The Hyacinth Girl
The revealing of T. S. Eliot’s hidden muse – Emily Hale, the Hyacinth Girl of the famous The Waste Land poem
‘Extraordinary… A rare work of sympathy and insight’ Colm Toibin
‘Gordon sifts through the documents with her customary care and delicacy’ Frances Wilson, Telegraph
‘Thanks to Gordon’s meticulous research and inspired storytelling we will never read [Eliot’s] poems the same way again’ Heather Clark
‘Exquisitely nuanced’ Kathryn Hughes, Sunday Times
‘An illuminating account’ Publishers Weekly
‘As exciting as a detective story… Gordon establishes the profound influence [the relationship] had upon the substance and in particular upon the imagery of Eliot’s work’ Margaret Drabble, New Statesman
Among the greatest of poets, T. S. Eliot protected his privacy while publicly associated with three women: two wives and a church-going companion. This presentation concealed a life-long love for an American: Emily Hale, a drama teacher to whom he wrote (and later suppressed) over a thousand letters. Hale was the source of “memory and desire” in The Waste Land; she is the Hyacinth Girl.
Drawing on the dramatic new material of the only recently unsealed 1,131 letters Eliot wrote to Hale, leading biographer Lyndall Gordon reveals a hidden Eliot. Emily Hale now becomes the first and consistently important woman of life — and his art. Gordon also offers new insight into the other spirited women who shaped him: Vivienne, the flamboyant wife with whom he shared a private wasteland; Mary Trevelyan, his companion in prayer; and Valerie Fletcher, the young disciple to whom he proposed when his relationship with Emily foundered. Eliot kept his women apart as each ignited his transformations as poet, expatriate, convert, and, finally, in his latter years, a man `made for love.’
Emily Hale was at the centre of a love drama he conceived and the inspiration for the lines he wrote to last beyond their time. To read Eliot’s twice-weekly letters to Emily during the thirties and forties is to enter the heart of the poet’s art.
Extraordinary... The Hyacinth Girl is a rare work of sympathy and insight. Lyndall Gordon's passionately intelligent engagement with the letters between T. S. Eliot and Emily Hale is matched by her close reading of Eliot's poems. Her ability to see both complexity and simplicity in the relationship between Eliot and Hale means that their entangled world comes fully alive in this brilliant book * Colm Toibin * T.S. Eliot's oft-forgotten relationship with an American woman takes center stage in this illuminating account from Gordon ... it also treats the women in his life with dignity and goes a long way in reversing the erasure he attempted. Literature lovers, take note * Publishers Weekly * There is no finer guide into the mind of T. S. Eliot than Lyndall Gordon... Thanks to her meticulous research and inspired storytelling we will never read [Eliot's] poems the same way again * Heather Clark, author of Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath * Allows Gordon to find new coherence in Eliot's otherwise apparently fragmented interior life... Equally praiseworthy are Gordon's sensitive assessments of the other women who shaped Eliot's life * Booklist * An astute portrait of Eliot... Gordon illuminates Eliot's writing through the prism of his correspondence with Emily Hale, demonstrating how central she is to a real understanding of the man and his work... A revelatory book' * Erica Wagner, author of Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the story of Birthday Letters * Gordon is the first biographer to uncover the life of T. S. Eliot's hidden muse... [her] fairminded and declarative approach works perfectly for a story that gives the reader a shocked understanding of the way that a literary genius was ready to banish the women he loved when they no longer served his purpose... a work that will change the way Eliot is seen * Miranda Seymour, author of I Used to Live Here Once: The Haunted Life of Jean Rhys * Gordon sifts through the documents with her customary care and delicacy... [her] subtle readings never lose sight of the central mystery -- Frances Wilson * Telegraph *
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