The Hyacinth Girl: T.S. Eliot's Hidden Muse

Product Details
$35.00  $32.55
W. W. Norton & Company
Publish Date
6.44 X 9.43 X 1.6 inches | 1.94 pounds

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About the Author
Lyndall Gordon is the author of eight acclaimed biographies, including T.S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life. She lives in Oxford. England.
In an engrossing study of art refracting life, Lyndall Gordon explores the conflicted emotions that Eliot translated into his ostensibly impersonal art. Making superb use of his letters to the hitherto shadowy Emily Hale that were released after a sixty-year embargo, Gordon tells the story of a lifelong love, sustained but resisted, that lay hidden beneath his marriages with the troubled Vivienne and the adoring Valerie.--Leo Damrosch, author of Adventurer: The Life and Times of Giacomo Casanova
There is no finer guide into the mind of T. S. Eliot than Lyndall Gordon. Drawing upon Eliot's newly unsealed letters to Emily Hale, The Hyacinth Girl reimagines one of the great literary love stories of the twentieth century. Eliot's letters--smoldering with poetic ambition, repressed desire, and religious conviction--confirm Hale's central role in The Waste Land and Four Quartets. Thanks to Gordon's meticulous research and inspired storytelling, we will never read these poems the same way again: It turns out that the great poet of 'impersonality' was baring his soul all along. Emily Hale, too, finally gets her due in this brilliant and revelatory work from one of our greatest biographers.--Heather Clark, author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath
Extraordinary.... The Hyacinth Girl is a rare work of sympathy and insight. Lyndall Gordon's passionately intelligent engagement with the letters between T. S. Eliot and Emily Hale is matched by her close reading of Eliot's poems. Her ability to see both complexity and simplicity in the relationship between Eliot and Hale means that their entangled world comes fully alive in this brilliant book.--Colm Tóibín, author of The Magician
Like an unopened Egyptian tomb, a trove of T. S. Eliot's letters has lurked for decades in a Princeton library. Lyndall Gordon has now cracked it open, and in The Hyacinth Girl reveals a treasure of new insights into this most emblematic modern poet. If you thought you knew Eliot, think again.--Benjamin Moser, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Sontag: Her Life and Work
Lyndall Gordon is the first biographer to uncover the life of T. S. Eliot's hidden muse, the inspiration for one of his greatest works of poetry. Gordon's fairminded and declarative approach works perfectly for a story that gives the reader a shocked understanding of the way that a literary genius was ready to banish the women he loved when they no longer served his purpose. This is a work that will change the way that Eliot is seen.--Miranda Seymour, author of I Used to Live Here Once: The Haunted Life of Jean Rhys
The Hyacinth Girl is an elegant meditation on the women whose lives were fundamental to the life of T. S. Eliot. Lyndall Gordon has given us the fullest account yet of Eliot's strained and distant relationship with his onetime sweetheart Emily Hale, kept dangling for decades as he grew more eminent and more remote, and one of the most detailed, vivid pictures of his nightmare marriage to Vivienne Haigh-Wood, who was ultimately committed to a sanatorium against her will. Together with her account of Eliot's subsequent marriage to Valerie Fletcher, who had been his secretary, these give a painfully intimate look at the poet, one that also results in significant reassessments of his most imposing poems.--Michael North, Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles, and editor of the Norton Critical Edition of The Waste Land and Other Poems
In this splendid biography, Lyndall Gordon offers a comprehensive, balanced account of T. S. Eliot's hidden love for Emily Hale set in relation to his poetry, spiritual journey, and three other important women in his life--Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot, Mary Trevelyan, and Valerie Fletcher Eliot. Drawing on an immense archive of previously embargoed Eliot-Hale correspondence, Gordon shows how each of these women played a uniquely transformative role in the maturation of Eliot's poetry and faith. An indispensable study that will inspire new perspectives on Eliot's life and work for generations to come.--Anita Patterson, professor of English, Boston University
Drawing on fresh revelations, Lyndall Gordon's superb book brims with insight into T. S. Eliot's complex love of women and its impact on his poetry. Beautifully written, fiercely honest, The Hyacinth Girl permanently dissolves the myth of impersonality, fathoming the vexed, tormented emotional life behind Eliot's work.--Jahan Ramazani, author of Poetry in a Global Age
The true nature of T. S. Eliot's love for his American muse, Emily Hale, has been nearly wholly hidden until now. In The Hyacinth Girl, Lyndall Gordon paints an astute portrait of Eliot as a man trapped between desire and propriety, between a past history of emotional damage and a seemingly impossible future of romantic contentment. Gordon illuminates Eliot's writing through the prism of his correspondence with Hale, demonstrating how central she is to a real understanding of the man and his work. A revelatory book.--Erica Wagner, author of Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and the story of Birthday Letters
Illuminating.... If this fine and entertaining account leaves readers shocked by instances of Eliot's theatrical and self-serving misogyny (he 'felt burdened by women'), it also treats the women in his life with dignity and goes a long way in reversing the erasure he attempted.... Literature lovers, take note.--Publishers Weekly, starred review
Vibrant.... In narrating [Eliot's] romantic attachments, [Gordon] captures his manipulations, his selfishness, what she calls his 'cruelty, ' without abandoning her mission to understand him and his writing.... There is a human richness to Eliot's cerebral poetry that we can appreciate more in the context of his knotted emotional life, and Gordon's art is in drawing this out.--Katie Roiphe "New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)"