Our first poetry news roundup of 2020 looks at the exciting T.S Eliot literary archive that is to be unsealed.
Sealed Literary Archives to Open After 60 Years
January 2nd will mark an exciting day for the literary world when a collection of letters sent to Emily Hale from the Noble Laureate T.S. Eliot will be unsealed.
The literary archive which is located at Princeton University Library contains a staggering 1131 letters which were sent between the two lifelong friends. The letters date from 1930 to 1957 and form the largest single collection of correspondence that Eliot sent. They are also amongst the most famous sealed literary archives anywhere in the world. They will be available for research purposes.
The letters were donated over 60 years ago to the library by Hale. The only stipulation that was made was that they were not to be opened until 50 years had passed following the death of either correspondent, whoever died last. Eliot passed away in 1965 and Hale in 1969.
The unsealing of the archive is a literary event that is already causing significant interest both in the literary community and amongst Princeton students. Many of them who are fascinated by “The Waste Land” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” are hoping that the letters will reveal something about the poets love life as well as his attitudes towards women, his religious conversion and even some of the decisions that he made whilst he was at Feber & Faber.
Hale has often been referred to as his confidant and muse, and it is hoped that this relationship will become clearer from the letters.
The collection that Hale donated to the library also includes clippings, photographs and ephemera as well as a brief note that Hale penned herself regarding her relationship with Eliot. In total, the collection makes up the contents of 12 boxes of material that are currently identified with post-it notes marked “Eliot/Hale. Sealed until 2020”
Hale and Eliot met in 1912 when the poet was at Harvard University and Hale was a drama and speech teacher in Milwaukee. In 1927 they rekindled their friendship. Eliot returned to England and they continued to write to each other on a regular basis. Speculation regarding their relationship has been rife for many years and even the subject of a couple of books.
The letters that Hale sent to Eliot will forever hold their mysteries as the poet burned them.
Each of the letters in the collection has been carefully catalogued and scanned before being returned to its original envelope – Hale kept them all – and then being filed in date order according to the postmarks. These scanned letters will be available to multiple students at the same time in order to allow for greater and in-depth study.
The library is also home to other correspondence from Eliot as well as other well-known literary figures including correspondence from Lewis Carroll, and letters from the authors Oscar Wilde, Emily Dickinson and Charles Dickens.
Until 2035, the collection will not be available for online access due to copyright. Access will only be allowed to those individuals who can visit the library in person.