Michael Wood, a professor at Princeton, has published a thorough but relatively brief review of the second volume of Eliot’s letters, which Faber & Faber just released. Sigh, that means it’s expensive (Thirty-five pounds! Pounds, not dollars!) I’ll probably never actually read the book, since like everyone else I’ve got a thousand other things I want/need to get through. However, the review offers an entertaining gloss on the volume, and if you’re the kind of reader who is interested in writers’ letters, you’ll like it.
Wood is particularly sapient–and grimly funny–when discussing the poet’s generally wretched marriage (“the competitive invalidism the Eliots have instead of a marriage”) and his grey-faced attitude toward life: “this is the writing of a man who thinks he has a vocation for unhappiness, who thinks unhappiness is a genuine vocation.” That looks sanctimonious out of context, but Wood is actually a charitable reviewer who obviously likes Eliot. Can’t blame him: while the life may have been miserable, the poems remain magnificent.