T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
From Literary Anecdotes About 20th Century Authors

IT was not long before I was with him in his bank. All very surprising. I was not a bit sure how you called on a junior member of a banking staff in Queen Henrietta Street, I think it was. But TSE was reassuring: `Just ask for me and they will show you.' What they showed me was a figure stooping, very like a dark bird in a feeder, over a big table covered with all sorts and sizes of foreign correspondence. The big table almost entirely filled a little room under the street. Within a foot of our heads when we stood were the thick, green glass squares of the pavement on which hammered all but incessantly the heels of the passers-by...

By accident shortly afterwards I got the bank's view (or at least one of the bank's views) on `our young Mr. Eliot'. I came across a shrewd, kindly and charming man (up at Arolla in the Swiss Alps, it was) who turned out to be a high senior official in that very Oueen Henrietta Street focus of the great bank's far-flung activities. When he learned that I knew TSE, I could see that he was getting ready at once to shape a question. Something in his hesitant approach made me a little wary in my turn.

Mr. W.: You know him, I suppose, as a literary man, as a writer and ... er . . . and ... er ... as a poet?
I.A.R.: Yes, he's very well known, you know, as a critic and as a poet.
Mr. W.: Tell me, if you will—you won't mind my asking, will you? Tell me, is he, in your judgement, would you say, would you call him a good poet?
Mr. W.: Well, in my judgment—not everyone would agree, of course, far from it—he is a good poet.
Mr. W.: You know, I myself am really very glad indeed to hear you say that. Many of my colleagues wouldn't agree at all. They think a Banker has no business whatever to be a poet. They don't think the two things can combine. But I believe that anything a man does, whatever his hobby may be, it's all the better if he is really keen on it and does it well. I think it helps him with his work. If you see our young friend, you might tell him that we think he's doing quite well at the Bank. In fact, if he goes on as he has been doing, I don't see why—in time, of course, in time—he mightn't even become a Branch Manager.

I relayed the conversation, of course, to TSE without delay. `Most gratifying' he found it.

T. S. Eliot: The Man and his Work (1967), pp. 3, 4-5 (I. A. Richards, `On T.S.Elliot.').

Eliot and Vivienne had lived for a number of years in a small house at 57 Chester Terrace, in that part of London that hesitates between Belgravia and Chelsea. After the Criterion dinners, which generally lasted too long for me to catch my last train home, I would sometimes spend the night at Chester Terrace. I remember how on one such occasion I woke early and presently became conscious that the door of my room, which was on the ground floor, was slowly and silently being opened. I lay still and saw first a hand and then an arm reach round the door and lift from a hook the bowler hat that was hanging there. It was a little before seven o'clock and Mr. Eliot was on his way to an early communion service. It was the first intimation I had had of his conversion to the Christian faith.

T. S. Eliot: The Man and his Work (1967),p. 22 (Sir Herbert Read, `T.S.E.—A Memoir'; reprinted from Sewanee Review, vol. 74 (1966)).

I FIRST met T. S. Eliot in 1946, when I was an editor at Harcourt, Brace, under Frank Morley. I was just past thirty, and Eliot was in his late fifties....

We went across the street to the old Ritz-Carlton. It was a lovely spring day and the courtyard restaurant —I think it was called the Japanese Garden—had just been opened for the season. For some reason I was astonished at the sight of newly hatched ducklings swimming in the centre pond, perhaps because they seemed to embody the odd and improbable quality the occasion had for me.

Eliot could not have found a kinder, or more effective, way of putting me at my ease. As we sat down, he said, `Tell me, as one editor to another, do you have much author trouble?' I could not help laughing, he laughed in return—he had a booming laugh—and that was the beginning of our friendship. His most memorable remark of the day occurred when I asked him if he agreed with the definition that most editors are failed writers, and he replied: `Perhaps, but so are most writers.'

T. S. Eliot: The Man and his Work (1967), pp. 338-339 (Robert Giroux, `A Personal Memoir'; reprinted from Sewanee Review, vol. 74 (1966))

AMONG their various mild collisions none was more defined than the dinner at Wellesley College when Yeats, seated next to Eliot but oblivious of him, conversed with the guest on the other side until late in the meal. He then turned and said, `My friend here and I have been discussing the defects of T. S. Eliot's poetry. What do you think of that poetry?'

Eliot held up his place card to excuse himself from the jury.

Richard Ellmann, Eminent Domain (New York, 1967), p. 89.

DYLAN Thomas had failed his medical test for the army, and he and Caitlin were broke. My three pounds a week did not carry far: so one day Dylan and I decided to go on a borrowing raid. `But you must stay ouside, Roy,' he said. `We'll never raise a penny if they see you with me, except in the case of so-and-so and so-and-so.' Dylan proposed to make a vast tour (on a day when I was off duty) of all the newly-rich poets in their new offices in the Central Office of Information and the Ministry of Information. The only two of these new plutocrats to whose presence Dylan admitted me were fairly crackling with Bradburies as they rose from their seats: you could hear the new bank notes crinkling and crankling against their ribs as they moved! But we raised no cash. Dylan said it had been the same in every office where he had been without me. We stood outside the M.O.I. scratching our heads. `What about His Grace?' I asked; `he lives just around there'. `You mean the Archbishop?' gasped Dylan; `I wouldn't dare.'—'Come on, you'll see. He's not only a saint in his poems, he's a bloody saint in his life too.' We went to see Eliot, and the great man helped us so lavishly that it lasted till by some curious coincidence we both got our first considerable radio jobs, almost simultaneously, and were able to pay Eliot back. (Dylan never forgot his kindness. Neither do I.)

Roy Campbell, in Dylan Thomas: The Legend and the Poet (Mercury Books, 1963), pp. 41-42.

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