To Edith Perkins

T. S.Eliot
TS Beinecke
The Criterion
30 July 1936
Dear Mrs. Perkins,

IPerkins, Edith (EH's aunt)explains EH's breakdown to TSE;c6 am very grateful to you for your letter of the 21st.,1 as the cable last week left me very puzzled and anxious. Several causes seem to have contributed to Emily’s illness. She has of course made rather light of health in writing to me, and as I have not an innocent faith in her reports on this subject, it is a great relief to hear from you. IHale, Irene (née Baumgras);b3 had realised that she was giving herself much too generously to Mrs. Hale, but at this distance I could not expostulate effectively, as she would have felt that I did not understand the circumstances. I think also that the appointment to Smith, coming when it did, simply added another burden of anxiety. I think it is most important, if I may say so, that she should be made to realise that she can, without extra effort, but merely by being confident and herself and welcoming the work and the pupils, make a great success at Smith: it would be good if she could get some glimmering of how much her personality can impress young girls, and how much good she can do them merely by existing in their presence. She needs to make no effort to have adoring pupils, and when they adore her they are certain to benefit.

Meanwhile, I must thank you for your hospitality, but it turns out that my sister is going away earlier than she expected, and will be back in Cambridge before I arrive: and you will understand that she will expect me to stay with her. But I believe that Clement Circle is quite near, and I shall naturally, as naturally as before, be taking every advantage of your hospitality.2

Affectionately yours,
T. S. Eliot

1.Letter not traced.

2.Gordon, The Imperfect Life of T. S. Eliot, 314–15: ‘By 1936, Emily was back in Boston with the Perkinses … applying for one post after another (still handicapped by her lack of a college degree). Eventually, Emily found a position at Smith College for the fall of 1936. She was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Spoken English … But by this time Emily had broken down.

‘InSenexet, WoodstockEH makes retreat to;a4 the spring she took refuge in a Unitarian retreat called Senexit at Putnam … She recalled later “the retreat from this little world of men to the great spaces of the Service”. Faith began to heal her when she turned beyond the doorway at the far end of the communal room, and found the chapel …

‘She was still too ill to write, but the Perkinses kept Eliot informed. In a state of some alarm [Eliot] booked a passage via Montreal in August.’

TSE was to arrive in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 31 Aug. He lodged with his sister Ada Sheffield and her husband at 31 Madison Street, Gray Gardens; the Perkinses lived nearby at 5 Clement Circle, where Emily was convalescing from her nervous state.

SeeMcPherrin, JeanetteTSE confides EH's breakdown to;d9 too TSE to Jeanette McPherrin (Denver, Colorado), 20 Aug. 1936 (Letters 6, 334–6): ‘I don’t know whether you have regular news from Emily, but I imagine that lately you have heard little. I have been rather alarmed about her, though less so now; and I shall see her in ten days. The winter with the Perkins’s, and trying for one job after another, must have been very trying for her; and she has had a sort of a breakdown. Apparently she is much better, and no one expects her to be unable to start at Smith; but I want her to be able to make a good start, and with confidence: because jobs are hard to get (especially for those who have no college degree) and this is a good one among nice people. The Perkins’s have been good in writing to me, during the period now over when Emily could not write herself: but they attribute her breakdown largely to her having worked every day trying to help Mrs. Hale, who behaved in her usual irrational fashion. I cannot help feeling that if they assign this reason (whether it is so important or not) one might expect them to reproach themselves a little bit for having allowed it to go so far: because they must have been perfectly aware from day to day what Emily was doing and how Mrs. H. was behaving towards her. However, I hope to find out more soon; and if you will let me know that you get this letter, and would like me to write, I will give you the result of my observations’ (Scripps).

Hale, Irene (née Baumgras), descends on Campden, TSE on, compared to Mrs Perkins, EH reaches limit with, and Orlando and the parrots, EH's relations with, shares EH's Oxford lodgings, oppresses EH, her effect on Campden life, menaces Chipping Campden, descends on EH in Northampton, in Northampton, decamps from Northampton, taken less seriously by EH, not to be indulged, less exhausting than Mrs Perkins, yet still exhausting, indifferent to hardships of relations,

3.IreneHale, Irene (née Baumgras) Hale, née Baumgras, widow of Philip Hale, celebrated as the prolific and influential music critic of the Boston Herald. Irene Hale, who was herself an accomplished pianist, had studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where she gained the Springer Gold Medal 1881, and continued with her studies in Europe under Raif and Moritz Mosckowski: she later wrote music under the name Victor Rene.

McPherrin, Jeanette, first mentioned, mentions 'shriners', TSE approves of, to accompany EH to Paris, and her first London visit, thanks TSE for Caetani introduction, TSE offers to rearrange studies at Cambridge, under I. A. Richards, encouraged to join EH in Rome, causes EH difficulty, joins EH in Florence, with EH in Rome, offered rare editions of Commerce, given introduction to the Maritains, whom she visits, shares TSE's Perkins concerns, sent stuffed plums, not to be mentioned at Campden, compared favourably to Margaret Thorp, disliked by Edith Perkins, EH job-seeking for, TSE confides EH's breakdown to, accompanied TSE and EH to Burford, taken to the Elsmiths, still persona non grata with the Perkinses, promised and receives East Coker, a Christian Scientist, recalls TSE's final day with Henry, hosts EH at Wellesley, now Lecturer in French at Wellesley, missed by EH, asks TSE to read at Wellesley,

2.JeanetteMcPherrin, Jeanette McPherrin (1911–92), postgraduate student at Scripps College; friend of EH: see Biographical Register.

Perkins, Edith (EH's aunt), her relationship to EH queried, to accompany EH to Scripps, asks TSE to dinner, at first Norton lecture, shares pew with TSE, accompanies TSE to Symphony Concert, in audience at Milton Academy, catches cold in Florence, in TSE's private opinion, TSE's occasional poem for, her relationship with EH analysed, dislikes Jeanette McPherrin, explains EH's breakdown to TSE, on the Harvard Murder, as Campden hostess, and TSE's wartime instructions to EH, gives lunch at American Women's Club, gives TSE balsam pillow, requests English edition of Cats, as horticulturalist, without Campden garden, compared to Irene Hale, gives TSE photograph of EH, attends Ada's funeral, reports on EH's Millbrook situation, pressed for ham and pineapple recipe, sight affected in one eye, gives lecture, sight failing, sight deteriorates in other eye, thanked for 1946 hospitality, gives to Books Across the Sea, according to EH, asks TSE to present slides to RHS, which TSE does, on EH and TSE's relationship, and Hidcote House, friendly with Marion, TSE pitches her book to publishers, depressed by the heat, somewhat recovered, approaching 80th, faced with husband's death, letter of condolence to, sent birthday poem, visited in Boston, has sciatica, reports on EH's dramatic activities, Miss Lavorgna on, in her old-age infirmity, suffers 'shock', sacks nurse, EH preserved from, sends funeral tribute to Cousin Will, and the Hale letters, nursing home sought for, moved into nursing home, where TSE writes to her, suffers stroke, deteriorating, relations with EH, her legacy to EH,
see also Perkinses, the
Senexet, Woodstock, EH interests TSE in, described, EH makes retreat to, which she writes about,