April is the cruelest month…”
Poet, publisher and bank clerk Thomas Stearns Eliot, 34, is proud of this first issue of the magazine he has started, The Criterion. His wife, Vivien, also 34, suggested the title. She just likes the sound of it.
Table of Contents, The Criterion, Vol. I, No. 1
The production value is good—small format, quality paper, clean typefaces. The content rises to the standard Eliot set for himself: Longer pieces by top writers from different countries, paid at the rate of £10 for 5,000 words. And no illustrations. He didn’t want to junk each issue up the way The Dial magazine in the States does, with reproductions of Chagalls and Brancusis spread throughout.
I will show you fear in a handful of dust…”
Eliot’s one disappointment is that he didn’t get any work from French writer Marcel Proust, 51, for this first issue, despite interventions by their mutual friend, English novelist Sydney Schiff, 54. However, he is hopeful Proust will submit something in time for Issue No. 2.
Schiff is the first one to congratulate Eliot, who receives his letter while he is looking over the first six copies that have been delivered to him at home.
Praising Eliot’s accomplishment in producing The Criterion, Schiff also congratulates him on the crown jewel of this issue, Eliot’s own epic poem, “The Waste Land,” which he has been working on concurrently for the past year or more.
In producing the magazine, Eliot has had the support of Lady Rothermere, 48, who has financed the whole operation with her access to the fortune of her husband, owner of The Daily Mirror and The Daily Mail. She has even offered Tom an annual £600 stipend and salary for the next three years, but Eliot is concerned that his bosses at Lloyds Bank won’t like the idea of him being on someone else’s payroll too.
Promotion for The Criterion
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many…”
In writing the poem, Eliot has had the support of many of his literary friends, but none more so than fellow American ex-pat, Ezra Pound, about to turn 37. They met up in Paris early this year and again in Verona at the beginning of summer to “put it through the sieve” as Eliot describes their editing process. The cuts Ezra made were invaluable and Eliot enjoyed collaborating; both agree that the final result is Eliot’s best work. Which is why the poem is dedicated to Ezra.
Those are pearls that were his eyes…”
Now that “The Waste Land” and The Criterion have both been loosed upon the United Kingdom, the next step is for the poem to be published in the United States, in the November issue of The Dial, on the newsstands in a few days.
After this last year of writing, editing, publishing, negotiating, and taking care of his sick wife—while holding down a full-time job—Eliot is eagerly awaiting the world’s reactions to his efforts.
HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night…”
Pound, in his continuing efforts to get Eliot enough income so that he can afford to leave his bank job, has also been invaluable in getting The Dial publisher, Scofield Thayer, 32, to agree to publish “The Waste Land” at all.
At first Thayer offered Eliot $150, based on the magazine’s usual payment for poetry, with a little extra thrown in. Eliot wasn’t happy with this and prevailed upon another American who had helped with these things before—New York lawyer and patron of the arts, John Quinn, 52, who had negotiated the deal for the American publication of Eliot’s collection, Poems, a few years before.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept…”
This time Quinn got Thayer of The Dial to agree with Horace Liveright, 37, of Boni and Liveright that “The Waste Land,” in America, would appear in the November issue of The Dial and then be published the following month in book form by Boni and Liveright, with an extended series of notes which Eliot has added.
Thayer doesn’t like the poem. Or Eliot, for that matter. But his managing editor, Gilbert Seldes, 29, is impressed with “The Waste Land” and, against Thayer’s wishes, has made it the main item in the November issue. Seldes is short on copy for the fall issues, so 450 lines of new Eliot is a godsend.
The Dial, November
To make sure “The Waste Land” publication has maximum impact, Seldes has enlisted the services of one of the top publicists in the city Bea Kaufman, 27, wife of playwright George S Kaufman, 32. Seldes enticed her with an invitation for a free meal:
I want to talk about publicity for T. S. Eliot with you very shortly, and I think that these lofty business matters are always settled at lunch, paid for by the office. Let us go to Child’s some morning or afternoon.”
Bea Kaufman’s passport photo
In addition to arranging for reviews to appear in the New York Tribune and the New Republic, and writing one himself for The Nation, Seldes also sent an early copy of “The Waste Land” to Vanity Fair managing editor Edmund Wilson, 27, asking him to write a review for the December issue of The Dial. Wilson read the poem over and over, sitting on the top deck of a Fifth Avenue bus. He feels Eliot’s words speak to him as a frustrated writer, living in a crappy apartment that smells like damp cats.
As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire…”
No other American magazine or book publisher has been actively involved in bidding for “The Waste Land,” but a strong last-minute effort from Quinn was what got Thayer and Liveright to agree to the schedule. Eliot is receiving only $150 from The Dial, but they have also agreed to award him their $2,000 Dial prize this year. (Shhhh—that won’t be announced until the December issue.)
As a reward for his pro bono work. Eliot is sending Quinn the original manuscript of “The Waste Land” to add to his collection of authors’ manuscripts.
On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing…”
Thayer still isn’t happy about the poem itself, or its first place position in his magazine. He’d still rather be publishing something from an established novelist like Edith Wharton, 60.
All there is to do now is wait to see what the reviewers and the reading public think.
Shantih shantih shantih.”
T. S. Eliot at work
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.