Letters TSElliott to E Faber 2 volumes

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Lot 629

Sold for £ 55,200 (US$ 69,008) inc. premium
Series of approximately 84 typed and autograph letters signed ("Tom", "Tp", etc.), the majority typed, to his close friend Enid Faber, wife of his publisher and publishing partner Geoffrey Faber, covering a wide range of topics, both literary and personal, subjects including the death of Virginia Woolf ("...I have also been pursued by Theodora Bosanquet who wants me to write for Time and Tide about Virginia Woolf. It is bad enough having one's friend die without Time and Tide...I have toiled over a note for Horizon, simply because I thought it might be thought odd if I didn't write something; but I doubt that it will please anybody. I don't know very much about her writing: she was a personal friend who seemed to me (mutatis considerably mutandis) like a member of my own family; and I miss her dreadfully, but I don't see her exactly as her relatives see her, and my admiration for the ideas of her milieu - now rather old fashioned - is decidedly qualified..."), the dedication of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats to her son, his godson (see lot 634), George Eliot and Middlemarch ("...really we have never forgiven her impudence in assuming the name...It seems to me one of THE novels. Yes, Dorothea is very good, and so is Casaubon; and almost everybody except Ladislaw, who is dead as plastocene..."), Dickens and Pickwick and "the Minders (and he do the Police in different voices) in Our Mutual Friend", life as a fire warden in wartime London ("...Action consists, at present, as on Sunday, of dropping my typing, donning a kind of drugget robe marked 'A.R.P.' and passing the time of day with the other doughty boys of my post (one of whom is an Iraqui, the son of a Carpet Merchant, and another a Rumanian) on the steps of the Belvedere Hotel..."), fellow Faber authors ("...I have never read a word of Sassoon's books..."), custody of his first wife Vivien ("...the Official Solicitor...has said that he will arrange a special visit to V. by the Visitor, if I will pay a special fee; and I have also undertaken, if she agrees to go to Oxford or some other place out of London for a temporary change, I will be responsible for any extra expenses..."), his Poetry Chicago article on Ezra Pound in 1946 ("...obviously, in the circumstances, this had to take precedence of everything beyond the daily routine..."), lecture tours and acceptance speeches ("...this, as it has to be dignified but witty, polished but not too grave, and formally complimentary in an informal tone, is not so easy..."), religious observances ("...Ash Wednesday is one of the two days a year when my virtue is not in danger and when I try to live cleanly and forswear sack..."), his appearances in the public print ("...my hair is NOT glossy: I have to put water on it to keep it in place, that's all..."), his time as a bank clerk ("...I have had lunch with the joint General Managers of Lloyds Bank - nobody who has never been a Bank Clerk can conceive of what a great honour that is. But rather saddening: I had gone on thinking for the last 25 years of Joint General Managers as venerable and awe-inspiring; but there was nobody of that description except the butler, and a doorkeeper named George who said he remembered me..."), his godson Tom ("...What has he been up to?...If he has taken to writing VERSE I shall be most apprehensive about his future...") with whom he compares himself ("...He is, in any case, more effusive than his Gd. Fr. was at the same age. I remember, at the age of twelve, being given my first watch for Christmas..."), encounters with fellow poets ("...Betjeman who burst in ostensibly to deal with Shell Guides but really to present me with an Old Cholemian Tie which he had bought for me in Swindon..."), the perils of stardom and of strange typewriters ("...I have succeeded in declining a request to be filmed for a News REEL? AND To (this is not usual machine and I cant control it)..."), buying his godson a telescope ("...Apparently a telescope is like a gun, and you get yourself measured and have it built to


  • order. Mr. Negretti, or perhaps Mr. Zambra, seemed to look down on me for expecting to get a telescope ready made..."), his sojourns in Chicago ("...Everyone here is very serious...I don't like the food very much and am rather homesick..."), parties ("...I can't and won't dance with anybody..."), his marital status ("...Every time I have tried to compose the small advert. I have thought of Mr. Pickwick and Mrs. Bardell and am paralysed. - SINGLE GENTLEMAN desires board-lodging, two rooms and sanitary conveniences, in farmhouse or quiet village..."), his swimwear and other Prufrockian worries ("...I have bought myself a decent bathing costume, just in case I plunge into the Pool, but it looks rather like a ballet dancer's trunk hose..."), work on The Confidential Clerk ("...I have a nasty problem with the third act, which nobody has seen yet..."), etc.; together with numerous enclosures (see note below), two letters by Valerie ("...Epstein...early endeared himself to me by saying that if he was doing Tom's bust to-day, it would be quite different, because marriage had made his face 'more interesting'...I thought the Stravinsky party was a particularly happy one. Tom has been invited to write an opera with him but is not keen..."), and envelopes, approximately 140 pages, 4to and 8vo, a few on postcards, Faber and Faber, 24 Russell Square, and elsewhere, one (to both Geoffrey and Enid) of 1959 and one of 1963, the bulk 1934-1955

    "I am going through an infernal passage which, like all infernos, is incommunicable": T.S. Eliot to Mrs Geoffrey Faber: a fine and extensive series. At turns facetious, affectionate, practical, and revealing, the letters nearly all date from the period between his separation from his first wife in September 1932 and his second marriage in January 1957. The closeness of Eliot's attachment to Enid and the Faber family, with whom he went on holiday practically every year between 1933 and 1957 (a subject touched on in many letters), is revealed by a remarkable letter written to her on 24 January 1947, the day after Eliot had been telephoned with the news of the death of his estranged and institutionalized first wife Vivien. Although he had received the news of Vivien's death at the bachelor flat he shared with John Hayward, it was with the Fabers that he sought refuge in his distress that evening. He tells Enid: "You will not know how helpful it was to me to dine with you last night. I am going through an infernal passage which, like all infernos, is incommunicable, though perhaps some of it may be explainable at a later time, and any support from the few friends upon whom one can lean is a great help". In the same letter he tells her that "the funeral cannot take place until some day next week, probably Wednesday or Thursday. Vivien left instructions that her coffin should not be sealed up for four days; and directed that she should be buried in the cemetery near Eastbourne where her father's body lies. Maurice [Vivien's brother] rang up after you had gone to tell me (he has been very good in taking everything on himself: of course he is the person legally responsible, but he has been very good in taking for granted that I should not have to do anything". He further explains that Vivien had nominated Geoffrey as one of her executors without seeking his prior permission and suggests he withdraw ("...The only necessary executors are Maurice and the District Bank, and I shall retire..."). It is clear, from a letter written six days later, that Enid was, indeed, one of the few who made it to the funeral ("...Your coming made it easier for me, and also I feel sure for the others...").

    On a lighter note, Eliot also used Enid and her family as a sounding board for his Old Possum cat poems (see also the series to his godson Tom below), the series being accompanied by typescripts or carbons of 'The Song of the Jellicles', 'Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer', 'Old Deuteronomy', 'Macavity: the Mystery Cat', 'Gus: the Theatre Cat', 'Bustopher Jones: the Cat About Town', and 'Skimbleshanks: the Railway Cat'. All but one of these were to be further revised before publication. Other enclosures with these letters include an elaborate "Provisional Order of Proceedings for Mr. & Mrs. Faber's 20th Anniversary" (featuring a procession with in "Barouche 8: Mr. Auden with a banjo, Mr. Spender with a concertina, Mr. Sassoon with a bassoon, Mr. Eliot with a cornet (all with comic noses)..."), with a follow-up letter signed in the persona of Mr. Eliot's Principal Private Secretary "Isolde Bleibtreu" ("...Mr. Eliot...is already in correspondence with Gen. Goering, one of the recognised authorities in such matters; and he expects to be able to submit a revised and improved programme after the pantomime season..."). Also enclosed are "The Autolycan Intelligencer" (a squib about the American publication of The Family Reunion), a quiz on Pickwick set "from memory, and without having consulted the text for many months", an absurdly elaborate recipe for preparing salads ("...My directions for making a salad, which I have never released to anyone before..."), and a spirited self-portrait à la Period Piece, drawn in ink over pencil, showing an infant Eliot perched on a high stool typing ("...Portrait of the Author in 1891. His compositions at this Period are known as 'Juvenilia' and are not included in his published works...").

    More 'serious' literary endeavour is represented by his protracted labour on The Family Reunion in the late thirties. He discusses with Enid both practical matters ("...The next thing I expect you will do is point out that somebody has made two dramatic entrances without having had the opportunity to leave the room. Will MAN'S HIDDEN POWERS be a boon to the distracted amateur dramatist? I doubt it. Meanwhile please continue your search for cavities...") and his overall aims ("...I hasten to cheer you up: yes, there is a gleam of hope for Harry, as for Orestes, OEdipus, and all other men who got into hereditary Greek jams. That shall be shewn in the sequel, if there is ever a sequel. No pistol-shots in this play. Harry may come back to Wishwood in forty years' time...Your suggestion that the Eumenides should do a strip tease act is novel, and I believe has box office possibilities. But there is one difficulty. It they don't wear any clothes, how do we distinguish between their evening dress and their travelling costume? That is important..."); while thanking her for her praise ("...People will say all sorts of nice things, but are often shy of saying straight out that they LIKE what one has written...The tragedy, as with my Master, Tchehov, is as much for the people who have to go on living, as for those who die...But there is hope for Harry - the hope of learning to want something different, rather than of getting anything he wanted..."). On 23 March 1939, we find him thanking her for having accompanied him to the play's first night ("...if the weather is not too foul I shall creep out tomorrow and face the notices...").
Letters TSElliott to E Faber 2 volumes
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