMU:”n1K I •*• 1nThe Power To Overcome.nticular thing to say at some length; onensits down to write a ‘good long letter’nand becomes consciously dull,” byn1922 he was confessing to his brothernthat “I have not had the leisure to whtena satisfactory and personal letter fornyears, and it is a recreation at which Inam painfully out of practice.” There isnin all of this, however, something calculated,nan element of self-protection,nbased on Eliot’s recognition of hisngrowing eminence and his aversion tonbiographical disclosures, evident in hisnnotorious claims for the necessary impersonalitynof poetry.nEven so, a good many of the lettersnare richly interesting compendia of literarynobservations, amounting to obiterndicta. To Eleanor Hinkley, he remarksnthat “Every novelist has a knack forndoing some one stunt”:nThackeray could do thenYellowplush Papers and thenSteyne part of Vanity Fair, butnhe had a picture of himself as ankindly satirist. Not at all, henhadn’t brains enough, norncourage enough to find outnreally what he could do well,nwhich was high societynsordidness, and do it. Standardsnof good writing in English arendeplorably low. Meredith knewnwhat he was doing, butnunfortunately it wasn’t worthndoing, don’t read him. ThenWay of All Flesh was writtennby a man who was not an artistnand had no sense of style.nOn the other hand, Henry James “hasnabout the keenest sense of Situation ofnany novelist, and his always alert intelligencenis a perpetual delight,” while,nGeorge Eliot “had a great talent, andnwrote one great story, Amos Barton,nand went steadily down hill afterwards.”nJoyce and Marianne MoorenEliot read with pleasure, but of H.D.’snverse he observed that it is “fatiguinglynmonotonous and lacking in the elementnof surprise.” In addition, henfound in H.D. “a neurotic carnalitynwhich I dislike.” (“I imagine you dislikenequally the Prudentialism of myselfnand Mr. Joyce,” he told Richard Aldingtonnunexpectedly, “and expectnyou to abhor the poem [The WastenLand] on which I have been working.”)nHis editorial dealings with womennwriters, or women generally, werennnproblematic. As he told his father, “Instruggle to keep the writing as much asnpossible in Male hands, as I distrust thenFeminine in literature, and also, once anwoman has had anything printed innyour paper, it is very difficult to makenher see why you should not printneverything she sends in.”nThe Feminine in marriage was anneven greater ordeal. “You said oncenthat marriage is the greatest test in thenworld,” he wrote Mrs. Jack Gardner inn1915, the year of his marriage. “I knownnow that you were right, but now Inwelcome the test instead of dreading it.nIt is much more than a test of sweetnessnof temper, as people sometimesnthink; it is a test of the whole characternand affects every action.” After a yearnof marriage Eliot confided to Aikennthat “I have lived through material for anscore of long poems, in the last sixnmonths.” These letters intimate thenmost exciting test of Eliot’s character asnthe couple struggled with poverty andnillness of every conceivable kind, mostnconspicuously Vivienne’s gradual descentninto madness. The Waste Landnportrait of the neurotic wife whosen”nerves are bad tonight,” who hallucinatesnwildly, and who implores hernsilent husband to speak to her, speak,nspeak about anything, opens up a visionnof what the Eliots were goingnthrough in the years between 1915 andn1922. However, in that latter year itnwas he who completely broke downnand required psychiatric treatment in anSwiss sanitarium, in what the poemncalled that “decayed hole among thenmountains.” There the poetic voicenexpresses the deepest sense of personalnand spiritual exile.nPeter Ackroyd, Eliot’s biographer,nMichael Hastings, author of the playnTom and Viv, and the critic DonaldnDavie have charged that Eliot letters,nunflattering to the poet, have beennexcluded from this collection preparednby the second Mrs. Eliot, and that it isn”a whitewash job.” Such charges requirengreater substantiation than I havenso far seen. Until there is more evidencenthat these letters are merelyn”official bulletins,” I am inclined tonthink the claim exaggerated. Fromn1917 onward. Old Possum was notnmuch inclined to commit himself, innindiscreet ways, on letter paper. Meanwhile,nwe await succeeding volumes.n<^n