The centipede

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The centipede

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Schooling a generation of poets, haggling with writers over money, knocking back five gins over lunch—TS Eliot was at the centre of 1920s literary life, as the latest volume of his letters shows

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The Letters of TS Eliot: Volume 3: 1926-1927

Edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden (Faber £40)

In Faces in My Time (1980), the third of his four punctilious volumes of memoirs, the novelist Anthony Powell reflects on his first youthful encounter with TS Eliot. The venue was L’Etoile in Charlotte Street; the date 1927 or 1928. Eliot, wearing a dinner jacket and presumably on his way to a smart party, sat eating by himself. Powell, a year out of Oxford, remembered feeling “a sense of excitement at the sight of a figure whom the Sitwells, Bloomsbury, even Wyndham Lewis, treated with respect.” Somehow this fascination was enhanced by one of those present remarking that “they say Eliot is always drunk these days,” although Powell thought him “perfectly sober when, walking rather quickly, he made his way out into the street.”

Was Eliot always drunk in those

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Author

DJ Taylor is a critic, novelist and biographer. His most recent novel is “Secondhand Daylight” (Corsair) 


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