T.S. Elliot and Emily Hale
January 4, 2020 7:38 AM   Subscribe

 
That final link captures it nicely. Sigh.
posted by frumiousb at 7:46 AM on January 4 [19 favorites]


I hit follow so fast.on every social media button in the last link.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:57 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Wow. T.S. Eliot was really a dick.
posted by 41swans at 7:57 AM on January 4 [17 favorites]


I might mention at this point that I never at any time had any sexual relations with Emily Hale.

Or, while we are on the subject, with her ottoman.
posted by pracowity at 8:04 AM on January 4 [15 favorites]


If I wasn't aware Eliot was a pompous, narcissistic asshole after having to read The Waste Land, well, this would confirm it.
posted by jzb at 8:05 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


That post via the final link is amazing and maybe all that needs to be said.
posted by nubs at 8:05 AM on January 4 [8 favorites]


I will show you but actually in a handful of dust.
posted by thivaia at 8:06 AM on January 4 [40 favorites]


T.S. Elliot quotes from the last link: She may have loved me according to her capacity for love; yet I think that her uncle’s opinions (her uncle by marriage, a dear old man, but wooly-minded) meant more to her than mine.

I could never make her understand that it was improper for her, a Unitarian, to communicate in an Anglican church: the fact that it shocked me that she should do so made no impression upon her. I cannot help thinking that if she had truly loved me she would have respected my feelings if not my theology. She adopted a similar attitude with regard to the Christian and Catholic view of divorce.


Yikes, up until then he sounded like maybe an average olden-times asshole, but to hold on to shit this petty in a letter that is meant to establish some sort of legacy is mind-blowing.
posted by skewed at 8:10 AM on January 4 [15 favorites]


"...but to hold on to shit this petty"

What I find mind-blowing is people (and he seems to be one) where *this* is their reality. Or even stranger. I find sf less and less appealing with all of the aliens already here to investigate. It's just startling to discover you've been living with them all the time.
posted by aleph at 8:30 AM on January 4 [8 favorites]


Sigh.

I thought I was the only person in the world who never was the man he used to be.

God help us all. Indeed.
posted by mule98J at 8:42 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


That, the Eliot 'statement,' is maybe the saddest thing I've ever read. Poor bastard.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:45 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

There's an Eliot quote for everything.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:49 AM on January 4 [41 favorites]


Quote from the final link, emphasis in the original:

He thought issuing this statement would be less embarrassing than just letting us read the letters and draw our own conclusions.

Thank you, sir, for serving as a warning to us all. There but for grace, &c &c.
posted by eirias at 8:52 AM on January 4 [18 favorites]


In the room the women come and go
Talking of Eliot the asshole.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:57 AM on January 4 [44 favorites]


Gin Jenny has the measure of Ezra Pound, too.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:06 AM on January 4 [23 favorites]


Oh my.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:08 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


"...but to hold on to shit this petty"

The poet messed up toilets (1, 1, 5)
posted by Segundus at 9:08 AM on January 4 [9 favorites]


It's the time capsule Streisand effect.

The "having a colleague destroy all of her letters" bit is not sketchy at all. Even slightly. Not a bit sketchy, no. Naturally, being a “Great Man of Littrachah” (= insufferable cockmonster), Eliot never expected anyone to believe her.
posted by scruss at 9:13 AM on January 4 [8 favorites]


nthing that the last link is amazing. I don't really know much about Eliot in particular but am not surprised since this seems to just be how midcentury male writers related to women (ugh), but I love a good takedown.
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:22 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


In re: the last link, when I got to 'Apparent Novelist Henry James' my reaction scared the cat, let's just say.

Also UGH FINALLY I understand what was going around Twitter the other day. And I had sort of a hazy understanding that Eliot was a complete arsehole (I feel like I've read the writings of a woman who had to deal with him at some point, like in a professional capacity), but wow. WOW. I'm able to do the separate-the-work-from-the-maker thing with him and enjoy at least some of his poetry, but oh gosh watching this go down has just been delicious.
posted by kalimac at 9:22 AM on January 4 [9 favorites]


How awful and funny and sad and relatable. That Gin Jenny writer is hilarious and insightful, I'm glad I discovered her this way. I now want to read more of her writing. Everybody is a jerk, and gets wounded by love. I still like some of Eliot's (and, heaven help me, Pound's) poetry while recognizing how flawed they were. I hope in a similar situation I would be wise enough to keep my stupid mouth shut.
posted by seasparrow at 9:33 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


And to think I used to like his poetry, especially "Ash Wednesday" and Prufrock. But what a flaming, sparking asshole; I could never look at his work the same way again.
posted by mermayd at 9:33 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Let's not forget that this is the man who is indirectly responsible for Cats.
posted by schmod at 9:52 AM on January 4 [65 favorites]


Also now I recall that the musical "Cats" is based on Eliot's poetry, which makes me wonder if this is all just a super-elaborate marketing campaign for the movie currently in theaters.
posted by seasparrow at 9:53 AM on January 4 [6 favorites]


For Ezra Pound
il miglior dudebro
posted by thelonius at 9:54 AM on January 4 [16 favorites]


First Cats, then this. The litterbox of time is truly a wasteland.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:00 AM on January 4 [11 favorites]


Don't tell me what the poets are doing
Don't tell me that they're talking tough
Don't tell me that they're anti-social
Somehow not anti-social enough, alright
posted by The World Famous at 10:07 AM on January 4 [10 favorites]


I think that people taking religion seriously is important, and I can actually understand the constertation at taking the host when you are barely, if it at all a theist--I mean Eliot was an asshole, but on this matter very much within his time and place.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:13 AM on January 4 [9 favorites]


As was mentioned in, I think, the J.K. Rowling thread, lousy people making good art is pretty much a staple of the human condition.
posted by dannyboybell at 10:14 AM on January 4 [8 favorites]


As a friend said, "oh, I guess Bill Clinton was just quoting T.S. Eliot with his Lewinsky denial."
posted by PhineasGage at 10:24 AM on January 4 [5 favorites]


I have a collection of poems from various poets, anthologized back in the sixties. I remember the introduction to E. E. Cummings. It said he was one of the few poets who didn't lose his humanity over the course of the world wars.
I remembered thinking, "Most poets lost their humanity over the course of the world wars?" I immediately thought of Ezra Pound. Maybe I need to include Eliot among those who became cynical vindictive and hateful.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:48 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


A lot of poets manufactured their angst via muses which is ultimately narcissistic and toxic. For example Mayakovsky could get love, he just chose to manufacture rejection because pain drove his art. Knowing this the whole letter phenomenon takes on an awesome light. But also imagine being the source of someone’s imaginary pain? Robbing you of agency and identity that you can’t control. Kinda makes these writers massive assholes.
posted by Young Kullervo at 10:52 AM on January 4 [7 favorites]


> (It is, alas, preserved at Harvard.)
posted by ardgedee at 10:55 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


This is, I imagine, a historically-accurate rendering of Emily Hale and T.S. Eliot in GIF form.
posted by mykescipark at 11:04 AM on January 4 [8 favorites]


That GIF needs more Hyacinth.
posted by clavdivs at 11:37 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


The last link is years of therapy for me. No, decades. A+++++
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:05 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


I'm going to need a novel and/or TV series where Emily Hale is the protagonist and T.S. & friends are mere bumps on the road of her deeply meaningful and fulfilling life. Wikipedia is not helping.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 12:08 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Now Joe Rogan is wondering how he can get the ghost of T.S. Eliot on his show.
posted by Lyme Drop at 12:11 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


That Emily Hale sent his letters to Harvard was an act of brutal and even calculated betrayal. They will destroy his legacy. T.S.Eliot will be a figure of pity hereafter. So it makes sense that Eliot fought desperately to save his reputation. What Emily Hale did to him uncovers a deep and yet petty cruelty.

But before you despise her for this, know that she turned aside before committing the ultimate betrayal, the one that would have struck him a mortal blow and left him in his lifetime filled with unbearable shame. She might have just snorted and relegated his letters to the kindling box in the kitchen. I wish she had.
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:29 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


"To her, the marriage brought no happiness"
posted by ckape at 12:32 PM on January 4


I think that people taking religion seriously is important, and I can actually understand the constertation at taking the host when you are barely, if it at all a theist--I mean Eliot was an asshole, but on this matter very much within his time and place.

Yes a guy actively cheating on his wife is definitely positioned to lecture others on proper rules around taking Communion.
posted by emjaybee at 12:41 PM on January 4 [28 favorites]


The British literary biographer Lyndall Gordon has observed about their relationship, “Emily Hale was exempt from low desire. Though not ethereal herself, and not in the least silent as a teacher of speech and drama, she became his model for silent, ethereal women in Eliot’s poetry.”
I can’t tell if that’s meant to be a deniable tell that Eliot wasn’t writing what he wanted to think he was writing.
posted by clew at 12:49 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


That Emily Hale sent his letters to Harvard was an act of brutal and even calculated betrayal. They will destroy his legacy.

It seems to me that his rebuttal is doing more damage to his legacy than the letters. The letters are love letters to a woman he was widely suspected of being in love with, implying disloyalty to a marriage that was clearly and by his own admission miserable for all parties involved. I don't know what else is in them, but I don't see anything negative about the contents of the letter anywhere--only about his "defense."
posted by gideonfrog at 12:51 PM on January 4 [25 favorites]


TS Eliot was a racist fascist anti Semitic hack. His own words condemn him. He was already a figure of pity.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:59 PM on January 4 [17 favorites]


And yet and yet my parents courted each other by reciting the Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock so people contain multitudes.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:01 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


I had already observed that she was not a lover of poetry, certainly that she was not much interested in my poetry; I had already been worried by what seemed to me evidence of insensitiveness and bad taste.

She was saved from a life of hell.
posted by Mrs Potato at 1:07 PM on January 4 [22 favorites]


Not knowing anything about Eliot, it's an interesting feeling that I apparently took the absolutely wrong read of the landscape of all this!
posted by rhizome at 1:12 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


This makes total sense! I recall reading a memoir of a famous visitor to T.S. Eliot’s house, where one of the (unironic) decorations was a pillow embroidered with a quote from his poems, sent by one of his female fans. I cannot for the life of me remember who wrote about this gem of a detail, but it was clear that they thought him a pompous ass, and the pillow clinched it.
posted by Atrahasis at 1:22 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


I feel horribly for Vivienne on top of all the rest of this nonsense. SHe deserved so much better than commitment to an institution.
posted by Alensin at 1:40 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


I feel compelled to note that Hale sent the letters to Princeton because of her friendship with a professor there (and after checking with Elliot to see if it mattered to him which institution got the letters); the poet sent his rebuttal to Harvard.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:43 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


Now I understand why they needed to rush Cats out the door before this dropped.
posted by phooky at 1:44 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


So here’s my take on asshole artists: Many many many people in the world are assholes. Few of them produce anything of lasting beauty or value. The surprising thing to me is not that individuals are assholes. Particularly not individuals who have more privilege than many others. No, the surprising thing to me is that some assholes produce things that are wonderful.

I understand and appreciate that not everyone is willing or able to appreciate something created by someone who is an asshole or something much worse. But that’s not really the point. The point is that Hale dodged a bullet. Can you imagine Elliot’s rebuttal on the green as a whiny AskMF? I can.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:55 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


I'd assumed from the poetry that the author was largely a hair-parting Prufrock, and the poetry to be not only a comfort to the Prufrock in me in that it was produced despite his being such an asshole, but important as literature in that it's partly about how a Prufrockian temperament or condition or era can still recognize beauty. Or even produce it.

And honestly the rebuttal is a thing for the ages too, in a hilarrible way, I am imagining an anthology including quite a lot of Parsifal and also OH JOHN RINGO NO. And probably something from the current RWA debacle.
posted by clew at 2:08 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


I wrote:

That Emily Hale sent his letters to Harvard was an act of brutal and even calculated betrayal. They will destroy his legacy.

gideonfrog wrote:

It seems to me that his rebuttal is doing more damage to his legacy than the letters. The letters are love letters to a woman he was widely suspected of being in love with, implying disloyalty to a marriage that was clearly and by his own admission miserable for all parties involved. I don't know what else is in them, but I don't see anything negative about the contents of the letter anywhere--only about his "defense."

Sorry, for not being clear. I was being snarky.
posted by Jane the Brown at 2:25 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


50 Shades of Wasteland.

Now January is the cruelest month, breeding
WhoCares out of the dead, mixing
Memory and big damn deal, stirring
Dull facts with winter ennui.
posted by Twang at 2:43 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


Being a muse is a thankless job, and the pay is lousy
— Janet Morrison Minto
(Janet was married to Van Morrison during the Astral Weeks years, and is quoted in Walsh, Ryan H. Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968. Penguin, 2018. p.21)
posted by scruss at 2:47 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


CODPIECE FULL OF STRAW.
posted by clavdivs at 3:58 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Before this my only internal mental concept of T. S. Elliot is "one of those poet guys". Could not have even recalled his era, if I ever knew it. This is mostly because while I love reading, I've never ever been able to grok prose - I have to reread even the clearest nonprosey lines seven times just for it to stick in my brain. This is really annoying, but at least has saved me from reading (and writing) a lot of bad poetry.

Anyway, after that letter my internal mental concept of T. S. Elliot is now: "one of those poet guys; also, not only a double spacer, but a TRIPLE spacer".
posted by Evilspork at 4:26 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


No, the surprising thing to me is that some assholes produce things that are wonderful.

I'm not going to put words on a cake over this, but I would venture that well-adjusted artists with a significant contribution to the creative arts are a tiny fraction of the number that have a positive, lasting effect despite their personal behavior and beliefs. That is, in the spirit of "don't meet your heroes," I'm surprised when artists I like aren't damaged in some way, and I don't think that assuming that quality is just a projection of my taste in the works of damaged people.
posted by rhizome at 4:52 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


Well, they're not as bad as the letters James Joyce wrote to Nora Barnacle.

For certain values of "as bad".
posted by SansPoint at 4:54 PM on January 4


As B. Kliban said,"T.S., Elliot."
posted by whuppy at 5:24 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I am so excited for when these will be able to be read to see the extent of TS Eliot's ridiculousness.

"She may have put commentary on the letters that I might not agree with! The horror! The horrrrror!"
posted by corb at 5:47 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


omg reading some of these quotes from Emily about her life he is SO INSUFFERABLE. The article is very generous about "we may never know why TS Eliot married Valerie instead" but I think, reading between the lines in Eliot's "Rebuttal", it's because he suspected that it would make obvious he was marrying Valerie for shitty reasons, like that he'd rather be adored and worshipped by someone 40 years younger than him than have a marriage of equals with someone who would call hin on his shit. And also boy howdy does the existence of these letters make the circumstances of his BASICALLY SECRET MARRIAGE TO VALERIE where he told no one until after it was done, even more obnoxious. Wow I'm really getting a hate on for Eliot right now.
posted by corb at 6:02 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


Meh, he wanted to be the type of person who was so famous that a prestigious archive snapped up every tissue he ever sneezed into. He just didn't want anyone to provide commentary to it that he didn't first approve of. It would be great if one could have it both ways, wouldn't it? Except for the future generations who are trying to learn from history.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:43 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Quit reading the letters of a dead person who very clearly did not want you to read them, and wipe away your ghoulish "tears of joy" over his posthumous humiliation.

This is a fair criticism, and it raises some serious questions about how much we should know about historical figures. Even if they dug the pit trap themselves.

On the other hand, gender swapping is not a great internet debating technique — we wouldn’t have this experience with a female Modernist poet, because the literary world never gave a single fuck about any female Modernist poet.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:43 PM on January 4 [10 favorites]




The letters became Emily Hale's property when she received them. Why shouldn't she be allowed to share her side of things?
posted by TwoStride at 6:46 PM on January 4 [13 favorites]


the literary world never gave a single fuck about any female Modernist poet.

H.D.?
posted by thelonius at 7:11 PM on January 4 [13 favorites]


maybe he really should've been a pair of ragged claws
scuttling across the floors of silent seas
posted by rather be jorting at 7:18 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


[Deleted a couple that were derailing into imaginary female modernist poets.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:37 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


the literary world never gave a single fuck about any female Modernist poet.

H.D.?
posted by thelonius at 10:11 PM on January 4
[2 favorites −] Favorite added

Flagged as fantastic. Thank-you. HD was the best. She even got ole EZ during the war with this line.


if you do not even understand what words say, how can you expect to pass judgement
on what words conceal?

-H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), 'The Walls Do Not Fall'
posted by clavdivs at 7:58 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


Although TS Eliot is certainly considered a dick now, at the time this was not likely the case. Ezra Pound was also a dick and a fascist, but so was Knut Hamsun (Growth of the Soil, Hunger), who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. These were the times, which were in opposition to socialist dictators. Is there any room to love the work of the person even if now they are considered a dick?
posted by waving at 8:01 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I sort of get the impression that TS Eliot didn't marry Emily Hale because Emily Hale just wasn't that into him.

Also his list of grievances is the most English Waspy thing I've ever read, lol. It sounds like something Hugh Grant could've said in Bridget Jones Diary.
posted by fshgrl at 8:13 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Way to misread,waving. This thread is full of allusions from Eliot’s works, despite his terrible behavior.

I think the LRB had an essay on how awful he was to work with - pleading for special treatment and then complaining about it, and popping in and out of offices like a French farce* to avoid talking to people he had shortchanged. And still:
Now he is scattered among a hundred cities,
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections;
To find his happiness in another kind of wood,
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience:
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

[...]

Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,
Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives,
Pardons cowardice, conceit,
Lays its honors at their feet.

(Auden on Yeats.)
posted by clew at 8:15 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


When Pound and Yeats Ate a Peacock

"These poets were all male, all photogenic, and all given to conspicuous behavior—as when, one evening, Pound ate the centerpiece (tulips, though some have said they were roses) at a pub called the Cheshire Cheese as Yeats expounded upon the fundamentals of verse. We are not far from the first silent film stars, whose own evenings were often choreographed for public consumption. The maneuverings of poets and literary people, jostling for fame behind the keyhole of glimpsed conviviality, is as old as Rome, older even; but Pound had a special gift for P.R."

Mussolini thought so but he was no Lord Haw-Haw.
posted by clavdivs at 8:41 PM on January 4


“I think that people taking religion seriously is important, and I can actually understand the constertation at taking the host when you are barely, if it at all a theist--I mean Eliot was an asshole, but on this matter very much within his time and place.”

Being a Unitarian (especially in the early 20th century) isn’t on its own indicative of being barely or not-at-all theist. I think maybe you’re thinking of the reputation of Unitarian-Universalists, but they can be Christian theists too.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:41 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Not really misreading, Clew, but not taking the bait. I can like TS Eliot's work without liking him.
posted by waving at 8:47 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I sort of get the impression that TS Eliot didn't marry Emily Hale because Emily Hale just wasn't that into him.

If you look at her timeline above, she wasn't that into him, then he sent a relentless decades-long campaign of telling her he loved her and met up with her and charmed the fuck out of her and finally got her to be in love with him and want to marry him and then was like NOPE PSYCHE.

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
posted by corb at 9:13 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


can like TS Eliot's work without liking him.
posted by waving at 11:47 PM

I think that's the crux. I can despise the person, but absolutely love and criticize the work, even laugh which in an odd way, except Eliot, they would laugh. In his time, few if any could top pounds knowledge of poetry in the fast lane crowd, he was like Warhol and Patton, fixed up the wasteland, one of the first cut and paste jigsaw editorials of the modern age. They ALL hated something AND someone or some people.
Why Donald Hall and others went to see pound in his cell after the war, I don't know.

Why people went out of there way to visit Eliot, even if invited, baffles me.
posted by clavdivs at 9:31 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Elliot would have considered a Unitarian barely a theist, I think.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:25 PM on January 4


Is there any room to love the work of the person even if now they are considered a dick?

I often wonder if people understand what they are saying about themselves when they display this anxious investment in white male impunity.
posted by praemunire at 11:45 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


Definitely a bit of "my theology trumps yours" there though, isn't there? If Eliot's position is that a Unitarian doesn't count as really Christian, and so is ineligible to take communion, and her position is that she's a Christian and would like to take communion. It is not obvious then, that she is the one disrespecting his theology rather than the other way around.

That said it does appear that while the official policy of the Church of England allows non-members to receive communion, it requires that that person's home church "subscribe to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity".
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:46 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


Please never lose sight of the fact that TS Eliot is writing this entire statement for an audience of The Future.

So modernist!

So where does Mary Trevelyan fit into all this? For a guy who claims to be like shy and not great with women, he seems to have been stringing along a bunch of them.
posted by harriet vane at 2:18 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


These were the times, which were in opposition to socialist dictators.

Um, when Pound committed treason, the US and the UK were at war with a Fascist and Nazi dictator and allied with the Soviet Union....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:32 AM on January 5 [10 favorites]


fshgrl: "Also his list of grievances is the most English Waspy thing I've ever read, lol"

Straight out of St Louis!
posted by chavenet at 3:55 AM on January 5 [8 favorites]


As someone who went to considerable lengths to avoid being in that sort of environment, I find it extraordinary that anyone would want to cosplay an uptight, emotionally stunted middle-class Englishman.
Why volunteer to live in that twisted forest?
He tried way, way too hard anyway. It's supposed to look effortless Tom. That's the whole point!
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:50 AM on January 5 [6 favorites]


The airs he put on, despite (or perhaps due to the eternal inferiority complex of) being from St. Louis, remind me of F. Scott Fitzgerald's affectations (reacting to his St. Paul, Minnesota, upbringing), or perhaps the way Robert Pollard (of Dayton, Ohio) shot for sounding like The Who and landed somewhere in the stars, only to announce to all at a recent show how his wife wanted to be there but had told him to fuck off. They also remind me of the airs and self-mythologizing of more than one once-paramour from similar locales. So sensitive and precious about their image! Ah, toxic masculinities!
posted by limeonaire at 7:40 AM on January 5


I can actually understand the constertation at taking the host when you are barely, if it at all a theist--

This hot take appears to project some already wrong assumptions about the UU church back to a time when it didn't even exist*. Unitarianism was a thoroughly monotheistic movement, and Hale was the daughter of a minister.

*It is entirely fair to say there are non-theist/atheist UU members. It is entirely unfair to assume any given member susbcribes to that worldview.
posted by solotoro at 9:56 AM on January 5 [8 favorites]


Why volunteer to live in that twisted forest?

That's a T-shirt.

I feel this way about 80℅ of writers and poets in accordance to (M)acadamia and the publishing 'industry'.
Make a car 50x faster then an editor reading submissions.
posted by clavdivs at 10:25 AM on January 5


On the other hand, gender swapping is not a great internet debating technique — we wouldn’t have this experience with a female Modernist poet, because the literary world never gave a single fuck about any female Modernist poet.

Famous women don't get the benefit of 50 year waiting period...
posted by grandiloquiet at 10:33 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Time was that denying the Trinity would get you burned at the stake.
posted by thelonius at 10:34 AM on January 5


Just as it's always worth mentioning Pound's fascism when discussing Pound, I think it's always worth mentioning Eliot's Columbiad/Bolo poems when discussing Eliot. Somewhat to my surprise, it turns out that while they have been recently reprinted in the complete poems, they weren't available digitally online until now. I don't recommend reading it through -- a few of the more egregious stanzas are 1, 6, 28, 37, 45, and 48, and that's just for racism. Nor was this just juvenilia -- he continued to tinker with it and send scraps to literary buddies throughout his life, and even tried to publish it at various times.
posted by chortly at 11:18 AM on January 5 [5 favorites]


I often wonder if people understand what they are saying about themselves when they display this anxious investment in white male impunity.

Since you initiated this wonderment towards me personally, perhaps for clarification you could give an example of what people should understand about themselves? I wouldn't presume that someone has an anxious investment in white male impunity because they like the work of Knut Hamsun, TS Eliot, Peter Sellers (wife beater and cheater), Jose Saramago (blind people take great exception to their depiction in Blindness), Haruki Mirakami ( has had rape allegations, in his writing uses females as props: rapes his wife in a dream and repeatedly sexualizes his 13-year-old neighbor, another has sex with an girl who is unconscious but appears to enjoy it). You tag on that my comment demonstrates I am displaying anxious investment into white male impunity but I disagree. As a women who has been raped and has experienced several instances of men exposing themselves to me (jerking off in the university library while looking at me over the cubicle, driving by in a car on the highway with a guy thrusting his dick up in the air beating off while he's driving past me), and who has jewish grandparents and and is married to a jew, I can still separate art and literature from the person who created it. I can dislike what these men did vehemently, especially those who do it in our current culture, but I cannot decide not to like a book, movie, work of art, or music because the man or woman who created it may be or have been a total dick, especially during a time that had different standards of conduct. So throw the books in the trash if that is your desire but I am going to keep mine if they provide me with joy.
posted by waving at 12:38 PM on January 5 [16 favorites]



I can despise the person, but absolutely love and criticize the work


I have lots of feelings about TS Eliot the person. None of then particularly positive. TS Eliot the poet? The first poet I ever truly loved (though i really dodged a bullet by not getting a “Preludes” tattoo back in the day). And to date, I quote him more than maybe any other early 20th c. poet, with the possible exception of Yeats.

So, yeah.

Well, they're not as bad as the letters James Joyce wrote to Nora Barnacle.

I always had the sense that she was kinda of into it, which does little to ameliorate the eye-popping squick factor, but at least I feel like she wasn’t completely traumatized by JJ’s scatological wooing.
posted by thivaia at 3:33 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


Yeah. Asolutely befuddled at Pounds insistence (SUMMONED) to a meeting, Joyce took Hemingway with him. I mean, was that for moral support or back-up.

That's from memory, heading my bookshelf...I like my new Neruda.right.
1934, Pound frothing over social kredit goes to Paris, dinner with Joyce, who thought EP was ,"mad" took Hemingway. Joyce noted to Harriet Weaver that both W. Lewis and E. -Pound would no doubt be admirers of Hitler.
Year later Mussolini goes into Ethiopia which cemented his ass in to fantasy fascism. His article writing (propaganda) was extremely active 35-36. Picked his side, was given a pass for treason and poetically Doxxed his jailors...'I/ cannot make it cohere' no shit rabbit. Then and Then we get into the Bollingen Prize thing which got political and personal, the McCarthy like atmosphere, even Walt Disney being called to testify before HUAC...

'Disney against the Metaphysicals'

-Ezra Pound.

Mad world.
posted by clavdivs at 4:45 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


Haruki Mirakami ( has had rape allegations

I hadn't heard about any allegations against Murakami, and Google can't seem to find anything (although I only searched in English). Do you have any more information about these allegations?
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:19 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


I noped out of making Eliot a primary focus for my dissertation after digging sufficiently far into his life and work that everything more I learned just seemed more stunted and pretentious and sad (I already had an article on his influence on Robert Penn Warren). Glad I jettisoned him when I did. Definitely helped my mood.
posted by LucretiusJones at 8:04 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


a few of the more egregious stanzas are 1, 6, 28, 37, 45, and 48

what the fuck
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:20 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


By which I mean these make stuff like white man's burden sound nuanced. I had no idea...
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:22 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


The International T.S. Eliot Society is going through the letters and giving an ongoing folder-by-folder summary, for those interested.

He sounds... exhausting, although perhaps that's partly the result of reading condensed summaries of weeks or months of correspondence in one sitting. One can only imagine what he would have been like with access to social media and WhatsApp.

I often wonder if people understand what they are saying about themselves

Your comment suggests that the answer is 'no'.
posted by inire at 5:55 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


I fell in love with Eliot's body of work, not his body.
posted by Oyéah at 9:34 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Poem About Eliot From Metafilter Comments

Talk about self-mythologizing,
she was not much interested in my poetry
I wouldn't presume that someone
Driving by in a car on the highway
Thrusting his dick up in the air
Absolutely befuddled at Pounds insistence,
The first poet I ever truly loved,
Nor was this just juvenilia,
The benefit of 50 year waiting period...
The literary world never gave a single fuck,
I think that's the crux.
She may have loved me according to her capacity,
To ameliorate the eye-popping squick factor,
If she had truly loved me,
She would have respected my feelings
If not my theology.
Exempt from low desire
Though not ethereal herself,
And not in the least silent,
Your comment suggests that the answer is 'no'.
The maneuverings of poets and literary people,
Behind the keyhole of glimpsed conviviality,
God help us all. Indeed.
Despite his terrible behavior,
Is there any room to love the work?
How can you expect to pass judgement?
I quote him more than maybe any other.
Shy and not great with women,
He seems to have been stringing
In white male impunity.
Now January is the cruelest month,
Of being barely or not-at-all theist.
Why volunteer to live in that twisted forest?
We are not far from the first silent stars,
SHe deserved so much better than commitment to an institution,
TS Eliot's house,
And CODPIECE FULL OF STRAW.
Alas!
posted by Oyéah at 10:32 AM on January 6 [15 favorites]


> a few of the more egregious stanzas are 1, 6, 28, 37, 45, and 48, and that's just for racism.

I read the first few stanzas and declined to proceed further, lest I end up discovering even more creative ways of seeing fellow POC insulted and demeaned, lmao. I've never considered myself a fan of Eliot's work, but I liked Prufrock as much as the next naive English major when I was a teen, and I still like the arrangement of words in that particular poem, but certainly am no longer inclined to read much else by him at this point (though his attempt at self-exculpatory defense was hilariously awful in its snide misogyny and overblown demonstrations of self-aggrandizement).

It'd be nigh impossible for any POC to enjoy much of the Western canon if we had to suddenly force ourselves to dislike something we've previously liked because of the author's behavior outside of that specific text - but, given the more overt ways Eliot has expressed his misogyny and racism in his other works, I wouldn't consider it much of a loss (if any) to reduce my general esteem of his work and authorship after the Hale letters and Columbiad poems and all this, lol. Who would've thought the author of Skimbleshanks could get this specifically nasty?

Related thread of thought (that I have yet to fully needle, but will try to poke at a bit): it's actually great for people to be critical of the works they enjoy, and this should be distinguished from the overly simplistic notion that people who do like works by nevertheless problematic authors are doing so in ignorance of the author's issues or the issues others have with said author. Interrogating simple binaries of thought processes such as "you can either interact with a text This Way or That Way" was one of my favorite aspects of majoring in English - there's always another way to consider something, especially if you are not, for example, a member of the historical majority known for overanalyzing a piece of literature.

Sidenote, it's almost pathetically hilarious how one of Eliot's defenders tried to dismiss the Columbiad poems as a mere "few bawdy poems" in this 1996 NYT piece. Raine's wildly out-of-the-blue contrast with Tarantino's films is hilariously incongruous. Just because some more extreme work in popular entertainment (in a totally different medium and time period) is also offensive doesn't actually negate nor diminish the racist content of the original thing being compared to it? Bring up a more persuasive argumentative fallacy next time, bro!
posted by rather be jorting at 12:02 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]



Like Pyrogenesis above, I had no idea the doggerel Eliot wrote for private circulation (thank you chortly) was this revolting.

He stands revealed not just as a shit, but as a quite unusual, John Osborne-masterclass-level shit. As in, even by the standards of his own time?

I loved reading Eliot at university in the early 1980s and believe i was very well taught - about the poetry, not the man - by another poet (he was a visiting lecturer at that time & a brilliant tutor) Andrew Motion, who went on to become the UK's Poet Laureate.

At the Eng Lit department at that particular time there was also an intellectual fetish about actively discouraging us wretched undergraduates from dipping too freely into biographical studies of the writers in the canon. it was to prevent us - i assumed - from being lazy- i.e. by perhaps jumping on big fat clues in the life to winkle out recurring themes/meanings in the work, instead of scrupulously reading every word or thinking about was is being left unsaid in the text and ONLY in the text...biographism was regarded, almost, as a form of cheating!

(i know my comment is choppy - no joking, I broke my upper humerus on xmas eve, left handed typing is a stupid torture )

But this brilliant post makes me wonder one thing in particular; does the persona revealed in the appalling personal statement to the public plus the racist and obscene private verse actually flatly contradict the persona of the poet?

To put even more simply - has anyone here ever supposed that Eliot was likely an adorable person based on his work alone?

(I've just scanned through - for the first time in years - many of the poems up through to the end of 4 Quartets and cannot find a single line brimming with human love! Also i never noticed before that almost every one of his cats is a male....
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:24 PM on January 6


The fact he was a banker says something.

Wallace Stevens and Hemingway got into a fist fight once, they covered it up. He wasn't much better but wrote amazing stuff.
posted by clavdivs at 2:22 PM on January 6


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