Uit: The Women Come And Go
“It was in Eliot’s character to convert misfortune into fate, and he eventually undertook to normalize the abnormality. In 1927, he was confirmed into the Church of England, which made divorce essentially impossible; in 1928, he took a vow of chastity.
Four years later, Eliot went to the United States to teach and lecture, leaving Vivienne in England. While he was away, he had his solicitors send her a letter announcing his intention to separate, and when he returned, after a year, he went into hiding. If he imagined that a clean break would help Vivienne get over him faster, he miscalculated badly. The separation unhinged her. She stalked her husband, now a famous man, for five years. She was never able to find out where he lived, and he used to slip out the back of the office at Faber & Faber, where he was an editor, whenever she showed up asking for him. (The receptionist was on instructions to give him a special ring.) Most of the friends Vivienne had made through her marriage abandoned her, and her behavior grew increasingly bizarre. In 1934, she joined the British Union of Fascists; she liked to wear the uniform in public. In 1938, her brother, Maurice, had her committed to an asylum. She died there in 1947, at the age of fifty-eight, possibly from a deliberate overdose.
Eliot had meanwhile renewed his acquaintance with an American woman named Emily Hale, whom he had been in love with when he was a student at Harvard. At the time, she had declined to reciprocate his affections; now, an unmarried drama teacher at Scripps College, she found that her reasons for indifference had become less pressing. She devoted herself to Eliot. During the nineteen-thirties, she frequently spent the summer in England with him. Their relations were platonic. Hale was a proper Boston lady; Eliot’s Bloomsbury friends found her hideously dull. “That awful American woman Miss Hale,” Ottoline Morrell complained. “She is like a sergeant major, quite intolerable. However Tom takes her about everywhere.” Hale plainly believed that she was first in line to become the next Mrs. Eliot. But when Vivienne died Eliot told Hale that although he loved her, it was not, as she reported to a friend, “in the way usual to men less gifted i.e. with complete love thro’ a married relationship.” Hale was fifty-five. She decided to settle for incomplete love through an unmarried relationship.
Eliot had acquired another admirer, an Englishwoman named Mary Trevelyan. Their relationship, too, was asexual; apparently to discourage illusions of intimacy, Eliot made it a rule that they could not dine together on consecutive nights. They were friends for twenty years, during which Trevelyan proposed three times. Eliot demurred: after Vivienne, he explained, the idea of living with someone was a “nightmare.” Then, in 1957, at the age of sixty-eight, and without notifying Hale or Trevelyan, Eliot married his thirty-year-old secretary, Valerie Fletcher. Eliot and Mary Trevelyan stopped speaking to one another; Emily Hale had a nervous breakdown and ended up in Massachusetts General Hospital. Eliot was happy in his second marriage, which seems to have been a case of complete love of the married type. (“There was nothing wrong with Tom, if that’s your implication,” Valerie Eliot once told an interviewer who asked why Eliot’s first marriage had been a failure.) Eliot died in 1965; Valerie Eliot is still alive. She is her husband’s literary executor and, thanks to “Cats,” a very wealthy woman.”
Na een lange slapeloze nacht
Ik liep vroeg in de ochtend naar de zee
na een lange slapeloze nacht.
Ik klom over de gigantische meeuwkleurige rotsen
en ging langs de bomen,
lange dansers die hun ledematen strekten
en zich opwarmden in het blauwe licht.
Ik ging het zoute water in, een boeteling
wiens lichaam was bezoedeld,
en zwom naar een opkomende rode ster
in het oosten – koninklijk, in paars gewaad.
Een oever verdween achter me
en een ander wenkte.
dat ik de persoon vergat die ik was geweest
net zo gemakkelijk als de wolken die boven ons dreven.
Mijn handen scheidden het water.
De wind drukte tegen mijn rug, vleugels
en mijn ziel zweefde over de witkoppige golven.
Vertaald door Frans Roumen