Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot
Wife of T S Elliot
Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot
Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot was an English governess and writer who became the first wife of the American poet, T. S. Eliot (1888–1965). Her legacy, and the extent to which she influenced Eliot's work, has been the subject of much debate.
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No She Said No
NYTimes - about 13 years
LUCIA JOYCE To Dance in the Wake. By Carol Loeb Shloss. Illustrated. 560 pp. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $30. James Joyce said, in 1934: ''People talk of my influence on my daughter, but what about her influence on me?'' Or so the Joyce biographer Richard Ellmann was told, 20 years afterward, by Joyce's close friend Maria Jolas. At around
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NYTimes article
The Hollow Man and His Wife
NYTimes - almost 15 years
PAINTED SHADOW The Life of Vivienne Eliot, First Wife of T. S. Eliot, and the Long-Suppressed Truth About Her Influence on His Genius. By Carole Seymour-Jones. Illustrated. 698 pp. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. $35. The subtitle of this biography proudly announces how Carole Seymour-Jones conceives of her endeavor. Its title and epigraph
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BROADWAY ; In swap by Papp, 2 plays for Public and 2 for London.
NYTimes - over 32 years
Last time around we got an array of female notables that included a ninth-century Pope Joan, Chaucer's Patient Griselda and Bruegel's Dull Gret. This time we'll be treated to the highly charged interrogation of an Irish Catholic terrorist and to the doomed marriage of T. S. Eliot and his first wife, who died in a mental asylum. Once again, Joseph
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THEATER IN LONDON; T. S. ELIOT BECOMES A FIGURE OF CONTROVERSY
NYTimes - almost 33 years
Michael Billington writes frequently about theater in London. A first-class literary row has erupted around a new play dealing with the poet T. S. Eliot's unhappy first marriage to Vivienne Haigh Wood. The play, ''Tom and Viv'' by the 45-year-old Michael Hastings, is currently packing London's Royal Court Theater and is a part-factual,
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot
    FIFTIES
  • 1947
    Age 58
    They remained married until her death in 1947, but Haigh-Wood's poor physical and mental health, and Eliot's apparent intolerance of it, produced a stormy relationship, made worse by her apparently having an affair with the philosopher Bertrand Russell.
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  • FORTIES
  • 1938
    Age 49
    Her brother had her committed to an asylum in 1938, after she was found wandering the streets of London at five o'clock in the morning, apparently asking whether Eliot had been beheaded.
    More Details Hide Details Apart from one escape attempt, she remained there until she died nine years later at the age of 58; she was said to have suffered a heart attack, although there is a suspicion that she took an overdose. Eliot won the Nobel Prize for Literature the following year. Carole Seymour-Jones writes that it was out of the turmoil of the marriage that Eliot produced The Waste Land, one of the 20th century's finest poems. Eliot's sister-in-law, Theresa, said of the relationship: "Vivienne ruined Tom as a man, but she made him as a poet." Haigh-Wood was born in Knowsley Street, Bury, Lancashire, the first child of Rose Esther (née Robinson 1860–1941) and Charles Haigh-Wood (1854–1927), an artist and member of the Royal Academy of Arts. Charles was local to the area, but his wife was born in London where the couple had been living, and they had returned to Bury for an exhibition of Charles's paintings at a gentleman's club, with Rose Esther heavily pregnant. The journey may have triggered the birth earlier than expected, and Haigh-Wood was born in Lancashire rather than London.
  • 1935
    Age 46
    The last time she saw him was on 18 November 1935 at a Sunday Times Book Fair in Regent Street, London, where he was giving a talk.
    More Details Hide Details Carrying her dog, Polly, and three of his books, she arrived in clothes she had started wearing to performances of his plays: a British Union of Fascists uniform, black beret and black cape. She wrote in her diary: I turned a face to him of such joy that no-one in that great crowd could have had one moment's doubt. I just said, Oh Tom, & he seized my hand, & said how do you do, in quite a loud voice. He walked straight on to the platform then & gave a most remarkably clever, well thought out lecture.... I stood the whole time, holding Polly up high in my arms. Polly was very excited & wild. I kept my eyes on Tom's face the whole time, & I kept nodding my head at him, & making encouraging signs. He looked a little older, more mature & smart, much thinner & not well or robust or rumbustious at all. No sign of a woman's care about him. No cosy evenings with dogs and gramophones I should say.
  • 1933
    Age 44
    Eliot arranged for a formal separation in February 1933 and thereafter shunned Haigh-Wood entirely, hiding from her and instructing his friends not to tell her where he was.
    More Details Hide Details She could not accept the end of the relationship. Her efforts to find him appeared to his friends to confirm that she was mentally ill.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1915
    Age 26
    The couple were married after three months, on 26 June 1915, at Hampstead Register Office in London, with Lucy Ely Thayer (Scofield's sister) and Haigh-Wood's aunt, Lillia C. Symes, as witnesses.
    More Details Hide Details Eliot signed "no occupation" on the certificate and described his father as a brick manufacturer. Neither of them told their parents.
  • 1914
    Age 25
    Haigh-Wood met Tom Eliot in or around March 1914 at a dance in London, where he took tea with her and a friend.
    More Details Hide Details They met again shortly after that at a lunch party in Scofield Thayer's rooms at Magdalen College, Oxford. Eliot and Thayer, both from privileged New England backgrounds, had been at Harvard together, where Eliot had studied philosophy, and both had arrived in Oxford on scholarships. According to another friend of Eliot's, Sacheverell Sitwell, Eliot had noticed Haigh-Wood earlier, punting on the River Cherwell. Seymour-Jones writes that Oxford attracted young women visitors, or "river girls," who would come in search of eligible husbands; women were not allowed to take degrees at Oxford until 1920. Lyndall Gordon writes that Eliot was jolted to life by Haigh-Wood. He was a repressed, shy, 26-year-old who was bored in Oxford, writing of it that it was very pretty, "but I don't like to be dead." She was flamboyant, a great dancer, spoke her mind, smoked in public, dressed in bold colours and looked like an actress. Impressed by her apparently wealthy background, the artist father and the brother at Sandhurst, he failed to realise that, within the rigid English class system, Haigh-Wood was no match for his New England background or for the English aristocrats with whom he had surrounded himself. A few of his friends, including Aldous Huxley, said they liked Haigh-Wood precisely because she was vulgar. For her part, she fell in love with Eliot, seeing in him what she described as "the call to the wild that is in men."
    She became engaged to a schoolteacher, Charles Buckle, in 1914, but Buckle's mother was apparently unhappy about it.
    More Details Hide Details Haigh-Wood's health problems persuaded Rose Haigh-Wood that her daughter was suffering from "moral insanity." She decided that Haigh-Wood should not marry or bear children, and withdrew the family's consent to the marriage.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1896
    Age 7
    Haigh-Wood's brother, Maurice, was born there in 1896; he went on to train at Sandhurst and fought during the First World War.
    More Details Hide Details Although the family was clearly well-to-do, Seymour-Jones writes that Haigh-Wood was ashamed of her connection to Lancashire, perceived as working-class, and was left with a sense of inferiority that made her self-conscious and snobbish, especially when mixing with Eliot's aristocratic London friends. Little is known of her education. She played the piano, painted, took ballet lessons, was a good swimmer and worked for a short time as a governess for a family in Cambridge. She had multiple health problems. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis of the bone in her left arm when she was a child; this was before the discovery of antibiotics and apparently little could be done about it. She was treated by Sir Frederick Treves and said she had had so many operations, she had no memory of her life before the age of seven. She was also plagued by heavy, irregular menstruation, to her great embarrassment, and severe pre-menstrual tension, which led to mood swings, fainting spells and migraines. She would insist on washing her own bedlinen, often twice a day, and would take her sheets home with her to clean when on holiday, once leading a hotel to claim she had stolen them, to Eliot's dismay. She apparently felt unable to ask her mother for help. Eventually her mother took her to a doctor who prescribed potassium bromide to sedate her, which probably meant he had diagnosed "hysteria," a common label for difficult women.
  • 1888
    Born
    Born on May 28, 1888.
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