One hundred years ago this month, on 19 March 1917, T. S. Eliot started working as a clerk in the Colonial & Foreign Department at Lloyds Bank. Eliot enjoyed eight years with the bank until the autumn of 1925 when he left to begin a new career as editor and director at the newly established publishing house of Faber & Gwyer.
We have just a handful of original items from T. S. Eliot’s time at the bank, but what has survived are three letters from W. Johns, Assistant General Manager at Lloyds, and a memo from his colleagues in the Colonial & Foreign Department.
In January 1925, Eliot became ill with influenza and was suffering from a breakdown, having been working in a ‘dark airless basement’ for the past six months. Having not fully recovered his health, the bank offered Eliot extended leave in February, by which time Eliot’s wife Vivienne had also taken ill and needed his care. In his letters Johns urges Eliot to accept the bank’s offer of leave, adding that while they all wanted him back at the bank they would not allow him to return until he was fit enough.
This rather sweet memo of 30 April 1925 was signed by Eliot’s colleagues in the Colonial & Foreign Department and sent ahead of his expected return to work. It reads ‘The boys and girls are all looking forward to seeing you on Monday next without fail’ and suggests that he was well liked and missed at the bank.
Eliot eventually left the bank in November 1925 and in his letter of resignation to Johns he thanks his colleagues whose ‘abundant generosity and sympathy I shall never forget’. His colleague and friend James Devine Aylward wrote to him upon learning of his resignation. Clearly saddened by Eliot’s departure, Aylward writes that it is a personal blow but wishes him well, ending the letter ‘I shall always wish you … the better fortune you have always deserved’. They remained friends and in correspondence until Eliot’s death.