cover image The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume 1: 1898-1922, Revised Edition

The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume 1: 1898-1922, Revised Edition

Edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton. Yale Univ., $45 (912p) ISBN 978-0-300-17645-2

Selected and edited by his wife, with expert help from Haughton (The Poetry of Derek Mahon), this capacious edition includes letters discovered since the original publication in 1988 that fill important gaps in the literary record, with minor additions fleshing out this retrospective tome of introspective delight. Contextualizing Eliot's creativity is an asset since love, marriage, and war feature prominently in his narrative. Intimate revelations to nearest and dearest will enthrall: "PS I think I am the only man in this college who takes cold baths." Kinship with Ezra Pound eulogizes the editorial process of The Waste Land, while reading Parisian correspondence with Alain-Fournier discussing Verlaine and Huysmans feels like prying, but is all the more exhilarating as a result. Affectionate banter with close friend Jean Verdenal (to whom he dedicated Prufrock) broaches everything from vegetarianism to Wagner. Despite an undercurrent of melancholy, moments of hope and jubilation, as well as evidence of unparalleled intellect and myriad indiscriminate emotions create a candid portrait of an artist as a young man. If a picture paints a thousand words, the letters of a fine poet conjure a thousand fascinating still lifes. (Sept.)