ELIOT, THOMAS STEARNS (1888-1965, American-born poet)
Lot 142
ELIOT, THOMAS STEARNS (1888-1965, American-born poet)
Sold for £44,450 (US$ 68,297) inc. premium

Lot Details
ELIOT, THOMAS STEARNS (1888-1965, American-born poet)
TYPESCRIPT WITH AUTOGRAPH REVISIONS OF HIS CELEBRATED POEM 'JOURNEY OF THE MAGI', signed at the end with initials under his typed name ('T.S.E.'), preserving reconsidered readings, 43 lines, 1 page, folio, rust mark from paper clip at head, no date [1927]

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey and such a long journey.
The ways deep and the weather sharp;
The very dead of winter".
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refactory,
Lying down in the melted snow...

ONE OF ELIOT'S BEST-KNOWN POEMS, almost certainly typed by himself (Jim McCue, Eliot's editor, suggests) and with autograph revisions.

The revisions are: line 11 the substitution of 'Then' for 'What with'; line 15 closing a gap after the initial A of 'And'; line 19 a deletion of a single letter after 'our'; line 20 the deletion of 'all' in the typed line 'That all this was folly', the insertion of 'all' before 'folly' and the rewriting of the whole line in the margin; line 23 deletion of 'in' before 'the darkness'; and line 24 the deletion of 'line' after the word 'sky'.

The last revision settles the question of whether the ending of the line with the word 'sky' was an error in printing or an authorial emendation. Except for the later insertion of hyphens in 'nightfires' (line 13); in 'watermill' (line 23) and 'vine leaves' (line 26) the autograph revisions on this typescript take the poem to its final form.

The first poem written after his conversion to what he called the Anglo-Catholic church and the poem that broke his 'writer's block', 'Journey of the Magi' was written in response to a request by Geoffrey Faber for an 'Ariel Poem' in 1927. It is said to express Eliot's desire for reality in religion.

The poem is based on a sermon of Eliot's revered Lancelot Andrewes: 'It was no summer progress. A cold coming they had of it at this time of year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and especially a long journey in. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, in solstitio brumali, "the very dread of winter."' Damiel Harris has argued that the poem 'occupies a central position in [Eliot's] poetic development...[It] is the one whose themes and metres most clearly foreshadow those of The Four Quartets'.

Complete poetical manuscripts by Eliot are extremely rare. The revised page-proofs of the poem are in Eton School Library.

It was Eliot's reading of the poem that led to the obsession with him by the fourteen-year-old Valerie Fletcher ('It was extraordinary...I felt I just had to get to Tom, to work with him.').

See also lot 331.

PROVENANCE: Estate of Richard de la Mare, Eliot's publisher; Hodgson's Rooms.

REFERENCES: 'T.S. Eliot, 'Lancelot Andrewes', For Lancelot Andrewes: Essays on Style and Order, 1928; Damiel A. Harris, 'Language, History, Text in Eliot's "Journey of the Magi"', PMLA, volume 95, no. 6, 5 October 1980; Location Register of Twentieth-Century Literary Manuscripts and Letters, 2 volumes, 1988.
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