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This article is taken from PN Review 138, Volume 27 Number 4, March - April 2001.

Working for T.S. Eliot Anne Ridler

'II n'y a point de héros pour son valet de chambre', and in general this must be true for a man's secretary also. I can truthfully say, however, that no disillusion overtook my view of T. S. Eliot, hero to the poetasters of my generation, after my years of working as secretary and junior editor in Faber & Faber.

I started there in the production department in 1935, under Richard de la Mare, and later moved to be Eliot's secretary, responsible for seeing the Criterion through the press, and monitoring the unsolicited contributions which came in to that quarterly. Also, as there was no rigid delimiting of jobs, I did copy-editing, and reported on manuscripts to the weekly Book Committee.

I lived in Taviton Street, only five minutes walk from the Faber offices at 24 Russell Square, and before I went into the firm had hung around the door at a likely time to see the great man come out. So, once taken on as an employee, I soon made a pretext to go up in the creaky lift to the second floor on some message to Mr Eliot. The pretext was a query raised by the proof reader on his Collected Poems 1909-35, and concerned the gender of a noun in 'Lune de Miel', which he had given wrongly, writing 'le Cène'. 'Well, that depends of course on Italian,' he said, and I was puzzled, informing him of what I was sure he must ...

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