Summer 1989 • Vol. XI No. 3 Book ReviewsJuly 1, 1989 |

Still Playing Possum after All These Years

The Letters of T. S. Eliot: Volume I, 1898-1922 edited by Valerie Eliot. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988. 639 pages. $24.95. Eliot's New Life by Lyndall Gordon. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1988. 356 pages. $19.95. So here it is at last, The Distinguished Thing: after a long wait, comically, then exasperatingly, and at last boringly, protracted by editorial delays, the Eliot letters have finally commenced publication. For years the grapevine buzzed with stories of Mrs. Eliot periodically delivering, in person, the vast typescript to the offices of Faber & Faber, and then, after celebratory sherry, taking it away with her again. Given the great poet's avowed hostility to the publication of his private letters, many suspected that the widow's editorial labors were an interminable feint, that the promised publication was chimerical, a Tantalus-fruit ever receding into the mists of the never-never. This appears not to be the case; it was Mrs. Eliot hersel

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