In the period covered by this richly detailed collection, which brings the poet to the age of forty, T. S. Eliot was to set a new course for his life and work. Forsaking the Unitarianism of his American forebears, he was received into the Church of England and naturalised as a British citizen - a radical and public alteration of the intellectual and spiritual direction of his career. The demands of Eliot's professional life as writer and editor became more complex and exacting during these years. The celebrated but financially-pressed periodical he had been editing since 1922 - The Criterion - switched between being a quarterly and a monthly, before being rescued by the fledgling house of Faber & Gwyer. In addition to writing numerous essays and editorials, lectures, reviews, introductions and prefaces, his letters show Eliot involving himself wholeheartedly in the business of his new career as a publisher. His Ariel poems, Journey of the Magi (1927) and A Song for Simeon (1928) established a new manner and vision for the poet of The Waste Land and 'The Hollow Men'. These are also the years in which Eliot published two sections of an exhilaratingly funny, savage, jazz-influenced play-in-verse - 'Fragment of a Prologue' and 'Fragment of an Agon' - which were subsequently brought together as Sweeney Agonistes. In addition, he struggled to translate the remarkable work Anabase, by St. -John Perse, which was to be a signal influence upon his own later poetry. This correspondence with friends and mentors vividly documents all the stages of Eliot's personal and artistic transformation during these crucial years, the continuing anxieties of his private life, and the forging of his public reputation.
Volume One of the Letters of T.S. Eliot, edited by Valerie Eliot in 1988, covered the period from Eliot's childhood in St Louis, Missouri, to the end of 1922, by which time he had settled in England, married and published The Waste Land. Since 1988, Valerie Eliot has continued to gather materials from collections, libraries and private sources in Britain and America, towards the preparation of subsequent volumes of the Letters edition. Among new letters to have come to light, a good many date from the years 1898-1922, which has necessitated a revised edition of Volume One, taking account of approximately two hundred newly discovered items of correspondence. The new letters fill crucial gaps in the record, notably enlarging our understanding of the genesis and publication of The Waste Land. Valuable, too, are letters from the earlier and less documented part of Eliot's life, which have been supplemented by additional correspondence from family members in America.
The letters between Eliot and his associates, family and friends - his correspondents range from the Archbishop of York and the American philosopher Paul Elmer More to the writers Virginia Woolf, Herbert Read and Ralph Hodgson - serve to illuminate the ways in which his Anglo-Catholic convictions could, at times, prove a self-chastising and even alienating force. 'Anyone who has been moving among intellectual circles and comes to the Church, may experience an odd and rather exhilarating feeling of isolation,' he remarks. Notwithstanding, he becomes fully involved in doctrinal controversy: he espouses the Church as an arena of discipline and order. Eliot's relationship with his wife, Vivien, continues to be turbulent, and at times desperate, as her mental health deteriorates and the communication between husband and wife threatens, at the coming end of the year, to break down completely. At the close of this volume Eliot will accept a visiting professorship at Harvard University, which will take him away from England and Vivien for the academic year 1932-33.
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