[The Campion Lecture 2023] T. S. Eliot, Terrible Celibate: Suffering and Sexuality in the Letters to Emily Hale

In January 2020, T. S. Eliot’s love letters to Emily Hale were finally made available by the Princeton archive, after a strict embargo stretching back to the 1950s. Three years later, in January 2023, the letters that have aroused such intense speculation have been published, and thanks to the generosity of the Eliot estate, they are available for free online. The archive consists of more than a thousand letters, written over decades to a woman Eliot loved but could not marry—until, suddenly, too late, he could marry but didn’t. Intimate, poignant, and occasionally enraging, the letters contain revelations large and small, challenging modernist scholars to rethink what has been known or assumed about the poet’s life and work. Prof Stayer’s talk will draw on these letters, as well as on his own archival work in the Bodleian and the Eliot Foundation, to illuminate his evolving ideas about suffering, sexuality, divorce—all of it informed by his conversion to the Church of England and his fierce commitment to Christian principles.