T.S. Eliot Kept His Day Job, Ctd

Jan 19 2013 @ 2:02pm

The Dish previously noted Eliot’s work as a banker. Robert Fay reminds us “what is less appreciated is that he was really good at his day job”:

Huxley observed that Eliot was indeed “the most bank-clerky of all bank clerks.” And an officer of Lloyd’s, upon hearing of Eliot’s success with his “hobby,” remarked that Eliot had a bright future at Lloyd’s if he wanted it. “If he goes on as he has been doing, I don’t see why — in time, of course, in time — he mightn’t even become Branch Manager.”

Fay is disillusioned over writers’ day jobs:

When I learned that critic and famed literary blogger Maud Newton worked full-time as a legal writer, I was devastated. Maud Newton? The woman with 156,000 followers on Twitter, who knows every book person worth knowing, and has been on C-Span Book TV, she needs a day job? … It’s far more romantic to think of Jack Kerouac working as a railroad brakeman, zipping through the American landscape on the California Zephyr, than it is to ponder Eliot in the basement, Dr. William Carlos Williams treating a dying woman or the former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser (2004-2006) working as an executive at Lincoln Benefit Life Insurance Company in Nebraska. That’s why I’ll stick with denial, thank you very much.

Update from a reader:

Well, Eliot may have kept it, but I’m not so sure he liked it.

According to Virginia Woolf’s diary, there were various plots among his friends to obtain an annuity for Eliot or set him up as publisher of a small literary press similar to Hogarth, the Woolfs’ publishing entity, and she implies this was because he was unhappy at the bank. I suspect the reason Eliot turned down various offers of help was not so much because he liked being a banker or didn’t wish to support himself with a “literary” job, but because his wife was emotionally disturbed and he needed considerable financial security in case he was forced to place her in a sanitarium, which, eventually, he was.