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This article is taken from PN Review 175, Volume 33 Number 5, May - June 2007.

Vivien Eliot and The Waste Land: The Forgotten Fragments John Haffenden

I have recently discovered in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, some lost leaves of the manuscript of The Waste Land which to the best of my knowledge have been neglected by the several biographers and critics who have studied them over the last 35 years. (T.S. Matthews was the very first researcher to look into the archive, in 1972, though the Vivien Eliot Papers had been lodged with the Bodleian, to which she had bequeathed them, since the late 1940s.) The bundle designated Eng misc. c 624, folios 107- 108, contains what may be the earliest surviving version of the drafts of 'The Fire Sermon' as first published by Valerie Eliot, the poet's widow and executrix, in the facsimile edition (1971). Furthermore, these overlooked autograph leaves were the direct source for a version of the selfsame lines as pseudonymously published in 1924 - two years after the appearance of The Waste Land - by Eliot's first wife, Vivien Eliot (1888- 1947). These fragments of the poem enable us to gain a rather better understanding of the subtle personal and creative interchanges between Eliot and his wife. It was of Vivien that Eliot once wrote in a letter to a friend, 'she writes extremely well'. I would like to suggest here, from the published and unpublished evidence, that Eliot's wife was indeed a shrewd and satirical stylist in her writings, and that she was a good deal more than the embodiment in ...


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