- To the Editor of The Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury
- The Johns Hopkins University Press and Faber & Faber Ltd
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416 ] To the Editor of The Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury1 The Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury (30 Nov 1922) 9 Sir, – My attention has been called to two paragraphs about myself in the issue of the Liverpool Post of the 16th of this month.2 The two paragraphs contain a number of statements which are quite untrue. No such collection or presentation as that mentioned ever took place, and I never made the statement attributed to me. I have not received £800 or any part of such sum, nor have I received any sum from “Bel Esprit,” nor have I left the bank.3 The “Bel Esprit” scheme in the manifesto referred to by your correspondent is not in existence with my consent or approval. Finally the appearance of my poem in the Criterion is not the result of any “scheme” whatever. The circulation of untrue stories of this kind causes me profound astonishment and annoyance, and may also do me considerable harm. They are a reflection on me and on my dealings with my friends. I trust that you will take immediate steps to put this matter right.4 Yours etc., T. S. Eliot Notes 1. Titled by the Liverpool Daily Post “Mr. T. S. Eliot’s Contradiction” under the heading “Books and Bookmen.” TSE learned about the original column on 18 Nov and composed his response shortly thereafter; for his account of the delay in publication, see L1 798. 2. In the “Books and Bookmen” column on 16 Nov 1922, Brother Savage had reported that TSE was “the first beneficiary under a unique scheme through which a co-operation of English, French, and American enthusiasts, known as ‘Bel Esprit,’ pledged themselves to give $50 per year for life or as long as the author needs it.” After paraphrasing a circular for “Bel Esprit” (the idea and the term were both Pound’s, who had the circular printed for immediate distribution among friends in Mar 1922; see illustration 24), Savage alleged that a similar attempt to free TSE from Lloyds Bank had occurred two years earlier, after which, despite £800 raised on his behalf, he declined to abandon his position. After suggesting that TSE had suffered “a severe nervous breakdown,” the article concluded: “The poem in The Criterion is the initial result of what must be regarded as a considerate and generous scheme, with excellent possibilities.” The complete text of the article is reprinted in L1 789-90. [ 417 To the Editor of The Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury 3. TSE did not prohibit the early efforts of “Bel Esprit” on his behalf, but he had been reluctant about the plan since Pound told him about it in June 1922. He wrote shortly thereafter to Aldington, “The situation is embarrassing and fatiguing to me in spite of the motives, which I appreciate,” adding that he feared it would amount to a “precarious and slightly undignified charity” (L1 688). On 2 Aug, he told Sydney Schiff, a promised subscriber: “if the affair becomes public in such a way as to jeopardise my present position or make me ridiculous, I shall be forced publicly to discountenance it. As it is, no one could find it agreeable to have his private needs and way of life a subject of public scrutiny and criticism, however devoted it shows his friends to be” (L1 716). Though a total of £300 was pledged by more than twenty subscribers, the “Bel Esprit” plan did not continue after this public disclosure. 4. Directly beneath TSE’s letter, the editors responded that they were “extremely sorry”: “We are quite sure that nothing except a tribute to Mr. Eliot’s high position as a critic and poet was intended”; for their full response, see L1 795. When TSE sent clippings of the original column along with his response and the editors’ apology to Virginia Woolf, he told her, “I do not consider that the reparation offered by the Liverpool Post is at all adequate considering the grossness of the accusation” (L1 798). ...