“Such Friends”:  100 years ago, early October, 1921, Albemarle Hotel, 47 Eastern Esplanade, Margate, Kent, England

This could work.

American ex-patriate poet, Tom Eliot, 33, and his wife, Vivien, also 33, are settling in for a three-week stay here in Cliftonville, a bit more than 60 miles northeast of London, during one of the hottest Octobers on record.

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Tom has found a Victorian shed, the Nayland Rock Shelter, near the shore on Margate sands, that he can commute to each day by tram from Cliftonville. This will give him the seclusion he needs to work on the epic poem he has been trying to write since he moved to England more than seven years ago.

This beats the commute he has been doing every workday in noisy London from their Clarence Gate Gardens apartment in Marylebone to Moorgate station in east London and his job at Lloyds Bank. He enjoys the commute; but not the job.

Clarence Gate Gardens

His job, a two-month visit from his American family, and his insistence on trying to write this poem are taking their toll. Last month, Vivien arranged for Tom to be examined by one of the most celebrated nerve specialists in the country. The doctor strongly recommended that Eliot take two to three months off from everything. And everybody. Including Vivien. But she insisted on coming here with him.

The reputation of the doctor was the deciding factor. Lloyds agreed on the first of this month to grant Tom a three-month leave of absence, with full pay, to begin as soon as he trained his replacement, which he did last week.

Vivien is happy to be quit of London, describing their last night there with friends as

What a last impression of London…the monotony, the drivel of the whole stupid round.”

Now that they are in Margate, Tom is already eating better. And looking forward to digging in to commute to his beach shed each day to work on his as yet untitled poem. Vivien is planning to write to Scofield Thayer, 31, the editor of the American literary magazine The Dial, explaining that Tom will not be able to submit any more of his “London Letter” book reviews to the magazine until January at least.

But what will happen after their three-week stay here?

Tom is planning to take a holiday in Paris and bring along the “hoard of fragments” as he refers to the pencil scrawlings that are now the poem, to work on there with his fellow American friend and mentor, Ezra Pound, 35.

In addition, Viv has received advice from a friend of theirs who also suffers from depression, socialite and hostess, Lady Ottoline Morrell, 48. She has told them that the sickness leaves her “utterly dead & empty & it is like being in a cold fog—or a pond.” Ottoline has recommended a doctor in Switzerland who treated her brother.

Vivien wants Tom to go there after a few days in Paris.


Down in London, after much debate, Parliament has voted to return to the longer pub hours in force before The Great War, pleasing the pub owners but not the moral guardians of society.

And to emphasize the importance of Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, November 11, Field Marshall Douglas Haig, 60, has proposed declaring it Poppy Day. Citizens throughout the country will make their patriotism visible to all by wearing bright red poppies in their lapels.

Poppy Day pin

N.B.: Poppy Day continues to this day.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Later this month I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London Before the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning 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 available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.