Writing Great Tom

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Writing Great Tom

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Writing Great Tom was T. S. Matthews’s backup project as he worked on the first major biography of T. S. Eliot, Great Tom: Notes Towards a Definition of T. S. Eliot, published by Harper & Row in 1973.So many barriers were put in his way that he thought he might not be able to produce a biography. He decided to keep this account in reserve But in the end he managed to complete Great Tom, and this account was filed away with his papers, which eventually went to Princeton University. Writing Great Tom is the story of a writer’s efforts to deal with the guardians of the flame. Biographers will sympathize. Readers will get a direct, intimate look at the challenging work biographers do. Matthews was able to interview people who had died before later biographers began their work, and Writing Great Tom provides the background to much of the detail that appeared in the book. Writing Great Tom also shows how two women important in Eliot’s life, his first wife, Vivien Haigh-Wood, and his companion of many decades, Emily Hale, were for many years hidden from view. He also interviewed Mary Trevelyan, whose account of her relationship with Eliot was at last published in 2022.

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Writing Great Tom was T. S. Matthews’s backup project as he worked on the first major biography of T. S. Eliot, Great Tom: Notes Towards a Definition of T. S. Eliot, published by Harper & Row in 1973.So many barriers were put in his way that he thought he might not be able to produce a biography. He decided to keep this account in reserve But in the end he managed to complete Great Tom, and this account was filed away with his papers, which eventually went to Princeton University. Writing Great Tom is the story of a writer’s efforts to deal with the guardians of the flame. Biographers will sympathize. Readers will get a direct, intimate look at the challenging work biographers do. Matthews was able to interview people who had died before later biographers began their work, and Writing Great Tom provides the background to much of the detail that appeared in the book. Writing Great Tom also shows how two women important in Eliot’s life, his first wife, Vivien Haigh-Wood, and his companion of many decades, Emily Hale, were for many years hidden from view. He also interviewed Mary Trevelyan, whose account of her relationship with Eliot was at last published in 2022.

Table of Contents

  • Living a Detective Story 
  • T. S. Eliot’s Origins 
  • The Ammunition Dumps 
  • Emily Hale, the Hyacinth Girl 
  • The Princeton Treasure 
  • The Bodleian Hoard 
  • Harvard and Its Secrets 
  • Cambridge Dilemma 
  • Homosexual or Antisemite?
  • Mary Trevelyan and the Pope of Russell Square 
  • Valerie Eliot, Guardian of the Flame 
  • The Author

    T. S. (Thomas Stanley) Matthews (1901-1991) was an American writer and editor who divided his time between the United States and England for many years. His early career as a journalist culminated with a period as editor of Time magazine. After leaving Time in 1953, he published a number of books, and was recruited to write the first major biography of T. S. Eliot, Great Tom: Notes Towards a Definition of T. S. Eliot, published by Harper & Row in 1973. He was a wealthy and well-connected man with friends on both sides of the Atlantic. He was able to make use of those connections when he undertook the difficult task of writing about Eliot. In an unusual reversal, he was also known later in life as one of the ex-husbands of American writer Martha Gellhorn, who was herself annoyed to be referred to as the ex-wife of Ernest Hemingway.

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    Publication Date

    December 2022

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