Monday, September 13, 2021

An annotated life …

… The Letters of TS Eliot Volume 9: 1939-1941 review – of poetry and purgatives. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

With a kind of inverse dandyism, Eliot concurrently fusses over his clothes, which he relies on to render him innocuous. The war, he thought, would usher in a totalitarian future when “we are all either in uniforms, or Civil Servants”; avoiding both khaki and pinstripes, he still sought the camouflage of uniformity. After being awarded a fellowship at a Cambridge college, he frets about acquiring the correct gown, surplice and hood. His duties as an air-raid warden in Kensington come with their own sartorial rules: Old Possum, the alter ego he adopted for his poems about cats, decrees that “Gas Masks are to be Worn, Under, not Over the Necktie”. At Christmas, he treats himself to a spring suit of blue-grey Glenurquhart Angola wool. He is especially proud of his umbrella, essential to the armature of the City gent: made of whangee cane, it has a bamboo handle and he coyly shelters behind it on the cover of this volume.

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