In celebration of International Women’s Day yesterday 8th March at the Journeys with “The Waste Land” Dry Run, we enjoyed a recital of the poem Wasteland – for Vivienne Eliot by Victoria Field read beautifully by Wendy Freeman.
Studying T. S. Eliot and the poem “The Waste Land” has revealed many facets of the life T. S. Eliot led with his first wife Vivienne. She was instrumental, along with Ezra Pound, for editing “The Waste Land”. It is claimed that Eliot was not sympathetic to Vivienne’s physical and mental health problems which put immense strain on the couple’s relationship. It was because of his own anguish that he went to Margate suffering from a mental breakdown himself, hoping for a recovery aided by the sea air. It was here he famously wrote parts of “The Waste Land” in the shelter overlooking Margate beach. The hasty and troubled marriage to Vivienne led eventually to a formal separation in 1933 and her brother, Maurice, had her committed to a lunatic asylum in 1938 where she died in 1947.
Eliot said of his marriage to Vivienne:
“I came to persuade myself that I was in love with Vivienne simply because I wanted to burn my boats and commit myself to staying in England. And she persuaded herself (also under the influence of [Ezra] Pound) that she would save the poet by keeping him in England. To her, the marriage brought no happiness. To me, it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land.”
Eliot, T. S. The Letters of T. S. Eliot, Volume 1, 1898–1922.London: Faber and Faber. 1988. p. xvii.