ELIOT (T.S.) Autograph letter signed ("TSE" [monogram]), to Lytton Strachey ("Dear Lytton"), about his poetry; 'THE <I>TONE</I> -- AND NOBODY CAN HELP ONE IN THE LEAST WITH THAT': T.S. ELIOT'S LONG-LOST LETTER TO LYTTON STRACHEY ON WRITING POETRY, 18 Crawford Mansions, 1 June 1919

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Lot 177
ELIOT (T.S.)
Autograph letter signed ("TSE" [monogram]), to Lytton Strachey ("Dear Lytton"), about his poetry; 'THE TONE -- AND NOBODY CAN HELP ONE IN THE LEAST WITH THAT': T.S. ELIOT'S LONG-LOST LETTER TO LYTTON STRACHEY ON WRITING POETRY, 18 Crawford Mansions, 1 June 1919

Sold for £ 12,500 (US$ 15,790) inc. premium
The Remaining Papers of Giles Lytton Strachey
Sold by order of the Strachey Trust
ELIOT (T.S.)
Autograph letter signed ("TSE" [monogram]), to Lytton Strachey ("Dear Lytton"), about his poetry ("...Whether one writes a piece of work well or not seems to me a matter of crystallisation – the good sentence, the good word, is only the final stage in the process. One can groan enough over the choice of a word, but there is something much more important to groan over first. It seems to me just the same in poetry – the words come easily enough, in comparison to the core of it – the tone -- and nobody can help one in the least with that. Anything I have picked up about writing is due to having spent (as I once thought, wasted) a year absorbing the style of F.H. Bradley – the finest philosopher in English – 'App. & Reality' is the Education Sentimentale of abstract thought...") and his work as clerk in the Foreign Transactions Department of Lloyd's Bank ("...You are very – ingenuous – if you conceive me conversing with rural deans in the cathedral close. I do not go to cathedral towns but to centres of industry. My days are absorbed in questions more important than ever entered the heads of deans – as why it is cheaper to buy steel bars from America that [sic] from Middlesbrough, and the probable effect – the exchange difficulties with Poland – and the appreciation of the rupee. My evenings in Bridge. The effect is to make me regard London with disdain, and divide mankind into supermen, termites, and wireworms. I am sojourning among the termites. At any rate that coheres. I feel sufficiently specialised, at present, to inspect or hear any ideas with impunity..."), 5 pages, in fine fresh condition, 8vo, 18 Crawford Mansions, 1 June 1919

Footnotes

  • 'IN POETRY – THE WORDS COME EASILY ENOUGH, IN COMPARISON TO THE CORE OF IT – THE TONE - AND NOBODY CAN HELP ONE IN THE LEAST WITH THAT': T.S. ELIOT'S LONG-LOST LETTER TO LYTTON STRACHEY ON WRITING POETRY, as well as on the influence of F.H. Bradley, and his work in Lloyd's Bank. A passage from this remarkable letter, which we quote above, was published by Michael Holroyd in Lytton Strachey, II, the Years of Achievement 1910-1932 (1968), p. 364-5. This is reprinted in The Letters of T.S. Eliot, vol.i, edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton (2009), with the editors' note: 'The letter disappeared from James Strachey's files shortly before his death'. Although Holroyd quotes the heart of the letter, the opening is omitted, in which Eliot thanks Strachey for his letter and hopes that "this one will justify to you the risk you considered you were taking"; tells him that he struggled to write his review of Robert Lynd's book (Old Men and New Masters), before finding the cure in Eno's Fruit Salts; and says how glad he is he "liked Adams". (Eliot's review of The Education of Henry Adams, 'The Skeptical Patrician', had appeared in the Athenaeum on 23 May 1919: many have seen the work as having a direct influence on Eliot's poetry of the period; see James Burrill Angell, Martin Eden and the Education of Henry Adams: The Advent of Existentialism in American Literature, 2009, p. 60.)
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