This New T.S. Eliot Letter About His Love Life Is Going Viral
Released 55 years after his death, the letter spills the tea on Eliot's relationship with Emily Hale.
Here's a sentence that you probably didn't expect to hear today: There's a new letter by T.S. Eliot that's going viral. Yes, just two days into 2020, it was announced that more than 1,000 letters written by Eliot to his companion Emily Hale would be unveiled to the public for the first time ever. For scholars, it was an exciting event full of hope that the correspondence would shed light on Eliot's mysterious relationship with Hale, whom he met in 1912 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and wrote to throughout his years. Hale donated the letters to the Princeton University Library in 1956, requesting that they remain sealed for 50 years after whichever one of them died last. Eliot died in 1965 and Hale followed four years later. So now, it's time.
The one particular letter that's caught the attention of the internet briefly sums up both Eliot's attitude toward his relationship with Hale and her handing over the letters. And, spoiler alert, he was pretty salty about both.
He said he fell in love with Hale in 1912, but was rebuffed. "I have no reason to believe, from the way in which this declaration was received, that my feelings were returned, in any degree whatever," he wrote. So, he shot his shot and got curved.
Eliot later married Vivienne Haigh-Wood, but realized soon thereafter that he was still in love with Hale. Maybe. He's not sure—it could have been "merely my reaction against my misery with Vivienne and desire to revert to an earlier situation."
At the time, Eliot wrote, he was timid and immature and full of self-doubt over being a philosophy professor. His marriage to Haigh-Wood was an unhappy one, but he said he was grateful for it because it "saved" him from marrying Hale. "Emily Hale would have killed the poet in me; Vivienne nearly was the death of me, but she kept the poet alive," he wrote. "In retrospect, the nightmare agony of my 17 years with Vivienne seems to me preferable to the dull misery of the mediocre teacher of philosophy which would have been the alternative."
Spoken like a true anguished poet.
Eliot also wrote that he saw Hale from time to time and "gradually I came to see that I had been in love only with a memory, with the memory of the experience of having been in love with her in my youth." He added: "I came to see that my love for Emily was the love of a ghost for a ghost."
Oh, and he also noted that they most certainly did not have sex.
Daniel Linke, interim head of special collections at the Princeton University Library, told the Associated Press that the release of the letters are "the special collections equivalent of a stampede at a rock concert," which seems suitably dramatic.
And the responses—which have been mixed—have fallen in line. Some found Eliot's letter to be moving and relatable, whereas others called it "revenge porn," especially since he wanted Hale's letters to be destroyed.
Well, there's one thing we can all agree on: It's intense.
Besides, it's not every day that a long-deceased poet goes viral! And if you more prefer the drama of today's celebrities, check out 50 Crazy Celebrity Facts You Won't Believe Are True.