TS Eliot’s Restless Ghost Finds Home in Seaside Idyll
The Guardian UK
February 14, 2015
By Robert McCrum
Last September, listeners to National Public Radio, the US equivalent of Radio 4, heard an elderly New England widow, Dana Hawkes, describe how, at home in Massachusetts, her late husband would sometimes say “he used to see TS Eliot’s ghost.”
TS Eliot at his house, 18 Edgemoor in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Photograph: © Estate of T.S. Eliot
There is something apt in this claim. The author of Four Quartets and Murder in the Cathedral, who was born in St Louis on 26 September 1888, but lived and died in London, has always projected a rather spectral persona.
From his haunting recitation of The Waste Land (“Unreal city …”) to his cadaverous alter ego, Old Possum, and his fascination with clairvoyants such asMadame Sosostris, Eliot has always been a sombre, other-worldly figure in the literary landscape.
In his afterlife, as an Anglo-American literary giant with a long shadow, the poet’s psychic exile has never been quite fully commuted. Despite a memorial stone in Poet’s Corner and the kind of instant recognition known to Shakespeare, Keats and Wordsworth, TS Eliot has no shrine to equal Stratford, Hampstead or Grasmere.
Even in his native America, Eliot has remained homeless. In New England, Concord celebrates Henry Thoreau. Emily Dickinson is remembered in Amherst, and Nathaniel Hawthorne in Salem.
In contrast, the founding father of Modernism and author of The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, seems remote and unaffiliated. For all his British citizenship and membership of the Church of England, Eliot has become strangely rootless.
But now, 50 years after his death, and two years after the passing of Valerie, his beloved second wife, Eliot’s ghost is being appeased. The Observer has learned that, in a remarkable coup, the poet’s estate has just acquired the Eliot family’s summer house by the sea, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. READ FULL STORY HERE
18 Edgemoor, Eastern Point ~ The Eliot family house in Massachusetts. Photograph: © Estate of T.S. Eliot
Not only has the estate bought the house (for $1.3m), it plans to use it to promote Eliot’s life and works to his American readers. Reihill said: “By this time next year we hope to offer up to six poets, essayists or playwrights at a time a peaceful retreat to work on their projects. We’d also like to work with institutions of higher education to make it a centre for weekend symposia on Eliot or on poets and poetry related to him.”
View from the porch at 18 Edgemoor
Young Tom with his mother at the house in 1895. Photograph: © Estate of T.S. Eliot
TS Eliot with his cousins Eleanor and Barbara Hinkley in Gloucester in 1897. Photograph: © Estate of T.S. Eliot
Tom sitting on the veranda in his sailor suit playing with his toy yacht, and reading.Photograph: © Estate of T.S. Eliot
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