In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Short Cuts: Harry Goes Rogue

Jonathan Parry

What was left outLawrence Rainey

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. I: 1898-1922 
edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton.
Faber, 871 pp., £35, November 2009, 978 0 571 23509 4
Show More
Show More

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.

But the new edition does more than add bulk, it also makes crucial corrections. Consider one example, an important letter from Ezra Pound that makes extensive comments on a quasi-final version of The Waste Land, and is dated ‘24 Saturnus’, invoking a playful calendar he had invented for the new era marked by the completion of Joyce’s Ulysses. In 1950, D.D. Paige, the editor of Pound’s Selected Letters, mistakenly translated the date as 24 December. His error was noted by Hugh Kenner in 1973, but his correction escaped Valerie Eliot’s attention, and she repeated the mistaken date in the first edition of 1988. Only now is the letter finally assigned to 24 January 1922. Corrections to the dates of subsequent letters are also duly made. One more example: a letter to Robert McAlmon that was mistakenly assigned to 2 May 1921 in the first edition, but is correctly assigned to 22 May in this one. It matters a lot, because it is written on the same paper used in three other letters written between 9 and 22 May; Eliot also used this paper when he made a typescript of Parts I and II of The Waste Land during this period. This means we can trace the genesis of the poem with far greater precision.

No less important, the editors include almost every letter documenting the protracted negotiations that led to the publication of The Waste Land in the Dial (circulation: 9600), then the foremost literary journal in America. As part of the final publication agreement, Eliot also received the Dial’s annual prize for his contribution to literature, a prize that came with a considerable sum of money ($2000), and brought him unprecedented attention. Overnight the poem became the poetic counterpart to Ulysses, published some nine months earlier. Literary modernism was no longer an affair of eccentric coteries. Within months Eliot’s earlier poems were being reprinted in Vanity Fair (circulation: 96,000), the arbiter of fashionable taste. They were turning into a literary equivalent of the sleek motorcars whose ads festooned Vanity Fair – O O O so elegant, so intelligent, positively swellegant. In documenting this moment so scrupulously, the editors have performed a genuine service. Their selections complement recent accounts that underscore the contradictory dynamics at work in modernism’s uneasy engagement with the public sphere.

The new edition achieves something else equally compelling. Many of the newly included letters are unremitting in their emphasis on the trivial and ephemeral, on quotidian haplessness. Eliot apologises to Julian Huxley for missing an appointment. After losing his way, then finding the right place, he got lost again: ‘As I could not identify any of the offices as yours I hung about in the hall for some time and then decided that you had gone.’ He can’t write enough poetry to make anyone happy. To the publisher John Rodker, who wants to issue a volume of new poems, he confesses sheepishly: ‘I am sorry for the misunderstanding. I don’t think there is enough new stuff for more than 25 pages, but perhaps I shall have more by the end of June. I hope so.’ Elementary tasks turn into minor catastrophes: ‘About half a mile further the car collapsed completely and at the same moment punctured a tire, in the middle of a vast plain. Nothing passed but two brakes full of boy scouts so I proceeded on foot followed by three ducks.’ Vivien frets over his ineptitude: ‘Tom is fearfully vague, and one can never trust him to be worldly wise.’ There is only one way to knock him into shape, and even that isn’t foolproof: ‘I write out what he is to say under every conceivable situation, but it always happens that some unexpected twist occurs which throws him off balance for the entire interview!’ There are minor compensations, of course, such as Eliot’s dancing. ‘One day,’ Vivien urges Mary Hutchinson, ‘you really must try Tom’s Negro rag-time. I know you’d love it.’

The marmoreal lustre of our received image of Eliot is dimmed by this unrelenting catalogue of blunders. The result contradicts the glossier image of Eliot presented by the previous version of this volume. It is as if the waspish elegance and dogmatic certitude of his published prose were being coated with layer after layer of fine dust, the grit of everyday experience, the messiness of the ordinary. At the heart of this revised volume lies a mild but real paradox: the source of its triumph is its emphasis on the trivial.

That emphasis is evident even in the treatment of financial details. A reader who hasn’t glanced at the book’s title page might be forgiven for thinking it was edited by the head of Faber and Faber’s accounting department. Over and over, Eliot adds up sums, tots up finance, and laboriously thanks anyone who has sent him a cheque, typically for verse or prose, but sometimes just to help him along (as his brother occasionally does). It is a weakness of this edition, however, that we are given virtually no context for assessing these details. What could such sums purchase? Comparing everyday expenses across eras is a notoriously hazardous enterprise, but if no formula is given, the reader is left with data as intriguing as they are inert.

The 27 new letters by Vivien Eliot provide a different, often fresh and vivid perspective. More than half of them (14) are to Mary Hutchinson, a Bloomsbury hostess who took great interest in both the Eliots during these years; five of the others are quasi-official communications with Eliot’s mother, always addressed as ‘Dear Mrs Eliot’. Vivien’s informal letters sparkle. When Scofield Thayer, the cousin of her friend Lucy, and Tom’s former classmate, wishes her well on her marriage and invites her to America, she thanks him ‘for your gratters and invitation’. When she hears that Thayer is to marry, she offers advice for the wedding night: ‘Try black silk sheets and pillow covers – they are extraordinarily effective.’ There are also two letters, the only ones known, addressed to Eliot. Both are poignant and affectionate. She begins one ‘My dearest Wonkypenky’, and signs off as ‘Wee’. That last detail will arrest the attention of the psychoanalytically inclined, but we are still some distance from Havelock Ellis’s account of the moment when the poet H.D. complied with his request that she urinate on him.

When the first edition was published, some reviewers raised questions about material that had been excluded, and the rationale behind that exclusion. Some cited a letter to Richard Aldington of 7 April 1921, omitted from that edition, in which Eliot groused: ‘Having only contempt for every existing political party, and profound hatred for democracy, I feel the blackest gloom.’ The letter is now included in its entirety, but the larger question remains: how much has even now been left out, and why?

Eliot’s letters from these years can be found in three places: in 35 university libraries; a handful still in private collections; and a melange of original, photocopied and transcribed materials now in the private collection assembled by Valerie Eliot, a co-editor of this volume. Setting aside her collection, we can say with authority that the revised edition excludes only ten letters. Two of them are very brief. ‘Pour Vous souhaiter la bonne année,’ Eliot writes to Mary Hutchinson on a postcard stamped 23 December 1921, just when he was finishing The Waste Land in Switzerland. Surely it should have been included, if only because of when it was written. Another, of 21 May 1919, answers Lytton Strachey, who had asked if Eliot would reply if he wrote to him: ‘Don’t be absurd – of course I should answer,’ it reads. The eight other letters are mostly longer, but still total only 196 words. Surely it might have been better to exclude one or two of Vivien’s letters and replace them with the missing ten by Eliot. They do not contain any explosive revelations, but show the relentless grinding of the mills of daily life.

Many of the flaws in this volume occur when it comes to citing the locations where the letters are housed. Letters by Eliot to Harriet Monroe are repeatedly assigned to the Houghton Library at Harvard, but are actually at the University of Chicago, along with the rest of Monroe’s papers. A letter to Ottoline Morrell, given the date 14 January 1920, is said to be at the Beinecke Library at Yale, when in fact it is at the University of Texas. Three others, to John Rodker, are said to be in the possession of Mrs Burnham Finney; but this information was mistaken even in 1988. All three had been sold to the University of Tulsa in 1984, and the mistake has been corrected elsewhere. Likewise, the infamous letter to Aldington is marked ‘CC’, presumably a carbon copy in possession of Mrs Eliot. But the original is at the University of Texas, and that is what should have been cited. The most endearing of the location citations reads simply: ‘?TS’. This refers to a typescript that is located: where? Such details may only concern scholars, but they matter.

Volume III is discussed by Michael Wood in this issue

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.


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

Jim McCue
London SE1

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address and a telephone number

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.