This fifth volume of the collected letters of poet, playwright, essayist, and literary critic Thomas Stearns Eliot covers the years 1930 through 1931. It was during this period that the acclaimed American-born writer earnestly embraced his newly avowed Anglo-Catholic faith, a decision that earned him the antagonism of friends like Virginia Woolf and Herbert Read. Also evidenced in these correspondences is Eliot’s growing estrangement from his wife Vivien, with the writer’s newfound dedication to the Anglican Church exacerbating the unhappiness of an already tormented union.
Yet despite his personal trials, this period was one of great literary activity for Eliot. In 1930 he composed the poems Ash-Wednesday and Marina, and published Coriolan and a translation of Saint-John Perse’s Anabase the following year. As director at the British publishing house Faber & Faber and editor of The Criterion, he encouraged W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Louis MacNeice, and Ralph Hogdson, published James Joyce’s Haveth Childers Everywhere, and turned down a book proposal from Eric Blair, better known by his pen name, George Orwell. Through Eliot’s correspondences from this time the reader gets a full-bodied view of a great artist at a personal, professional, and spiritual crossroads.