Virginia Woolf Meets T. S. Eliot
From Virginia Woolf’s Diary on November 21, 1918:
I was interrupted somewhere on this page by the arrival of Mr Eliot. Mr Eliot is well expressed by his name – a polished, cultivated, elaborate young American, talking so slow, that each word seems to have special finish allotted it. But beneath the surface it is fairly evident that he is very intellectual, intolerant, with strong views of his own, & a poetic creed. I’m sorry to say that this sets up Ezra Pound & Wyndham Lewis as great poets, or in the current phrase “very interesting” writers. He admires Mr Joyce immensely. He produced 3 o 4 poems for us to look at – the fruit of two years, since he works all day in a Bank, & in his reasonable way thinks regular work good for people of nervous constitutions. I became more or less conscious of a very intricate & highly organised framework of poetic belief; owing to his caution, & his excessive care in the use of language we did not discover much about it. I think he believes in “living phrases” & their difference from dead ones; & so making this new poetry flower on the stem of the oldest.
As an illustration of Eliot’s views I may add what Desmond has just (Thursday 21st Nov.) told me; D. asked him how on earth he came to add that remark at the end of a poem on his Aunt & the Boston Evening Transcript that phrase about an infinitely long street, & “I like La Rochefoucauld saying good by” or words to that effect. [“I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning/Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld,/If the street were time and he at the end of the street”] Eliot replied that they were a recollection of Dante’s Purgatorio!
– The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Volume 1: 1915-1919