The Letters of T S Eliot, Volume 3: 1926–1927 by Valerie Eliot & John Haffenden (ed) - review by David Collard

David Collard

Possum Agonistes

The Letters of T S Eliot, Volume 3: 1926–1927

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Spoiler alert. On Good Friday 1927, T S Eliot wrote to his mother: ‘If there is one thing more depressing than reading other people’s old letters it is reading one’s own.’

Eliot had many other reasons to be downcast. At the close of the second volume, Eliot and his first wife, Vivien, were living apart, the latter subject to an elaborate repertoire of physical and mental maladies; she spends much of the period covered by the present volume in a French sanatorium. This collection opens with a quietly anguished letter from her to a Dr Hubert Higgins (not otherwise identified) about arrangements for her to be sent to Brighton with a ‘nurse-companion’: ‘I have not anything I can say to you. Please do not come to see me. If you do – I don’t know what will happen.’

The next (one of the few to her husband) is an odd blend of the flirtatious and the tormented: ‘Do you wish your wife to be the boon companion of your masseur. I shd like an answer … If I went to Brighton, your masseur wd come to stay the

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