Booklets Of T.S. Eliot Poems Have Unusual Publishing
History And A Virginia Connection
1, 1999 -- The University of Virginia Library has
acquired two rare and privately printed booklets of poetry written
by T.S. Eliot, including a minor poem, "Virginia," that has a U.Va.
connection in its origins.
two chapbooks, "Words for Music" and "Two Poems," are significant
additions to the University's renowned American literature collections
because of their rarity and publishing history, library officials
finely printed books were published by Frederic Prokosch, an American
novelist and poet, in 1935, when Eliot was at the height of his
career and already one of the most celebrated and influential poets
of the 20th century. Only about 20 copies of each chapbook were
published and only a handful may be found today in libraries, said
Kendon L. Stubbs, deputy University Librarian.
and "New Hampshire," the two companion poems constituting the "Words
for Music" pamphlet, originally appeared in the April 1934 issue
of the University's Virginia Quarterly Review. In January, the review
had also published one of the Page-Barbour lectures given by Eliot
at U.Va. the previous year.
is likely that the American-born Eliot, who lived in London and
had become a British citizen, wrote the short poem "Virginia" after
his 1933 visit here, Stubbs said. And it is probable that to print
the "Words for Music" booklet Prokosch drew the text of the two
Eliot poems straight from the U.Va. quarterly, where he had come
of time and place -- a slow river, children's voices in an orchard
-- found in "Words for Music" appear later in Eliot's masterpiece
"Four Quartets," Stubbs noted.
whose own fiction at the time was the subject of international acclaim,
had also published poetry in the VQR, which was founded in 1925
and growing in prestige. On the side, he had begun to print small
limited-edition chapbooks of poems by well-known writers.
with the "Words for Music" publication when he received it as a
surprise gift from
Eliot the following year sent the younger writer the text of "Two
Poems" and paid him to publish it so Eliot could use it to give
to friends as a fine-press Christmas card. The two writers maintained
a cordial relationship in the years to come.
who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948, later published
all four minor poems in his "Collected Poems." The "Two Poems" pamphlet
contains "Cape Ann" and "Usk".
the 1960s Prokosch, his writing career in decline, became involved
in a publishing deception that, when discovered, shocked the rare-book
community, according to George Riser of the Library's Special Collections
staff. Prokosch again printed some fine chapbooks by well
poets but this time pre-dated the publication to the 1930s to make
them appear rare. "Words for Music" and "Two Poems" are not among
they recently became available at a rare book auction at Sotheby's,
library officials were able to purchase them with private funds.
Eliot's typescripts of "Virginia" and "New Hampshire" for the VQR
are also held in the University Archives.
quarterly, one of the few national journals that publishes a wide
range of fiction, poetry and general-interest essays, will celebrate
its 75th anniversary next year.
additional information Kendon Stubbs may be reached at (804) 924
0501 and George Riser at (804) 924-7556. Television reporters should
contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
river, red river,
flow heat is silence
will is still as a river
Will heat move
through the mocking-bird
once? Still hills
Gates wait. Purple trees,
trees, wait, wait,
decay. Living, living,
moving. Ever moving
thoughts came with me
go with me:
river, river, river.
Bob Brickhouse, (804) 924-6856.