Eliot’s Radio Play

Mulk Raj Anand’s Conversations in Bloomsbury are full of tidbits of gossip. In one chapter he talks with  T. S. Eliot during a lunch at Schmidt’s Restaurant on Charlotte Street. Eliot is not entirely comfortable with Anand’s windy generalisations :

‘Don’t you think that there are a thousand realisations of the soul? And many visions open up?’
Eliot squirmed.

A couple of facts emerge, though. One is that by this time (about 1931, I think) The Waste Land was selling a thousand copies a year. Good by poetry standards, but even the most famous poem of the age couldn’t generate enough royalties to pay a living wage.

And when Anand has enthused about the large audiences for poetry in India, Eliot replies:

‘I wish it could be so here,’ Eliot said, screwing his face so that his brow was wrinkled. ‘Only the B.B.C. is beginning to go in for poetry recitals… I am writing a poetic drama for them.’

Maybe this fact is recorded elsewhere, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across a mention of this project before.

Is this an attempt to do something with the Sweeney Agonistes material, or something totally new?

Whatever it is, it indicates that Eliot was still thinking about dramatic projects between giving up on Sweeney and taking on The Rock.

Maybe there will be more hints about this in the appropriate volume of the Letters, whenever that comes out.


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