At the peak of his powers, TS Eliot battled misery and melancholia. This second volume of his letters offers a fascinating guide to these harrowing yearsby Kevin Jackson / December 16, 2009 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
“Schmoozing the great”: TS Eliot with WB Yeats in 1925
The Letters of TS Eliot Volume Two: 1923-1925
Edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton (Faber and Faber, £35)
In October 1922—about three months before this second volume of TS Eliot’s letters picks up the threads of a life left dangling at the end of volume one—its 34-year-old protagonist had published the greatest poem of the 20th century, The Waste Land. What’s more, he had published it in the first issue of an exceptionally distinguished literary magazine, the Criterion, of which he was the editor. Already well established as a brilliant young critic, he had good reason to feel pleased with himself, perhaps even a little cocky. True, Eliot could not reasonably have foreseen that the 21st century would judge him Britain’s favourite poet, but he must at least have intuited that The Waste Land was an astonishing thing—a landmark in literature comparable to The Rite of Spring in music or Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in painting. The awed reviews that were soon popping up on both sides of the Atlantic more than drowned out the few sceptical voices who thought the whole thing was a bolshie hoax, or simply poppycock. Happy days, surely?