did someone muck with the backend here

Re: Guest Post - Hale and heartlesness

1

In the Poets-Are-Assholes sweepstakes, it's going to be hard to beat Ezra Pound. This doesn't come close even if we set aside the Naziness.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 8:23 AM
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2

Presumably the letters are going to talk about how in love with her he was, or the note wouldn't put so much effort into saying he wasn't. I'd mostly tend to believe his contemporaneous account of his feelings over his later statement when he'd moved on to a new partner, but I can't see how anyone could possibly settle it. He does seem to have been a giant twerp, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:21 AM
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3

I'm not sure if the problem is writing poetry or if it is just trying to be in touch with your feelings.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:22 AM
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4

LB would have made a wonderful judge. She peers over her spectacles down at the defendant and explains that the jury may find him guilty of twerpitude but not of turpitude.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:25 AM
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3 But if heebie's right we all have Schroedinger's emotional states, which all exist in superposition until some observer forces one to be real, for a moment.

This is an especially great theory because it explains emotional entanglement, and the way in which mood changes can travel faster than light between two equally charming people once they're coupled.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:29 AM
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6

I reject the tense of the first sentence in 4.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:31 AM
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7

Without disagreeing with a word of it.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:31 AM
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8

The linked letter seems difficult to get much out of without the context of the actual letters they were being written to accompany. What are they, goopy love-letters that seem manipulative in the context of him not marrying Hale when the chance came?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:32 AM
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9

Anthony Cuda:

"He was looking back on this and felt embarrassed and ashamed at the openness and vulnerability he allowed to come through at the time," Cuda said. "He tried to do damage control."

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:34 AM
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10

I can ignore flaws in my self-awareness for basically years at a time as long as the blind spots don't cause problems for people close to me or my ability to work (or trigger subclinical depression or something of course). That would be less true if I were a poet.

Self-awareness has lots of dimensions I think, it's not just a question of having more of it or being more accurate. Knausgaard-self is not a goal.

TS Eliot didn't express gratitude to someone who helped him and whom he failed badly, maybe he failed her willfully. Makes it a little harder (for me at least) to separate his work from his life.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:36 AM
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11

Aren't you leaving out the first part of the story? That Tommy first fell in love with Emily before he even met Vivienne, and Emily had no interest in Tommy.

Also, I see this letter as almost entirely written for his wife at the time, Valerie. She wanted to hear that she was his one true love, and so that was what he said. A good husband!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:39 AM
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12

and the way in which mood changes can travel faster than light between two equally charming people once they're coupled.

Or equally strange people, presumably.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:43 AM
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13

11.2: That makes sense given the lengthy explanation he prefaced on the conditions he wanted the letter to be made public - basically "fifty years after my death, OR as soon as those letters get out."


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:45 AM
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14

Am I wrong in my vague impression that the remarkable shittiness of Eliot was already a well established fact?


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:49 AM
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15

12: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty, and that is all ye know on earth or all ye need to know."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:51 AM
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16

When Eliot married Valerie Fletcher, he was 68 and she was 30.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:55 AM
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17

Anyone who disparages an unexamined life should spend time with a dog.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:55 AM
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18

Dogs examine life very closely. As long as it lives in something's ass.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 10:00 AM
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14: His "remarkable shittiness" is primarily his anti-Semitism. In terms of his relationships with women, I think he's just a very ordinary boring type of shitty.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 10:05 AM
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20

As long as the shittiness is well-established.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 10:07 AM
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21

Following 19, from a lecture he gave in 1933:

"What is still more important [than cultural homogeneity] is unity of religious background, and reasons of race and religion combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable."

He at least did disapprove of the contemporary European fascist movements, criticizing them as "incompatible with Christianity". So he's one up on Pound.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 10:13 AM
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22

What if the Jews are diatomic?


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 10:16 AM
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23

21.3 Yeah, I suppose his antisemitism is also not terribly remarkable (especially compared to Ezra).


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 10:17 AM
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23: So you're saying that he's Better Than Ezra?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 10:20 AM
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25

A very young Keith Gessen writes about Eliot in 1998 (due to social links I read this when it came out and I was even younger, so I remember it fondly):

I first stumbled onto the subtle musings of the "campfire chat" crowd (this is the site's name - "T. S. Eliot campfire chat," with a digital fire skipping about on top of the page) as I labored in the Science Center on an increasingly unwieldy and senseless History and Literature thesis on Eliot's Four Quartets. I had become too immersed in Eliotica - the seemingly endless critical dialogue on a poet so mandatory that nearly everyone inveighs [sic?], so difficult (and, in prose, prolific) that the received wisdom is endlessly reiterated - to hold any conversation on the topic that was not a study, on my part, in condescension. How could anyone talk Eliot unless they'd read the seminal works of F. O Matthiessen, Helen Gardner, Hugh Kenner, A.D. Moody? And how could anyone denounce his anti-Semitism unless they had sifted through the several thousand pages of his prose to find, finally, that he really was anti-Semitic?

In 1991, two years before his death, Irving Howe wrote on the anti-Semitism. He did not write as a man suddenly wounded by it, but, in his old age, concerned over the silence within which it had been hidden; by the time of his writing, of course, the silence was broken. Howe questioned not so much the integrity, but the courage, of himself and the other crucial players at the Partisan Review (Philip Rahv, Delmore Schwartz, Alfred Kazin), who could champion Eliot so successfully, all the while never denouncing or mentioning (even, mostly, to one another) the anti-Semitism. "It was a matter of saying openly what we knew inwardly," Howe wrote, quoting the infamous passage from Eliot's 1933 lectures at the University of Virginia, "that it was we, the 'free-thinking Jews' who loved his poetry, toward whom Eliot could not exercise 'an excess of tolerance.'"
So to hell with Eliot. And long live Eliot, because no other poet of this century has had such mastery of words.

He was an asshole for a thousand reasons, not just the one emphasized above, and I couldn't care less about his love life per se, but I am very much in agreement with the OP about the importance of coldness. I may not be quite cruel enough to achieve anything on the order of "The Waste Land," but I'm at least an asshole for sharing Mr. Gessen's long-buried undergraduate essay with the 2020 internet.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 10:32 AM
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26

To be fair, Eliot does specify "free thinking" Jews. So presumably he'd be fine with conventionally thinking, unimaginative Jews.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 10:41 AM
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27

I can't remember if I shared here that I read Eliot's dedication of "The Waste Land" to Pound, calling him "il miglior fabbro," as a spectacular veiled insult: because Dante had called Arnaut Daniel, the troubadour Pound so loved, the "better craftsman," Eliot invoked it to take on the Dantean mantle and condescend. Such a burn. Also, of course: to my banausic friend!


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 10:56 AM
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28

In conclusion, what was Emily Hale thinking?


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 11:01 AM
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29

"Poet Penis"?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 11:03 AM
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30

I think that individualizing this is only going to get you so far - Eliot wasn't the only writer of his general era perfectly happy to exploit women, string them along and commit them or abandon them once they got boring or old or inconvenient....and then have the nerve to complain about how the women weren't good enough.

For this reason I do believe that Eliot was a shitty person, it can't be written off as some vital artistic assholery, etc. Women artists generally don't get a lot of space to exploit younger, vulnerable men and discard them once they're no longer muse-worthy, and yet women artists seem to make art. Women modernists even - they made art with no more than the usual, relatively egalitarian bad romantic behavior.

The solution is material and cultural. Women need to be able to earn their own money and succeed as artists rather than being dependent on men and forced into the muse route, and we as a society need to work to see women as artists and intellectuals (or any other position they choose to occupy) rather than footnotes.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. The Eliots of the world will behave as badly as they can get away with.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 11:12 AM
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31

well, I never studied Eliot formally, but I could have recited you the whole of the Waste Land when I was fourteen. In fact the fear of being distanced from him by the vast scholarly apparatus which I could even them unclearly discern played an important part in my decision to be thrown out of school (though that is another story).

I don't think the anti-semitism was remarkable by the standards of his time and place or even much later. [Goldfinger, written in the early Sixties, takes for granted that a Miami hotel might exclude all Jews, just because it could]

What was remarkable about his anti-semitism was the articulacy and the attempt to theologise it. Eliot really thought rootless cosmopolitans were a threat to civilisation. This is, you might think, ironic in a boy from the midwest who wrote many of his early poems in French. But that's the narcissism of small differences for you.

He wasn't on the same level as Pound about that at all. I don't believe he was remarkably shitty, just average humanly so.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 11:18 AM
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32

Frowner, would he have done better to fuck Emily Hale?


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 11:19 AM
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33

32: Do we believe him that he didn't?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 11:21 AM
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34

What was remarkable about his anti-semitism was the articulacy and the attempt to theologise it. Eliot really thought rootless cosmopolitans were a threat to civilization

Doesn't that make it much more dangerous?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 11:23 AM
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35

Sometimes it isn't the trousers that are rolled.


Posted by: Opinionated Freud | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 11:24 AM
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36

There's also some anxiety of influence here, no? One of the scholars in the article I linked in 9 said "[The letters] are very emotional, claiming that she inspired a lot of his poetry. She obviously played a really important role in his poetic life." In which context his covering note seems petulant: "The only way she influenced me was making me miserable enough to write The Waste Land"!


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 11:25 AM
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37

Oh, oops. He blames The Waste Land on his first marriage, not Hale. But then immediately after, "Emily Hale would have killed the poet in me" still feels like a rebuke to influence.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 11:26 AM
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38

34: not really. Two reasons. First, I think he repented of it when he saw where it led.
Second, and more important, although intellectuals matter, their influence takes time to percolate. The people who really whip up hatred in their own time don't bother to justify it so much. To take a contemporary example, Richard Dawkins has done much less to make the lives of Muslims shittier than Franklin Graham has, even if he's put as much effort into the crusade struggle.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 11:37 AM
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39

32: See, even asking that question still seems pretty dude-centered to me. The issue isn't whether or not they had sex (or "he fucked her", I guess, since "he fucked her" is I suppose how we think of straight people sex now) it's that he was happy to have her attention, admiration and affection while it seemed convenient but then trashed her as stupid, stupid or immoral about theology, having bad taste in literature, caring more for what her stupid old family thought than Very Clever Eliot, etc....and burned her letters so to hide whatever evidence to the contrary might exist, then wrote a letter to the future trashing her so that even if someone were to question the very great man viewpoint Eliot would be right there to remind them that poor old Hale was worthless and boring and he'd never really loved her.

I'm confused as to why this would be all right as long as we were sure that he stuck his dick in her, or did whatever "he fucked her" could be said to encompass under the circumstances.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 12:13 PM
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40

Right. Whether they had sex doesn't seem to me to be an interesting part of the question at all. Although I'm not sure there is an interesting part of the question.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 12:30 PM
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41

i am confused as to how self-aware and self-referential the op was intended?


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 12:35 PM
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42

Do junior high schools still separate the boys and the girls and tell the boys not to write poetry and the girls not to spend time with any boy who writes poetry?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 12:37 PM
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43

40
Although I'm not sure there is an interesting part of the question.

I felt like it would have been spitting on my B.A. in English if I had said this. Thanks.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 12:49 PM
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44

Perhaps a good dissertation would be 200 pages of informed speculation about whether or not Elliot ever sent a woman a Polaroid of his genitals.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 12:53 PM
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45

For certain very special values of "good".


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 12:57 PM
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46

To be fair, I never finished a dissertation.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 12:59 PM
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47

Speaking of Eliot, has anyone else seen the Cats movie? It's really something, though I'm not sure what, exactly.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:03 PM
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48

It would probably be really bad to be searching the archives at Yale for Elliot's dick pic and finding Ted Hughes or something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:04 PM
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49

40/43 seem to be unjustly shitting on the OP and particularly heebie's take, which is fantastic.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:04 PM
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50

Also the OP made a small error and the archives in question are at Princeton. Leave Yale alone!


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:05 PM
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51

My apologies to Yale.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:06 PM
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52

...and its large collection of Harold Bloom dick pics.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:07 PM
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53

Uh, sorry, that was way beneath me.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:08 PM
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54

As long as they got them honestly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:08 PM
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55

53: Because Bloom wasn't a poet?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:14 PM
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56

49: Fair. I guess I meant, by saying that there isn't an interesting part to the question, is that there doesn't seem likely to be much to be said about if you didn't know the people. Did Eliot have serious feelings for Hale that he was denying later? Or was he just stringing her along? Did he really think she was boring and didn't understand him, or was he lying about that too? How could you know unless you knew both of them personally -- it's not the sort of a question where there are going to be facts that settle it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:15 PM
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57

Love affairs end and marriages end, and after they're over people say heartless and sometimes true things to justify the cruelty involved.

I thought that under the circumstances he behaved better by not having sex with her than he would have done by taking advantage of her willingness to ignore the fact of his marriage. I thought you were arguing the opposite, which is where my comment came from. It's a plausible case. She might have had better memories and have felt that her sacrifice had not been for nothing at all. But it turns out that wasn't what you meant.



Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:20 PM
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43, sorry, no offense intended, Heebie. But the thread seemed a lot more focused on Eliot's character than on the OP. (Although in fairness, the first question in the OP basically is still the topic, more or less, and most people here seem to agree with Heebie.)

How much [charity] do we owe to our past selves?

Would it be too cynical of me to say, "not much," because it's relatively rare for people to truly grow or change?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:41 PM
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59

I'm not sure that's true. Hardly anybody but me makes everything into a cock joke these days.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 1:57 PM
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60

Yeah, past self has fucked me over in a number of ways. He's a lazy slacker who should have eaten better. No charity for that guy.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 3:25 PM
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61

49: thanks, lurid!


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 5:35 PM
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62

He should have written a poem instead of a letter. Something like:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Once I'm long dead,
I call Miss Hale a shrew.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:21 PM
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63

Poetry practically writes itself.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 9:22 PM
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64

'I love' I alter with an end,
That follows it as sunless night
Doth follow day, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is drawn by spite;
'I love' from love away I wail,
And spurn my youth, saying -- 'not Hale.'


Posted by: T. Shakespeare Eliot | Link to this comment | 01- 6-20 10:57 PM
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65

46, 59: At least you didn't finish it too soon!


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 01- 7-20 4:47 AM
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66

Laydeez and committee members....


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01- 7-20 6:11 AM
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67

Someone has to keep up the long-standing traditions.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 01- 8-20 4:25 AM
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