[c/o Pres. & Mrs Havens, Wilson College, Chambersburg]

T. S.Eliot
The Criterion
24 March 1939
My dearest Emily,

This is the first opportunity that I have had to write since Tuesday evening. I had been fighting a cold for a week beforehand, and after the performance, and going to supper at John Hayward afterwards, and thence on to a party given by Michael Redgrave, I went to bed for two days and have only been up and out this afternoon.

First, to thank you for your dear cable, which arrived duly. TheFamily Reunion, TheMarch 1939 Westminster Theatre production;g3opening night;a6 performance seemed to me very good, indeed first rate, so far as I could judge from my box (whichFaber, Enid Eleanorand Ann share TSE's box;b1 IFaber, Annshares TSE's box at Family Reunion premiere;a5 shared with Enid Faber and Ann, as Geoffrey was in bed) but the boxes at the Westminster provide the worst seats in the house.1 WeAdrian, Max;a1 had had the usual upsets beforehand: the chauffeur was taken for the ‘Doctor’s Dilemma’ and replaced by Robert Harris, who is quite a good actor, but not right for the part. Then the doctor was so poor that he was chucked, and in default of anyone else Martin took on the part. ButBrowne, Elliott Martin1939 production of The Family Reunion;c1then into still-greater breach;b9 at the dress rehearsal StephenMurray, Stephencollapses at Family Reunion dress-rehearsal;a1 Murray,2 who was playing Charles, and a capital Charles too, collapsed with something diagnosed later as ‘low pneumonia’ – which means his absence for three weeks; so Martin took on his part, and the expelled doctor amiably consented to return. Except for the wigs being sent to Westminster Cathedral instead of the Westminster Theatre, there were no other mishaps. MichaelRedgrave, Michaelas Harry;a4 Redgrave worked very hard, and was competent, though by no means ideal for the part; Mary was indifferent; (IvyBrowne, Henzie (née Raeburn)in Family Reunion;a4 – Henzie – Gerald and Violet quite tolerable, and the policeman first rate. TheHaye, Helenas Amy;a1 greatLacey, Catherineas Agatha in Family Reunion;a1 successes were Amy and Agatha (Helen Haye and Catherine Lacey) who were as good as one could wish.

IFamily Reunion, TheMarch 1939 Westminster Theatre production;g3reception;a7 have had some wonderfully enthusiastic letters – not from people I know well, or who had any compulsion to write, which I will send on when I have answered them.3 TheDaily Telegraphreviews Family Reunion;a4 reviews are much as I should have expected; I enclose all that are worth looking at (there are still the Sunday papers to come) except the Times4 and the Telegraph,5 which I will obtain. OfMacCarthy, Desmondcriticises Family Reunion;a6 those I enclose, I think the one by Desmond MacCarthy is the only serious criticism.6 I still hope that the play may succeed for a limited run – which is all that I ever expected for it; and I am not at all depressed, because I know that the play is a great advance upon Murder, and that it is the best that I can do at this stage. Of its faults I am very well aware, but I do not mind making them so long as I can learn how not to repeat them.

I wished very much that you could have been present, because I think that the audience was really most attentive.

I am feeling of course extremely tired, and a little at a loss, now that the labour and the excitement is over. And when one has been brooding on a piece of work for over two years one is somewhat bewildered at first to find oneself without it!

BeingSeaverns, Helen;c6 in bed, I had to my regret to postpone an engagement to dine with Mrs. Seaverns. I thought her handwriting somewhat feebler lately, and I hope to see her soon.

I addressed my last letter care of the Havens’s (a week ago) and will send this there also; after that I shall write at length again to Northampton. But it is hard to write at length, or so tenderly, when I do not know just where you will be when the letter arrives – though that is silly.

Your loving

1.Enid Faber to TSE, 22 Mar. 1939:

MyFaber, Enid Eleanorcongratulates TSE on opening night;b2n dear Tom, / After much attendance on this wretched nose of G’s, which goes on dripping away; & taking a school medical inspection at Hackney – I can write to say thankyou very much for taking us last night. I enjoyed it quite enormously. Why do the Times & Telegraph think the 2nd Act dragged, or whatever was their word? Both Ann & I agreed that it was the most absorbing of the two, & from the tenseness of those in front of us, we weren’t the only ones to feel so. The only criticism would be that Mary failed in her first scene with Harry – but she may have been better to those who could see her face clearer, & it may be that at 38 it seems easy to me to find the younger women less interesting than the older! Ann & I discussed this & it was obvious that no one over 25 had ever struck her as having a vestige of interest, nothing, at least, to compare to the 18 yr olds!

Apart from the play, I hope you realised how peacocky proud we both felt at being in your box – & how very pleased we both were with our flowers? I had never been given any orchids before, & Ann had never been sent any flowers at all: so it was an exceptionally kindly thought.

Poor G is as sick as a dog at having missed it all. He is much annoyed with the Dr who has insisted on his stopping in his room till the end of [the] week. It means his missing his inaugural address as Pres: of the P.A. [President of the Publishers Association] on Thursday which is maddening for him, but as his nose bleeds for ½ hr or so every 12 hours or so, & as his bronchial tubes are said to be extremely congested, it wld obviously be stupid to go out. I am thankful I sent for the Dr, even though he is not.

When you want a little relaxation what about turning out the long promised Sherlock Holmes Drama, just to keep yr hand in.

——Yr gratefully & affectionately Enid.(Princeton)

2.StephenMurray, Stephen Murray (1912–83), stage, screen, TV and radio actor.

3.Enclosed: letters from John Betjeman, F. S. Flint, Stella Mary Pearce, Gerard Hopkins, John Moody, Janet Leeper, Enid Faber, Anne Ridler, Tom Burns.

CharlesWilliams, Charleson Family Reunion;a4n Williams (Oxford University Press) was to send TSE this egregious, eccentric fan letter, dated 30 Mar. 1939:

I may of course change my mind in the course of the next ten years, but at the moment it seems unlikely. But I must chance that and commit myself at once to the profoundest sense of – of what? I suppose only of the play itself. I could of course dis-entwine into this category and the other category, and very few things would give me more pleasure than to do so. But it is the most soul-wracking thing. I was in a state of fearful nerves at the end of the first Act, and and I was quite literally reduced to a few tears by the end of the second. I think I hate you in a religious sense for doing it, and most unfortunately I feel that I cannot balance that by loving you for doing it with the same kind of heart. But such spirit and such mind as I have were very highly moved.

I read the play last week. I was offered the chance of doing it for Time & Tide, and although I knew I should be bad I did not feel inclined to let anyone else be better. But I was a little doubtful, as one is, whether I should like it as much on the stage. Allowing for everything in the production and the speaking, it still remains true that it took me an hour or so to recover even a reasonable balance. I suspect you of one or two heresies, but only in the sense that everyone and everything except the Church is heretical. But I have never been nearer coming to a conclusion that in fact the large mass of our present culture is completely incapable of even beginning to understand what this sort of vocabulary is about. If I was shocked last week I am almost terrified now.

But I am writing so much that you will feel there must be something doubtful about my gratitude or it would not provoke so many words. It is not so; I shall always be more rhetorical than your Highness condescends to be. I don’t know that you purified me by pity and terror but I am quite sure you did something which nothing – damn it, except Shakespeare, has ever done to me on the stage, since I was a child.

It is a long time since I saw you – let us do something after Easter if you can spare the time.(Princeton)

4.‘Westminster Theatre: The Family Reunion’, The Times, 22 March 1939, 12.

5.W. A. Darlington, ‘T. S. Eliot’s New Verse Play: Ancient Theme for Modern Story’, Daily Telegraph, 22 Mar. 1939, 12. ‘The play has literary qualities as high as those of “Murder in the Cathedral”, but its stage effectiveness is nothing like so good.’

Mr Eliot had taken the ancient Greek idea of the Furies who pursued Orastes [sic] till he had expiated the curse on his family, and has made it apply to an English county family of to-day. Upon Harry, Lord Monchensey, falls the duty of expiation, not only because he has murdered his wife by pushing her off a liner, but also because his father had in his turn wished to murder his wife.

The Greeks, to avoid offending the Furies, used to call them the Eumenides, ‘the Kindly Ones’. Mr Eliot not only calls them by this name, but makes them ‘kindly ones’ in actual fact; for Harry learns to understand that if he is to find expiation he must seek ‘the bright angels’, not fly from them.

To carry out such a theme in such a setting calls for extraordinary powers of language, and these Mr Eliot possesses. He writes in a blank verse which has stresses but no strict metre. This enables him, when he wishes, to drop into ordinary realistic chitter-chatter, and then, without any transitional shock, to rise in the more intense passages to the dignity and emotional pressure that are best achieved by poetry.

This is admirable, and most satisfying. What is less happy is the fact that the story halts. There is no action except in the minds of the characters; and in the first of the two acts we learn almost all about these that we are to know. There is nothing left for the second half of the play except the explanation of the sins of Harry’s father; and this second half is so obscure that when the explanation comes it seems to have no urgency.

It is not Mr Eliot’s theme that has defeated him, but the theatre, which forgives no dramatist if he drops the tension as he approaches his climax.

The actors speak the verse almost exactly as if it were prose, except in the set choruses, which are taken in unison by a quartette of uncles and aunts.

HeadLacey, CatherineDaily Telegraph singles out;a2n and shoulders above the rest stands Catherine Lacey. Her authority, the significance of her speaking, and the beauty of her gestures and her attitudes in repose, are enough in themselves to make the production memorable for me. Michael Redgrave’s Harry is creditable, but not inspired, but Ruth Lodge, as the girl he might have married, does excellently.

HelenHaye, HelenDaily Telegraph gives credit to;a2n Haye gets the most out of an unrewarding part as Harry’s mother, and Robert Harris makes a couple of short appearances as a chauffeur. Charles Victor’s police-sergeant gives a touch of humorous relief – by no means unwelcome.

6.Desmond MacCarthy, ‘Some Notes on Mr Eliot’s New Play’, New Statesman & Nation, 25 Mar. 1939, 455–6. ‘It is the greatest pity that Mr Eliot in writing this play about the place of the conscience in life ever took off on a Greek foot. The temper of his mind, too, is entirely Christian, not Greek. I know the Greeks to propitiate evil powers called them by flattering names, and the Eumenides were superstitiously referred to as the good ones for fear of being dogged by them. But the whole point of Mr Eliot’s play is that they (these embodiments of remorse and thwarted spiritual aspirations) are really guiding angels which must be welcomed and followed, if man is to find peace. Why in that case introduce Greek mythology at all? It is maddening’ (T. S. Eliot: The Critical Heritage, ed. Michael Grant [1982], 374).

Adrian, Max,

2.MaxAdrian, Max Adrian (1903–73), Irish stage, film and TV actor; founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. He became better known than Harris.

Browne, Elliott Martin, meets TSE at Chichester, production of The Rock, meets TSE over possible collaboration, talks over outline of play, meets TSE with Martin Shaw, delighted with Rock choruses, discusses unwritten pageant scenes with TSE, predicament as The Rock's director, well connected in amateur circles, revising into the night with TSE, argues with Shaw at dress-rehearsal, presented to Prince Arthur, honoured by Rock cast-supper, producing Gordon Bottomley's play, speaks at Londonderry House with TSE, 1935 Canterbury Murder in the Cathedral, approached by TSE to 'produce', consulted throughout composition, goes silent, lunches with TSE and Speaight, directs and acts despite illness, pursues London Murder revival, 1935–6 Mercury Theatre Murder revival, engaged as producer by Dukes, keen that EH attend rehearsals, simultaneously part of BBC production, agrees about Speaight's decline, preferred as producer for TSE's next play, and Charles Williams's Cranmer, in which he plays 'the Skeleton', and TSE attend Tenebrae, taken to Cambridge after-feast, producing York Nativity Play, which TSE thinks Giottoesque, at Savile Club Murder dinner, producing Shakespeare's Dream, and Ascent of F6, and Tewkesbury Festival Murder confusion, 1939 production of The Family Reunion, due to be sent script, weighing TSE's proposal that he produce, enthused by script, suggests TSE see Mourning Becomes Electra, against Family Reunion as title, pleased with draft, quizzed on fire-safety, typescript prepared for, new draft submitted to, rewrite waits on, receives new draft, criticisms thereof, reports John Gielgud interest, mediates between Gielgud and TSE, TSE throws over Gielgud for, secures Westminster Theatre production, steps into company breach, then into still-greater breach, and the play's weaknesses, direction of Family Reunion, receives TSE's Shakespeare lectures, 1938 American Murder tour, re-rehearsing actors for, suffers fit of pre-tour gloom, yet to report from Boston, and Tewkesbury pageant, accompanies TSE to La Mandragola, on Family Reunion's future prospects, and possible Orson Welles interest, war leaves at loose end, advises TSE over next play, war work with Pilgrim Players, unavailable for modern-dress Murder, compared to tempter/knight successor, requests Pilgrim Players' play from TSE, New Plays by Poets series, as director, and This Way to the Tomb, and Family Reunion revival, urges TSE to concentrate on theatre, 1946 Mercury Family Reunion revival, in rehearsal, possible revue for Mercury Theatre, and The Lady's Not for Burning, Chairman of the Drama League, 1949 Edinburgh Cocktail Party, to produce, TSE's intended first reader for, receives beginning, approves first act, receives TSE's revisions, communciates Alec Guinness's enthusiasm, arranges reading, surpasses himself with production, in Florence, EH suggests moving on from, and the Poets' Theatre Guild, 1950 Cocktail Party New York transfer, compares Rex Harrison and Alec Guinness, TSE debates whether to continue collaboration with, suggests three-play TSE repertory, 1953 Edinburgh Confidential Clerk, receives first two acts, designing sets, 1953 Lyric Theatre Confidential Clerk, attends with TSE, 1954 American Confidential Clerk, 1954 touring Confidential Clerk, TSE and Martin Browne catch in Golders Green, seeks Family Reunion MS from EH,

4.E. MartinBrowne, Elliott Martin Browne (1900–80), English director and producer, was to direct the first production of Murder in the Cathedral: see Biographical Register.

Browne, Henzie (née Raeburn), meets TSE at Chichester, and initial discussions of The Rock with TSE, discusses unwritten pageant scenes, in Family Reunion, asks after EH, looking after her two boys, in Old Man of the Mountains, stands in for Henrietta Watson in Family Reunion, marks TSE's OM with party, as Cocktail Party understudy, as actress,
Daily Telegraph, now government mouthpiece, reviews Murder, schmoozed by TSE, reviews Family Reunion, reviews The Cocktail Party,
Faber, Ann, promised play for puppet theatre, TSE pleased with photos of, organises holiday entertainments, shares TSE's box at Family Reunion premiere, engaged to Alan Watt, fiancé's death, completes preparations as Wren,
see also Fabers, the

AnnFaber, Ann Faber (1922–78) was born and registered in Hampshire: her mother would teasingly refer to her as a ‘Hampshire hog’. She was a boarder at Downe House School, Berkshire, and read history at Somerville College, Oxford (where she became engaged to Alan Watt, who was to be killed at El Alamein). After Oxford, she spent time with the Wrens in Liverpool. Following her military service Ann was employed as secretary by the classical scholar Gilbert Murray in Oxford. She then moved to London where she worked for the family firm in editorial and publicity, as well as writing and publishing a novel of her own, The Imago. However, in Aug. 1952 she suffered a life-changing accident when she crashed her motorcycle, which resulted in the loss of the use of her left arm. (In the mid-1960s she was still doing a little freelance work for Faber, reading manuscripts for Charles Monteith and – in 1967 – arranging a lunch party at her home for the science fiction writers James Blish and Brian Aldiss and their wives.) In Apr. 1958 she married John Corlett, who had two children – Anthony and Brione – from his first marriage, which had ended in divorce. Ann and John did not have children of their own. In the early to mid-1960s Ann and John spent some weeks or months of most years in the West Indies. John had launched and Ann helped with a business called Inter-Continental Air Guides: their firm sold advertising space to hotels and other tourist destinations for inclusion in guidebooks which Ann compiled. In 1966 Ann and John moved from their flat in Highgate to Wiltshire. In the late 1960s or early 1970s John contracted polio while on a work trip to Hong Kong. He became a paraplegic and for the remainder of Ann’s life she was his primary carer, with financial assistance from her mother. During all the years that she had her own property, whether in London or in Wiltshire, Ann’s great love was her garden. Ann died of cancer in March 1978. John survived her by two or three years.

Faber, Enid Eleanor, TSE mistakes her parentage, and the Eliots' separation, and the Irish waiter, as tennis-player, suggests Murder tickets for F&F employees, presses TSE into public speaking, and sons at zoo, cousin of Rab Butler, and Ann share TSE's box, congratulates TSE on opening night, TSE dependent on for food, at VHE's funeral, on VHE's death and funeral, home-hunting for TSE in Sussex, now Lady Faber,
see also Fabers, the

1.TSE was mistaken here. EnidFaber, Enid Eleanor Eleanor Faber (1901–95) was the daughter of Sir Henry Erle Richards (1861–1922), Fellow of All Souls College and Chichele Professor of International Law and Diplomacy at Oxford University, and Mary Isabel Butler (1868–1945).

Family Reunion, The, and TSE as Orestes, plot sought for, progress stalled, referred to as 'Orestes play', written against countdown to war, should be artistically a stretch, plot still not settled on, begun, compared to Murder, TSE on writing, described (mid-composition), and Gunn's Carmina Gadelica, described to GCF, EH questions Harry's entrance, draft read to Martin Brownes, projected autumn 1938 production, depletes TSE, and Mourning Becomes Electra, its Greek inheritance, alternatively 'Follow the Furies', first draft promised to EH, as inspired by Tenebrae, being rewritten, work suspended till summer, fair copy being typed, waiting on Browne and Dukes, 'Follow the Furies' quashed by EH, aspires to be Chekhovian, Dukes keen to produce, criticised by Martin Browne, under revision, submitted to EH's theatrical wisdom, for which TSE credits her, possible John Gielgud production, Gielgud-level casting, Browne's final revisions, with the printers, Henry loaned draft, Donat and Saint-Denis interested, in proof, progress towards staging stalled, Saint-Denis interest tempered, possible Tyrone Guthrie production, possible limited Mercury run, its defects, publication scheduled, first draft sent to EH, Michael Redgrave interested in, March 1939 Westminster Theatre production, waits on terms, rehearsals for, which are photographed, opening night contemplated without EH, last-minute flutters, opening night, reception, coming off, TSE's final visit to, Dukes bullish on New York transfer, EH spurs TSE's reflections on, and Otway's Venice Preserv'd, American reception, and Orson Welles, F&F's sales, 1940 American production, Henry harps on the personal aspect, its cheerfulness, EH acknowledges part in, 1943 ADC production, in Dadie Rylands's hands, described, certain lines expressing TSE's frustrations, EH discusses with pupils, plays in Zurich, 1946 Birmingham production, 1946 Mercury revival, rehearsals for, opening night, TSE attends again in company, Spanish translation of, VHE's death calls to mind, its deficiencies, BBC Gielgud broadcast version, first aired, to be repeated, goes nominally with The Cocktail Party, Swedish National Theatre production, compared to Cocktail Party, EH's response to, more 'personal' than Cocktail Party, performed in Göttingen, 1950 Düsseldorf production, 1953 New York production vetoed, 1956 Phoenix Theatre revival, described, Peter Brook congratulated on, Martin Browne seeks MS of,
Haye, Helen, as Amy, Daily Telegraph gives credit to, keen on repertory Murder,

2.HelenHaye, Helen Haye (1874–1957), stage and film actor. (She was to play the Duchess of York in Laurence Olivier’s film production of Richard III.)

Lacey, Catherine, as Agatha in Family Reunion, again Agatha in 1946 revival, Daily Telegraph singles out, performance swells with praise, possible Mrs Guzzard,

2.CatherineLacey, Catherine Lacey (1904–79): British actor who was Agatha in The Family Reunion at the Westminster Theatre in 1939 and again at the Mercury Theatre in 1946.

MacCarthy, Desmond, on Doone's Sweeney Agonistes, at TSE and JDH's dinner, which he thanks them for, at the Hutchinsons, rates Westminster Theatre Volpone, criticises Family Reunion, criticisms which TSE deflects, reviews East Coker, reviews The Dry Salvages, praises Little Gidding, mistaken for electrician, dislikes What is a Classic?,
see also MacCarthys, the

1.DesmondMacCarthy, Desmond MacCarthy (1877–1952), literary and dramatic critic, was intimately associated with the Bloomsbury Group. Literary editor of the New Statesman, 1920–7; editor of Life and Letters, 1928–33; he moved in 1928 to the Sunday Times, where he was the chief reviewer for many years. See Desmond MacCarthy: The Man and His Writings (1984); Hugh and Mirabel Cecil, Clever Hearts: Desmond and Molly MacCarthy: A Biography (1990).

Murray, Stephen, collapses at Family Reunion dress-rehearsal, returns as Charles,

2.StephenMurray, Stephen Murray (1912–83), stage, screen, TV and radio actor.

Redgrave, Michael, interested in Family Reunion, agrees to play Harry, preferred to Gielgud, as Harry, which does not increase his reputation, performance pruned by Martin Browne,

1.According to Browne (The Making of T. S. Eliot’s Plays,147), MichaelRedgrave, Michael Redgrave – aged 31 – ‘had already made a name for himself at the Old Vic, with John Gielgud in his season at the Queen’s, and with Michel Saint-Denis at the Phoenix’. TSE to James Forsyth, 16 July 1940 (tseliot.com), on Redgrave: ‘He is a most likeable person and very easy to work with. Unlike some actors he does not assume that he knows more about the play than the author does, and is always anxious to co-operate.’

Seaverns, Helen, finally dines with TSE, teaches TSE card games, bearer of EH's Christmas present, charms TSE, hosts TSE and the Perkinses, entertained by TSE, TSE hesitates to confide in, and Perkinses dine with TSE, to tea with TSE, seeks advice from TSE on transatlantic tourism, her comforts equivalent to Mappie's, houses EH on 1939 arrival, an old spoiled child, disburdens herself over tea, laments life in Hove, removed from grandchildren,

3.HelenSeaverns, Helen Seaverns, widow of the American-born businessman and Liberal MP, Joel Herbert Seaverns: see Biographical Register.

Williams, Charles, described for EH, at Guthrie's Measure for Measure, on Family Reunion, reviewed by TSE, visited by TSE at OUP, and C. S. Lewis lunch with TSE, dies, 'une âme pure', TSE's eulogy on, TSE writes introduction to promote, All Hallow's Eve, Cranmer, Descent of the Dove, Seed of Adam,

5.CharlesWilliams, Charles Williams (1886–1945), novelist, poet, playwright, writer on religion and theology; biographer; member of the Inklings: see Biographical Register.