cover image The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. 3: 1926–1927

The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. 3: 1926–1927

Edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden. Yale Univ., $50 (992p) ISBN 978-0-300-18723-6

Spanning only two years, this volume of Eliot’s correspondence is prodigious in all things, not least intellect, beauty, personality, and size. Only four years after the publication of The Wasteland, the increasingly more famous Eliot is pulled in several directions by his poetry, the articles and reviews with which he made a living, and time-consuming editorial duties for the journal The Criterion. This was an emotionally intense time, as Eliot became a British citizen and converted to Anglicanism, a decision whose theological basis he explores in his letters. Complicating matters further was Eliot’s marital life, as his wife Vivien’s psychological instability required frequent hospitalization and treatment. But Eliot found some solace in writing to his brother, Henry, as well as to his mother, to whom he sent all of his work before publication and with whom he felt freer to discuss his emotional state. The biggest draw, of course, is the poet’s extensive correspondence with intellectuals of the time, including Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Marianne Moore, Virginia Woolf, Robert Graves, Bertrand Russell, and Jean Cocteau. Helpfully, the editors have done a fine job in providing extensive footnotes that elucidate each letter with vital background information and context. However, the nonspecialist may want to wait for the abridged version. (Sept.)