Friday 21 June 2013

A doodle by T. S. Eliot

Unpublished Eliot letter and drawing

Here's something I stumbled across in an archive at the Natural History Museum earlier this year. It's a short, undated typescript letter on headed notepaper from the offices of The Criterion, a literary magazine edited by T.S. Eliot. It's a note from Eliot to his close friend Geoffrey Tandy, suggesting a drink after work at their regular meeting-place, a subterranean wine bar in the shadow of Charing Cross station. 

The message reads:

With best wishes for Pentecost.

How’s the fat girl with the eye shade? And how about a glass of the inwariable on Wednesday next? Usual time and place. 

With regards to Pollylorum and the limbs of Satan, and love to the licensee.

I'll explain these cryptic references in my next blog.

Instead of a signature Eliot - clearly in a jolly mood - appends a pencilled drawing, possibly a self-portrait, of a Prufrock-like chap sporting a piratical eye patch. The smoke curling from his pipe (clenched at a jaunty angle) is a visual rhyme with the corkscrew hair. You can just about make it out on the image below.

(Tilt screen 180 degrees to see doodle)

Idea for a book - authors' doodles? Anonymised perhaps, with a key at the back. Beckett was a compulsive doodler, as his Murphy manuscript confirms, and James Joyce once turned his hand to this portrait of Leopold Bloom:

LB by JJ

All Eliot content is copyright The Estate of T. S. Eliot.

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