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T.S. Eliot Collection (MSS153)

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Correspondence

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T.S. Eliot Collection (MSS153), 1928-1963 | MSS Manuscripts

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Collection Overview

Title: T.S. Eliot Collection (MSS153), 1928-1963Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1928-1963

ID: MSS/MSS/153

Primary Creator: Eliot, T.S. (1888-1965)

Extent: 28.0 Items

Date Acquired: 06/26/1970

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The T.S. Eliot Collection includes revised copy of T. S. Eliot's Collected Poems, 1909-1935, with corrections and annotations in the author's hand, undertaken in preparation for a new edition. Also included is a typescript of section titled Occasional Verses, which was added to the original edition. These poems include "Defense of the islands," "A Note on War Poetry," "For the Indian Soldiers [sic] Who Died in Africa," "To Walter De La Mare", and "A Dedication to My Wife". Also typescript of author's notes to accompany the poems, and an autograph list of Eliot poems, possibly in preparation for a reading.

Also includes five letters from Eliot to Collin and Lillian Brooks; Collin Brooks, editor of conservative publication Truth, was a close friend and ideological bosom-buddy of Eliot. Also includes five letters and one telegram from Eliot’s wife, Valerie Eliot, to Collin and Lillian. The letters in total track the genesis of Eliot’s relationship with Valerie, and his emotional state at the time, in uncharacteristically expressive and candid fashion.

Through both Eliot and Valerie’s letters to Collin and Lillian, we see the slow build of Eliot and Valerie’s acquaintanceship. First, they are introduced by way of an inscribed book sent through Collin, then Collin recommends Valerie to the post of Eliot’s secretary at Faber, where their relationship flowered. Eliot regards the relevance of Collin and Valerie to his life in near-mystical terms, as he relates to Lillian after Collin’s death: “there was a destiny in our relations, active from the moment he told Valerie of the vacancy at Faber, and urged her to apply for it. And before that, when he got me to autograph my book for an unknown young lady.” Eliot’s unusually vulnerable reflections are a product of his tight association with Collin; he writes at one point of Valerie after they were recently joined, “I am radiantly happy and at the same time overawed by the thought of my new responsibility for another’s happiness.” Valerie’s letters also provide lesser-seen insights into Eliot’s unguarded persona, such as when she asks the Brooks to invite Eliot over in her absence as he, alone, “may give way to depression.”

Collection Historical Note

Thomas Stearns Eliot (September 26, 1888 – January 4, 1965) was a publisher, playwright, literary and social.  Although he was born an American, he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalized as a British subject in 1927.  The poem that made his name, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock—started in 1910 and published in Chicago in 1915—is seen as a masterpiece of the Modernist movement, and was followed by some of the best-known poems in the English language, including Gerontion (1920), The Waste Land (1922), The Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930), and Four Quartets (1945). He is also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.

For a poet of his stature, Eliot produced a relatively small amount of poetry and he was aware of this early in his career. Typically, Eliot first published his poems individually in periodicals or in small books or pamphlets, and then collected them in books. His first collection was Prufrock and Other Observations (1917). In 1920, he published more poems in Ara Vos Prec (London) and Poems: 1920 (New York). These had the same poems (in a different order) except that "Ode" in the British edition was replaced with "Hysteria" in the American edition. In 1925, he collected The Waste Land and the poems in Prufrock and Poems into one volume and added The Hollow Men to form Poems: 1909–1925. From then on, he updated this work as Collected Poems. Exceptions are Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), a collection of light verse; Poems Written in Early Youth, posthumously published in 1967 and consisting mainly of poems published between 1907 and 1910 in The Harvard Advocate, and Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909–1917, material Eliot never intended to have published, which appeared posthumously in 1997.

Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri. From 1898 to 1905, Eliot attended Smith Academy, where his studies included Latin, Ancient Greek, French, and German. He began to write poetry when he was fourteen under the influence of Edward Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a translation of the poetry of Omar Khayyam. His first poem published, "A Fable For Feasters," was written as a school exercise and was published in the Smith Academy Record in February 1905. Also published there in April 1905 was his oldest surviving poem in manuscript, an untitled lyric, later revised and reprinted as "Song" in The Harvard Advocate, Harvard University's student magazine.

After graduation, Eliot attended Milton Academy in Massachusetts for a preparatory year, where he met Scofield Thayer, who would later publish The Waste Land. He studied philosophy at Harvard from 1906 to 1909, earning his bachelor's degree after three years. After working as a philosophy assistant at Harvard from 1909 to 1910, Eliot moved to Paris, where from 1910 to 1911, he studied philosophy at the Sorbonne. From 1911 to 1914, he was back at Harvard studying Indian philosophy and Sanskrit. Eliot was awarded a scholarship to Merton College, Oxford in 1914. He first visited Marburg, Germany, where he planned to take a summer program, but when the World War I broke out, he went to Oxford instead. Eliot did not settle at Merton, and left after a year. In 1915, he taught English at Birkbeck, University of London.  By 1916, he had completed a doctoral dissertation for Harvard on Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley, but he failed to return for the viva voce exam. After leaving Merton, Eliot worked as a schoolteacher, most notably at Highgate School, a private school in London, where he taught French and Latin.  Later he taught at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe. To earn extra money, he wrote book reviews and lectured at evening extension courses. In 1917, he took a position at Lloyds Bank in London, working on foreign accounts. In 1925, Eliot left Lloyds to join the publishing firm Faber and Gwyer, later Faber and Faber, where he remained for the rest of his career, eventually becoming a director.

Administrative Information

Repository: MSS Manuscripts

Access Restrictions: Open

Use Restrictions:

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or spec@wumail.wustl.edu. (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)

Acquisition Source: Purchase

Acquisition Method:

Accession number 1204, 1970: June 26. Purchased from Bertram Rota Ltd Booksellers

Accession number 2014.010, 2014: April 15. Purchased from Glenn Horowitz Booksellers

Accession number MSS2016-008, 2016: April 18. Purchased from Glenn Horowitz Booksellers

Accession number MSS2016-028, 2016: December 12. Purchased from Glenn Horowitz Booksellers

Separated Materials:

Collected Poems, 1909-1935 by T.S. Eliot. London : Faber and Faber, [1954].

PS3509 L43 A17 1954

Preferred Citation: Name of the Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections

Processing Information: Processed July 1970 by Holly Hall

Other Note: Collected Poems, 1909-1935 by T.S. Eliot transferred to Rare Books. PS3509 L43 A17 1954


Box and Folder Listing


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Series 1: CorrespondenceAdd to your cart.
Folder 1Add to your cart.
Item 1: Eliot to Collin Brooks, 1944: September 30Add to your cart.

Typed letter signed, 3 pages. Written on Faber and Faber stationery with Eliot’s autograph corrections in ink.

Eliot offers his critique of a submission, Captain Owen’s The Political Battlefield, sent by Brooks for consideration at Faber and Faber. He worries about the timeliness of the book, writing, “he has undertaken something…which nobody is quite safe in undertaking unless he is pretty close to the political scene, and can form a pretty accurate judgment of what will remain of importance and what will be superseded.” Eliot also attacks the style: “the book is not the work of practiced writer: the style, even when it can not be described as slip-shod, lacks pungency.” He  touches on the issue of expertise, which Owen lacks: “I feel that people nowadays need to be persuaded that a writer can hold his own with anybody, if he is going to touch on these problems at all.”

Item 2: Eliot/Faber and Faber Christmas and New Year's Eve card, 1945Add to your cart.

Autograph card signed, 3 pages

(MSS2016-028)

Item 3: Eliot to Collin Brooks, 1949: December 30Add to your cart.

Typed letter signed, 1 page.  Written on on Faber and Faber stationery.

Eliot discusses a pamphlet on Ezra Pound out from Poetry Chicago, and enclosed material incorporated into that pamphlet.

Item 4: Eliot to Collin Brooks, 1956: December 31Add to your cart.

Typed letter signed, 1 page

Eliot describes a pending trip to visit Brooks. Mentions, oddly considering Eliot’s stolid reputation, his joy at his new marriage: “I am radiantly happy and at the same time overawed by the thought of my new responsibility for another’s happiness.”

Item 5: Eliot to Collin and Lillian Brooks, 1958: September 9Add to your cart.

Autograph letter signed, 1 page       

Eliot thanks Brooks for his telegram. Describes his happy birthday, and a supper party he gave for the cast of The Elder Statesman, passing along extra flowers he has no more room for.

Item 6: Eliot to Lillian Brooks, 1959: April 9Add to your cart.

Autograph letter signed, 2 pages

Eliot writes Lillian consoling her over the death of Collin. He, again in uncharacteristically emotional tones, describes how “you and Collin gave me asylum on the eve of our marriage,” and thus he is impelled to share more about his and Collin’s relationship. He claims he regrets that Colin is one he regrets he “did not get to know them sooner and more intimately.” Interestingly for scholar’s of T.S. Eliot’s dubious political philosophy, he mentions meeting Collins at the “Bunke Club,” and “in the discussions there I soon came to recognize a man whose conservatism was kin to mine.” He cites the integral role Collins played in his personal and professional life: “And there was a destiny in our relations, active from the moment he told Valerie of the vacancy at Faber,  and urged her to apply for it. And before that, when he got me to autograph my book for an unknown young lady.”

Item 7: Valerie Eliot to Lillian Brooks, No dateAdd to your cart.

Typed letter signed, 1 page.

Valerie describes Eliot being incapacitated due to “Asian ‘flu.’” She enjoins Lillian (without Eliot’s knowledge) to invite him over for a cup of tea, as “he is very fond of you and Collin and would, I know, enjoy a chat with you both.” She also elaborates, revealingly: “left to himself he may give way to depression.”

Item 8: Valerie Eliot to Lillian Brooks, No year: January 4Add to your cart.

Typed letter signed, 1 page.

Valerie asks Lillian to thank Collin for handling a registrar issue. She mentions Eliot’s staying with them on the nights preceding their wedding, and hopes “his early departure won’t disturb your household.” She thanks them also for their wedding gift.

Item 9: Valerie Eliot to Collin Brooks, No dateAdd to your cart.

Autograph letter signed, 7 pages.

Valerie thanks Brooks for the “personal inscription”—Eliot’s, indicating this is the signed book that led to their initial acquaintanceship—that “thrilled” her “beyond measure.” She asks him to “exercise” “discretion” in forwarding along a note back to Eliot, should he think it fitting. She describes her enthusiasm at obtaining permission to see Eliot speak at a poetry reading at Wigmore Hall. In an appended fourth page, written the next day, she expresses regret at an ill Mrs. Brooks, asks where she might “buy a good photograph of T.S.E.,” and decides, after all, to not include her letter to Eliot.

Item 10: Valerie Eliot to Collin Brooks, No dateAdd to your cart.

Autograph letter signed, 2 pages.

Valerie asks to be apprised of any works in progress or upcoming broadcasts. She expresses “shock” at "the familiar way in which you refer to Eliot as “Tom.”” She claims Eliot’s poem “The Journey of the Magi” is still her favorite poem. She closes by finalizing arrangements to stay with Brooks.

Item 11: Valerie Eliot to Collin Brooks, 1946: May 3Add to your cart.

Telegram, 1 page.

Valerie thanks Brooks for a book and says “we” enjoyed his broadcast that morning.

Item 12: Valerie Eliot to Collin Brooks, 1946: October 5Add to your cart.

Autograph letter signed, 6 pages.

Valerie discusses the success of Collin’s novel, and her own advocacy on its behalf. She colorfully describes her attempts at learning to drive. Apparently, she has asked her boss to carry “T.S.E.’s Collected Works.” She reflects that “neither of us care for Ezra Pound,” and “I fail to appreciate James Joyce.” She asks after Eliot, sharing that she had written him for his birthday, and “thanked him for inscribing the book.” She then recounts Eliot’s return reply: “Dear Miss F, I thank you for your kind letter & birthday wishes, both of which gave me much pleasure. Yours sincerely…”

Item 13: Empty envelope addressed to Lillian Brooks, 1957: January 5Add to your cart.
1 item
Item 14: Autograph note in unknown hand explaining, “May 5th, 1946. Collin wrote: I don’t know the date of this: this is probably her first letter.”Add to your cart.
1 item

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