“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, November 30, 1922, 9 Clarence Gate Gardens, Marylebone, London

At least he got an apology.

Poet Thomas Stearns Eliot, 34, was livid two weeks ago when he read the Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury’s “Books and Bookmen” column about his latest poem, “The Waste Land.”

Clarence Gate Gardens

Yes, his friends, at the instigation of another American ex-pat poet, Ezra Pound, 37, have formed a fund called Bel Esprit with the idea of supporting Eliot’s work financially. BUT. He has NOT left his job at Lloyds Bank. His friends did NOT get together in some sort of surprise meeting to tell him about the fund. And, God knows, he NEVER said to them,

Thank you all very much; I shall make good use of the money, but I like the bank!”

T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound

Pound’s efforts to establish Bel Esprit have made Eliot uncomfortable. Just yesterday, he wrote to Ezra in Paris, questioning whether this annual stipend would continue for his life, or for the life of his wife, Vivien, 34, too. His friends feel that Vivien, who has been quite ill, is a drain on Tom. But, as he has written to Pound,

She kept me from returning to America where I should have become a professor and probably never written another line of poetry.”

Some of the hogwash in the newspaper article comes from a piece that Pound published in New Age magazine this past March. That was embarrassing enough, with Ezra referring to Tom’s “complete physical breakdown.” Other specifics in the Liverpool Daily piece MUST have been leaked to the writer from one of Eliot’s English friends.

No matter the source, Tom has been consulting lawyers to see if he can sue the newspaper. He wrote a forceful letter to the editor denying all the lies and stating,

The circulation of untrue stories of this kind causes me profound astonishment and annoyance and may also do me considerable harm.”

Today the paper has published his letter, followed by a full apology, signed by the editor.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Early next year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, and about The Literary 1920s in Paris and New York City at the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

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