08 June 2022, The Tablet

I grow old … I grow old

I grow old … I grow old

Eliot with his second wife, Valerie Fletcher, in 1959 after a holiday in the Bahamas
Photo: Alamy/PA images


A magnificent account of T.S. Eliot’s later life presents a flawed and troubled genius

Eliot After the Waste Land
(JONATHAN CAPE, 624 PP, £25)
Tablet bookshop price £22.50 • tel 020 7799 4064

T.S. Eliot’s biography offers readers a riddle. How could someone so daring in his poetry be so guarded in the rest of his life? It’s a question that Robert Crawford began answering in Young Eliot, his outstanding account of the poet’s early years. Eliot after the Waste Land tells the second half of this story, describing his move from banking to publishing, from poetry to drama, and from a despairing doubt to a committed, if not consoling, Christianity. Once again, the breadth, depth and level of detail confirm this as the definitive record of the poet’s life.

Crawford is the first biographer to quote at length from Eliot’s letters to Emily Hale, an American drama teacher from a waspy Boston family much like his own. Eliot had fallen in love with Hale as a young man, but when she rebuffed his advances, he moved to England and married Vivienne Haigh-Wood. However, in 1927 they began corresponding again, and over the next three decades Eliot sent Hale more than a thousand letters, containing some of his most intimate writing.


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