cover image Mary and Mr. Eliot: A Sort of Love Story

Mary and Mr. Eliot: A Sort of Love Story

Mary Trevelyan and Erica Wagner. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (336p) ISBN 978-0-374-20318-4

In this illuminating volume, New Statesman contributor Wagner (Chief Engineer) collects the writings of Mary Trevelyan (1897–1983)—who is best remembered in her native England for her charitable work—on her friendship with poet T.S. Eliot. Wagner contextualizes the journal entries, correspondence, and remembrances that make up Trevelyan’s unpublished manuscript, The Pope of Russell Square, which covers Trevelyan and Eliot’s two-decade friendship that began when she invited him to read at a Student Christian Movement conference in 1936. “This is a portrait of a romance as much as it is an account of a friendship,” Wagner writes, observing that Trevelyan had hoped her friendship with Eliot would become romantic until she was blindsided by his decision to elope with his secretary in 1957, after which Trevelyan and Eliot grew estranged. While Eliot scholars will be intrigued by Trevelyan’s perspective on him, accounts of Trevelyan’s leadership at the Student Movement House hostel for international students in London and involvement with the YMCA during WWII prove more captivating than her quotidian exchanges with the poet. Though readers may come for Eliot, it’s Trevelyan who will win them over. Photos. (Mar.)