It was a chilly February evening in Cambridge, Massachusetts the second time Tom met Emily at his cousin’s house in 1913. He was 24, she was 21. It was a party. They were putting on scenes from Jane Austen’s Emma. Emily was playing Mrs. Elton and Tom was playing Mr. Woodhouse.
Off stage, Tom was absolutely smitten with her. He knew he was Oxford-bound so he proposed. She hesitated.
He ended up marrying the infamous Vivian Haighwood instead and didn’t see Emily Hale for another twelve years. In 1957 he remarried Valerie Fletcher. In between all these years marks a platonic love affair through letters—1,131 letters to be exact.
Emily Hale was an English teacher and Tom was none other than T.S. Eliot.
Image Via Wikipedia
According to The Rumpus, in 1927 Eliot and Hale resumed regular contact. Vivien was very sick and they kept their relationship secret, afraid of scandal.
image via the imaginative conservative.org
After Vivien died, Hale stayed in the states and kept a job as an English teacher, hoping in vain the poet, T.S. Eliot, would propose to her.
There are hints of regret in Four Quartets that could be referencing many of the women in Eliot’s lives. In the end, he burned the letters he received from Emily Hale supposedly at the fireplace of Faber and Faber, but Emily didn’t. Rather, she gave them to an archivist at Princeton University and instructed that they be kept under lock and key until January 1st, 2020.
As the date nears, many T.S. Eliot biographers and enthusiasts are dying for the letters to reveal the true nature of T.S. Eliot. Was Hale the “secret heartache?” Is she the ultimate “ethereal woman?” Did she inspire parts of The Four Quartets? We’ll have to wait and find out.
Featured Image Via NPR
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