Tom Eliot, 33, part-time poet, full-time Lloyds bank clerk, has been putting off writing this letter to Scofield Thayer, 32, editor of the American literary magazine, The Dial.
Clarence Gate Gardens
Eliot didn’t want to write more excuses why he can’t submit his “London Letter” column again. So Tom wants to suggest that he will continue the column, but, rather than reviewing specific books, that he will write about life in England in general.
Eliot has been back in colder, more expensive London for just a few days, and he is missing Paris. He was supposed to return to his job at Lloyds this week. But he’s come down with [luckily!] a serious case of the influenza that’s spreading around the country. And with his wife Vivien, 33, still in France, Eliot is working hard on finishing up his still untitled epic and would like to get it published as soon as possible. This forced isolation is a godsend.
Last fall, he’d been granted a three-month leave of absence from his job at Lloyds. They agreed when, not only Viv, but also one of London’s leading nerve specialists said Tom was having a breakdown. Tom spent part of his leave receiving treatment in Switzerland—which helped a bit—and the past two weeks in Paris working hard on the poem, collaborating [which he really enjoyed] with fellow American ex-pat poet Ezra Pound, 36, to cut it to the bone. Now Tom feels much more confident that this is his best work.
In his letter to Thayer, he assures the editor that he will be able to send the finished poem along soon:
It has been three times through the sieve by Pound as well as myself so should be in final form.”
At 450 lines, in four sections, it can easily be spread across four issues of the magazine. Eliot also tells Thayer that the poem will not be published in England until he hears back from The Dial. Quickly, he hopes.
And, Eliot adds, he is curious as to “approximately what The Dial would offer.”
Eliot doesn’t mention that, at a particularly drunken dinner in Paris with Pound and Horace Liveright, 37, the American publisher expressed interest in having his firm, Boni and Liveright, bring out the poem in book form. If it is long enough.
Meanwhile, back in Paris, Pound has also been writing to Thayer, telling him to overlook Eliot’s annoying characteristics and constant excuses. Pound really wants The Dial to publish this major poem, and he is trying to find other ways to get Eliot some income so he can leave that godawful desk job at the bank.
“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 as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On February 3, 2022, we will be celebrating the 148th birthday of my fellow Pittsburgher Gertrude Stein, at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill. You can register for this free event, or sign up to watch it via Zoom, here.
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 in both print and e-book versions.
At the end of February I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses at the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.