What was left out
- The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. I: 1898-1922 edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton
Faber, 871 pp, £35.00, November 2009, ISBN 978 0 571 23509 4
The final letter in the first edition of the first volume of T.S. Eliot’s letters, edited by Valerie Eliot, the poet’s second wife, and published in 1988, appeared on page 618; the same letter in the new edition concludes on page 816. Yet those figures may understate the extent of the transformation achieved by the new edition. The earlier edition contained 509 letters by T.S. Eliot, 37 by his first wife, Vivien, and 40 by various others. The new edition adds 195 more letters by Eliot, another 27 by Vivien and 33 others. In total, then, it prints 255 new letters.
Vol. 32 No. 1 · 7 January 2010
The 1988 edition of T. S. Eliot’s Letters up to the end of 1922 contained 509 from Eliot himself. In 2005 Lawrence Rainey extended the list to 638, but overlooked letters at, for instance, Yale, Harvard and the Library of Congress. He now counts 704 in the new edition of Volume 1 (LRB, 3 December 2009), and reports that he can ‘say with authority’ that it ‘excludes’ ten (a number he specifies three times), as though no strays could have escaped his attention. He gives the text of two items allegedly missing, a postcard franked 23 December 1921 and a note to Lytton Strachey of 21 May 1919. These are to be found in the notes to pages 618 and 350 respectively.
Letters will continue to come to light. Discovered already, but too late for inclusion, are a bread and butter letter to Wyndham Lewis of 18 June 1921 (Cornell); three messages conveyed to Bertrand Russell while Russell was in prison for promoting pacifism, May-September 1918, with a message from Vivienne Eliot and two replies from Russell (McMaster); and a telegram to Eliot’s brother Henry, dated 2 August 1918 (Missouri History Museum):
enquire chance training commission military or naval if return america banking journalism languages yachting married thirty reply immediately marlow eliot