is a large picture of Virginia Woolf, with an inset portrait of PiusXII; here are I. A. Richards, Paul Valéry, W.B. Yeats, Goethe,Marianne Moore, Charles Whibley, Djuna Barnes, and others.Many young poets have stared at the faces there, during a talkwith Mr. Eliot. One of them has told a story that illustrates someof the unsuspected in Mr. Eliot’s conversation. After an hour of serious literary discussion, Mr. Eliot paused to think if he had aﬁnal word of advice; the young poet, an American, was about togo up to Oxford as Mr. Eliot had done forty years before. Then, asgravely as if he were recommending salvation, Mr. Eliot advisedthe purchase of long woolen underwear because of Oxford’s dampstone. Mr. Eliot is able to be avuncular while he is quite aware of comic disproportion between manner and message.Similar combinations modiﬁed many of the comments that arereported here, and the ironies of gesture are invisible on the page.At times, actually, the interview moved from the ironic and themildly comic to the hilarious. The tape is punctuated by the head-back boom-boom of Mr. Eliot’s laughter, particularly in responseto mention of his early derogation of Ezra Pound, and to a ques-tion about the unpublished, and one gathers improper, King Bolopoems of his Harvard days.
—Donald Hall, 1959
Perhaps I can begin at the beginning. Do you remember thecircumstances under which you began to write poetry in St. Louiswhen you were a boy?
I began I think about the age of fourteen, under the inspirationof Fitzgerald’s
to write a number of very gloomyand atheistical and despairing quatrains in the same style, which