Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October 2013: Tom & Viv by Michael Hastings

It was a glorious Indian Summer day, and we were able to sit outside for the first time ever!

But, well, what a difficult play to write about!  The theme of the play did not really reflect the glorious weather!  We all agreed it is one of the plays that we will remember.  We enjoyed reading it, and we felt it was a beautifully crafted piece of work, but it was not one which had us laughing out loud.

Tom & Viv in 1916
The sad story of T S Elliot's marriage to his first wife, Vivienne Haigh-Wood.  Sad for so many reasons, not least that today Vivienne's illness would have be  understood and treated with compassion. Sad because the medicine to make her better probably made her worse.  Sad because she was surely not the only woman to suffer as she did.  Sad because of the wasted lives ... but one has to wonder how Elliot's poetry would have developed had he not met Vivienne.  Would he have been drawn towards a similarly challenging muse?

But the play does reflect some moments of intense passion and joy between the two.  A passion which Elliot denies at the end of the play, but which was surely there in some form in their early days.

At the end of the play we all felt we wanted to know more about Elliot and Vivienne, and no doubt we have all gone home and switched on our computers to look them up!  I do hope so - there is far more to read about them than I have put below, even just the Wikipedia entries make interesting reading.

Some bare facts.

Thomas Stearns Elliot 1888-1965

Born in Missouri, but became a Brit in 1927.
Studied at Harvard & Oxford.
Married Vivienne 3 months after he met her (in Oxford) in 1915.  They remained married, although they were legally separated, until her death in 1947.  It is claimed that she, and her illness, was an inspiration for much of his poetry.
Modernist poet, who was given the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948 and The Order of Merit in the same year.
Married his second wife Valerie in in 1957.

Vivienne Haigh-Wood Elliot 1888-1947

It has been said:  "Vivienne ruined Tom as a man, but she made him as a poet."
She too was a writer, but her fame lies in being 'Elliot's first wife'.  The hormonal imbalance she suffered dominated her life and dictated the path her life took towards insanity.

Next Month:  To Kill a Mockingbird

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