cover image The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume 2: 1923-1925, Revised Edition

The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume 2: 1923-1925, Revised Edition

Edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton. Yale Univ., $45 (920p) ISBN 978-0-300-17686-5

Covering a shorter period than Volume One, this second installment spans two years of "crisis and consolidation, of severe domestic collapse and hard-won professional recovery." No longer a striving poet and burgeoning critic, a more mature Eliot undertakes greater responsibilities as editor, publisher, and arbiter. His talents now in great cultural demand, fleeting business communications provide a less linear narrative, but read as a who's who of literature, with Eliot welcoming contributions from Aldous Huxley, E.M. Forster, and D.H. Lawrence after founding The Criterion. This disjointedness, however, stems from an increasingly erratic life where hardship%E2%80%94financial, physical, and emotional%E2%80%94remains a prevalent theme, filtering into even the most formal of exchanges. Following a lengthy diatribe on the publishing industry in a letter to New York lawyer John Quinn, some desperate words are later added in ink: "I am worn out, I cannot go on." Eliot's letters poignantly detail triumph, tragedy, and hard-earned mutual respect%E2%80%94encapsulated in the penultimate letter revealing his elation at receiving a copy of The Great Gatsby, "the first step that American fiction had taken since Henry James." The copy arrived inscribed: "For T.S. Eliot/Greatest of Living Poets/from his enthusiastic/worshipper/F. Scott Fitzgerald." (Sept.)