Young Eliot

Young Eliot by Robert Crawford Read Free Book Online

Book: Young Eliot by Robert Crawford Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robert Crawford
    T HIS poet has been part of my life since at least 1974 when I bought his Complete Poems and Plays. In private the music of his poetry captivated me, but that book was practical in public too. It was a talisman I carried in my school bag to ward off mathematics. Eliot, who studied advanced mathematics as a graduate student, might not have approved. After reading his work further while a Glasgow University undergraduate, thanks to the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and the Snell Exhibition, I went to Balliol College, Oxford, to write a doctoral thesis on Eliot. Only one supervisor was willing to take me on. To Richard Ellmann I owe debts that cannot be repaid; to Mary Ellmann as much. I made my first Eliot-related visit to the USA in 1983 , spending time in New York Public Library, at Columbia University, at Yale, and as a visiting scholar at Eliot House, Harvard, where I kipped on a sofa and played loud music in the sombre Matthiessen Room, whose curator George Abbott White was especially welcoming.
    After Kim Scott Walwyn at Oxford University Press published my first book, with help from John Carey and others I worked at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, then at Glasgow University. Since 1989 at the University of St Andrews I have taught Honours-level courses on Scottish literature and on T. S. Eliot, looking out the classroom window over the North Sea while reading ‘Marina’ or ‘The Dry Salvages’. Generations of bright St Andrews undergraduates have confirmed that this was the right thing to do, and I have learned much from their comments. Among my graduate students I would like to thank especially Will Gray and Josh Richards for their insights, help and advice. Over the years all my School of English colleagues at St Andrews have contributed to my understanding of poetry in general, and of Eliot’s in particular.
    This book could not have been written without the award of a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship for the academic session 2012 – 13 , supplemented by a semester’s research leave awarded by the University of St Andrews. Lecturing to the T. S. Eliot Society in St Louis, addressing the T. S. Eliot International Summer School in London and reading ‘Little Gidding’ with Seamus Heaney to the T. S. Eliot Society of the UK at Little Gidding, as well as the invitation to deliver the British Academy’s Warton Lecture on English Poetry in 2009 , were among the immediate spurs to the writing of the book. Crucial has been the long-standing support of my shrewd, demanding editor at Jonathan Cape, Robin Robertson, who commissioned this biography; to Jonathan Galassi, my editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, I owe gratitude for his trust. Patient help was supplied by Clare Bullock at Cape and by Christopher Richards at FSG. My agent David Godwin and his colleagues at David Godwin Associates in London have been essential to the project, supplying characteristically deft support. For copy-editing I thank the meticulous Lin Vasey and for indexing Marian Aird.
    Going way beyond the bounds of friendship, my former student Dr Richard King and Dr Stephen N. Sanfilippo (editor of Seasongs ) ingeniously tracked down the ballad about the schooner Lapwing which Eliot recalled hearing as a young man: Richard and Stephen, I salute your skill and generosity, as well as the assistance of Mr William Plaskon of the Jonesport Historical Society, Maine, and Ms Susan M. Sanfilippo, Curator, Pembroke (Maine) Historical Society. Carey Karmel alerted me to the Ether Monument in Boston, and Mark Storey to Eliot’s application to join the London Library. Graciously, Aisha Farr and Cliff Boehmer went out of their way to take several photographs of buildings where Eliot lived; Rachel Falconer and colleagues at the University of Lausanne sent me copies of pictures of that city taken around 1921 . Late in the writing of the book Jeremy Hutchinson,

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