Eliot had a very rocky marriage
If you couldn’t already tell from Eliot’s several, *kinda depressing* poems, his love life wasn’t all too happy, well really ever, but especially once he met Vivienne Haigh-Wood in London, and married her on the 26th of June 1915, only a few months after meeting. Maybe it had to do with Vivienne’s sedative addiction and sexual demands, or maybe it was just Eliot’s overall un-desire for women!
Eliot was unreachable for Viv, he often sexually rejected her showing a dislike towards women, emphasised in his 1917 poem ‘Lune De Miel’ in which he writes “une forte odeur de chienne” which translates to “the strong stink of bitch”. Many believe this is connected to his supposed homosexuality which would explain his obvious disgust of women and their bodies. He had a handful of underlying mental health issues, which probably didn’t help with his and Vivs problems any further. He also was celibate from 1928 (A coincidental and perfect excuse for Eliot to not touch Viv – pshhh like he would anyways).
Viv was annoying to Eliot, he couldn’t deal with her numerous issues such as mood swings, constant fainting, irregular and heavy periods, and extreme migraines. Due to her large amount of health issues, she got prescribed potassium bromide, a widely used sedative in the 19th century, which she later became addicted to. This medication also created a series of more issues such as anxiety, mild depression, severe panic attacks and neuralgia (a nerve issue). This led to a diagnosis of Hysteria which is currently defined as an old-fashioned term for a psychological disorder characterized by conversion of psychological stress into physical symptoms. However, in the 19th century it was basically used to oppress women and label them as being difficult when showing like…feelings? It explained that it was women’s bodies that made them feel extreme emotions instead of maybe the difficult and terrifying situations they were put in. But you know, women and their emotions.
*Okay, feminist rant over*
These constant issues ended up driving Vivienne to an affair with Elliot’s teacher, Bertrand Russell, who was often said to have paid for her clothes and dancing lessons. It also may have been the fact he was a male who wasn’t, you know, grossed out by her body. Anyways, their relationship lasted between 1915-1918, meeting at a dinner that Eliot had organised himself, I know…awkward. In part III of Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ he alluded to Viv and Bertrands affair ‘get away’, to Margate Beach with the quotes “On Margate Sands. I can connect Nothing with nothing”. This represents Eliot trying to connect the dots between his wife and teacher, and their numerous relations that lead to an extremely unhappy marriage (I as well, am still confused as to why he cared so much if he didn’t even like Viv but deal with it).
I know you must be wondering, why did they stay together when they were this toxic? But the truth is, Eliot couldn’t divorce as he was a member of the Church of England! However, after 18, I’m guessing miserable years, they did separate *thankfully*.
Eliot was in a supposed homosexual relationship with his bestie
Many believe that Eliot was either secretly in partnership or in love with his best friend Jean Verdenal, who he met at a boarding house within the University of Paris in October of 1910. Although the only evidence of this theory is second hand accounts and his obvious obsession (platonic or non-platonic) for Jean, I still ship it.
This supposition first emerged when people noticed Eliot’s, earlier stated, somewhat undesire for the women he was surrounded by. However, my favourite piece of evidence is Eliot writing to his cousin about going to ‘Verdenals room to look out on the garden. Finding Verdenal out there, Eliot throws a lump of sugar at him’ (obvious flirting duh). After Verdenals death in 1915, Eliot found himself writing ‘The Waste Land’, containing a fourth section named “Death by Water”, in which a speaker implies they have fallen in love with a young man who soon after met his death, well, by water. This seems a perfect parallel to the death of his best friend, Jean, who was killed during the First World War by the enemy in the Dardanelles, resulting in him drowning (Or at least this is how Eliot believed it happened, however, it’s unclear if he got killed by the enemy or drowned storming the beaches). Or how Eliot summarised it, in the poem title ‘Mort aux Dardanelles’ which translates to: “Died at the Dardanelles”.
Within said poem (which is definitely about Verdenal), Eliot writes “Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you”. With ‘Phlebas’ alluding to Verdenal, and Eliot blatantly naming him “handsome” ,it’s only natural I assume this is a love poem, admiring his recently dead ‘soulmate’. The Phlebas allusion to Verdenal is further reinforced through the line “Current under sea Picked his bones”. Creating a similar scene to Verdenals post-death with the ocean washing him around after he had died. Plus, Eliot coined the phrase “April is the cruelest month”, knowingly coincidently – the month in which Verdenal died. This can be read alluding to the undeniable grief that Eliot must have experienced after finding out his best friend, if not boyfriend, had died.
Homosexually or not, I believe there’s just too much evidence to deny that Eliot and Verdenal were soulmates…but they definitely were gay. And to finish this off, here’s what Verdenal said to Eliot during parting ways in Paris: “Space more than time would separate us”
Eliot is *sadly* at fault for the monstrosity of ‘Cats’.
If you hadn’t heard of ‘Cats’ before 2019, well, you definitely have now, and it’s all thanks to our favourite poet, T.S Eliot. However, before it quickly became a catastrophe (sorry, I had to) starring James Corden, it was better known as one of the longest running broadway shows, an adaption of Eliot’s 1939 poetry collection ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’. This family book was essentially full of whimsical ‘nonsense’ poems, centred around a group of delinquent felines who ran around messing things up – like cats do. Still though, Eliot had to come through with his dark, poetic ways, with the book mapping out the slow disintegration of Eliot’s life at the time.
As we all know, Eliot was one half of a dysfunctional marriage, and whilst writing the poetic book in the early 1930’s, he and his former wife were during their separation. A perfect collimate of this is Eliot writing of dogs being a somewhat violent gang, suspiciously similar to Vivienne’s dog Polly, who often aggravated and attempted attack on Eliot. This of course angered him and added to his dislike of dogs because, well, if you couldn’t already tell from like the whole book about cats thing, he was a *very* dedicated cat man.
Although the ideas had been adjusted by musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber from a children’s book to a glamorous theatre production, there are still many resemblances. Not only were the characters names, for example, ‘Rum Tum Tugger’ and ‘Growltiger’, kept the same, but most of the lyrics were just about copied and pasted straight from Eliot’s works onto the script. And if the whole book itself wasn’t enough, several unpublished verses by Eliot were used to create songs “Grizabella: The Glamour Cat” and “The Journey To The Heaviside Layer” whilst the passage “The Dry Salvages” from Eliot’s Four Quarters was used heavily as an inspiration for an additional song, “The Moments of Happiness”.
To round this one up, ‘Practical Cats’ has been adapted so many times, you could say it has…nine lives.
Eliot basically coined the term “bullshit”
That’s right, Eliot was not only a poet, but also a trendsetter. It all began in the early 1910s when Eliot wrote the poem ‘The Triumph Of Bullshit’. Although the word was only in the title, The Oxford Dictionary has now named it as the first recording of “Bullshit”. The poem follows Eliot retaliating against his female critics in which believed his work was too controversial to be published, to which Eliot calls…“Bullshit”. Yep, even the meaning behind the word has stayed the same since the early 1900’s.
Believe it or not, this all ties back to modernism, a 20th century cultural wave initiated in Europe which spread across the globe fast! During this time, not only was the world collapsing due to the First World War, but so were traditional conventions in literature and things like gender roles. In this time, poets came to a realisation that they didn’t have to follow classical structure in their works, and began to break stanza structures, break rhyme schemes and apply new poetic styles that poetry had never seen before. The fact that Eliot created a new word in the title of his poem was bold however, common for the time. And if you say that fact won’t keep you up tonight…I call bullshit.
So there you have it, now you know an uncomfortable amount of things about T.S Eliot’s personal life. Whether it be the in depth analysis of his trainwreck of a marriage, his secret boyfriend, his god awful creation of ‘Cats’ or his trendy invention of calling “bullshit”, I hope you are kept up tonight maybe wondering why he and Vivienne didn’t just like, break up, what’s with that?
P.S. – If you don’t like, comment, copy and paste and share to five friends, Eliot’s ghost will be watching you in your sleep tonight.