Read Painted Shadow: The Life of Vivienne Eliot, First Wife of T. S. Eliot by Carole Seymour-Jones Online


By the time Vivienne Eliot was committed to an asylum for what would be the final nine years of her life, she had been abandoned by her husband T.S. Eliot and shunned by literary London. Yet Vivienne was neither insane nor insignificant. She generously collaborated in her husband’s literary efforts, taking dictation, editing his drafts, and writing articles for his magazinBy the time Vivienne Eliot was committed to an asylum for what would be the final nine years of her life, she had been abandoned by her husband T.S. Eliot and shunned by literary London. Yet Vivienne was neither insane nor insignificant. She generously collaborated in her husband’s literary efforts, taking dictation, editing his drafts, and writing articles for his magazine, Criterion. Her distinctive voice can be heard in his poetry. And paradoxically, it was the unhappiness of the Eliots’ marriage that inspired some of the poet’s most distinguished work, from The Family Reunion to The Waste Land. This first biography ever written about Vivienne draws on hundreds of previously unpublished papers, journals and letters to portray a spontaneous, loving, but fragile woman who had an important influence on her husband’s work, as well as a great poet whose behavior was hampered by psychological and sexual impulses he could not fully acknowledge. Intriguing and provocative, Painted Shadow gracefully rescues Vivienne Eliot from undeserved obscurity, and is indispensable for anyone wishing to understand T.S. Eliot, Vivienne, or the world in which they traveled....

Title : Painted Shadow: The Life of Vivienne Eliot, First Wife of T. S. Eliot
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ISBN : 9780385499934
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 736 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Painted Shadow: The Life of Vivienne Eliot, First Wife of T. S. Eliot Reviews

  • Aubrey
    2019-03-03 17:17

    I don't know what people expect to find when they come across this work and decide to be interested in it. It's not triumphant. It's not original. You'll start in a suppressed and uncomfortable place and end in one differently suppressed and more finally uncomfortable with all the White Women Problems as exemplified by Rhys and Plath and the ignorance of Jane Eyre. Sure, the gory details of a bildungsroman that happened to burgeon into the Bloomsbury group with its fascists and its anti-Semitics and its emotionally weak women haters rather intrigue, and the fact that the Nobel Laureate was so insistent on burying his first wife means readers will get more than their fill of the husband in an effort to circumscribe the ghost, but still. It's nothing much but a whole lot of institutionalization via drugs and biology and copyright on a sinking ship of rats, and whoever cannibalizes best cannibalizes last.The only thing that's changed between the days of Vivienne Haigh's later Haigh-Wood's later Eliot's neurosis at the hands of a menstruation-shaming society and today's pro-lifers are the names of the weak willed slags who would shit themselves if they ever had to consider giving birth or waking up in a pool of their own blood and membranes. While I'll admit that my hopes for this biography waned as detail mounted on detail and subsequent conclusions became insufferably Freudian and mental illness mystical (if I had a dime for every time someone clustered around the cult of "oh I'm crazy but not like those crazies I'm a cool crazy y'know" I'd be set enough in life to tell them off in public), the consideration from the get-go of how society stigmatizes and subsequently traumatizes the female aspects of biological reproduction gets full marks. If there's one thing public readers have a problem with, it's the consideration that something that affects half the population interacts with every level of economics, social standing, and capabilities both physical and mental; in Vivienne's time, woe to you if people don't believe your pain is quite that bad, your bleeding that life endangering, your vertigo that signifying of a condition that ten years later will upgrade from manageable to life-managing. Don't believe me? Hilary Mantel of Wolf Hall fame can tell you all about it, misdiagnosis of psychosis and subsequent misapplication of drugs generating psychosis until self-diagnosis extracted the self out of a hell hole of who-knows-what-the-doctors-thought-they-knew and all. And this is the 70's we're talking. One wonders if the whole shitfest over drugs has less to do with self-administered overdose and more to do with the populace being less comfortable with doctors tranquilizing them for their own "good." Vivienne's certainly a very reassuring case on that latter front.Outside of that? It's a self-serving soul-sucking free emotional labor via the female/black/Jewish/etc etc mess. One white boy gets it into his head to escape whatever this pain is he's so lifelong impacted by, (rumor has it that he's gay, but the estate's rather trigger happy so let's just comment on the grand amount of diary entries and historical interactions) and so he's just gotta shit on everyone in his effort to find True Happiness. So long as you got the family fortune and the cross-Atlantic citizenship and the unpaid secretarial labor and and pimping potential as co-habitating spouse, grand. However, should you interpret the shadow as a chance for protected growth and the relationship as reciprocating rather than a pick and choose and discard once the base is stable and the so-longed for professional status as both Groundbreaking and Classic, think again. The Roaring Twenties will turn to Noir, the dancing and the literary pursuits will turn to bumping off the mistress for the wife family fortune and the husband family jewels, and the diminishing of everything that cannot be weighed and checked and propagated in the face of Law and Religion will strike you down. Sure, some can make it, but every new restriction exponentiates the chances of hanging from the rafters and dying in the street. Sure, we're all human, but the statistics of who uses and whom is used are remarkably stable.One of the experimental female authors I'm reading this quarter was raped and murdered by who the fuck knows. This is but one of the possibilities I consider every time I go over those in the canon who survived long enough to enter it by means of not being cannibalized (or leastwise not enough) by who the fuck knows. Am I obligated to pass over it as a given in my analysis that, for the foreseeable future, the academic world is just not quite ready to factor into scholarship? From one atheist to all you cannibals out there: I'll see you in hell.

  • Ruth
    2019-03-07 18:10

    I used to want to be reincarnated as part of the Bloomsbury Group. I've read a lot of books by and about them. They seemed such a free and fascinating lot. If half of what Painted Shadow says is true, I am forever disabused of that idea. Nasty, back-biting crew.There are some writers who cannot bear to omit a single bit of the research they've done. Seymour-Jones appears to be one of these. I learned way more than I wanted to know about everyone and everything surrounding Vivienne Eliot. Sometimes I wondered if this wasn't really a bio of TS Eliot. Yes, yes, I know any bio of Viv has to include Tom, but this much?Viv appears to have been nuttier than Planters, and Tom ran a close second. Neither of them comes off as anyone you'd like to live next door to.

  • Peter
    2019-03-15 16:06

    Once again, for me, reading an in depth biography blows all the bloom off the rose. It turns out that T.S. Eliot, famous poet and prize winner, was a cad—an egotistical, vain, manipulative, Janus-faced cad. Of course, back then one had to hide or fight against one’s homosexuality, and no doubt this was often done by marriage, either to conceal one’s inclinations from society, or perhaps even, from one’s own self. Tom Eliot was not honest with himself or poor Vivienne, and British society discouraged such honesty. Vivienne was not the only victim of Eliot’s vortex of self-involvement. Several other members of his social group, people who had offered him support in his early career, but whom he deemed beneath him in intellect or ability—and that seems to have included just about his entire social circle, got the brush off or the boot when they were no longer useful to him, when they ceased to fit into his life plan. He would make room in his schedule and his secluded apartment for the (male) members of the Russian ballet, the French sailors, the pretty boys from school; he was vindictive not only when he was angrily drunk, and he never bothered to warn the women whom he led on that he was NOT INTERESTED in them. Because they were useful to him for the time being. I was pleased to find that at least Virginia Woolf and James Joyce bested him. Katherine Mansfield made a good showing. Bertrand Russell was a lesser cad. The jury is still out for me on Ezra Pound. Not surprisingly, most of the free-love community of the Bloomsbury crowd, who were Eliot’s social milieu, end up in a mud sucking swamp of broken hearts and sniping. As I read about the jealously and sleeping around of these friends and couples, I came to realize that Muriel Spark’sMomento Mori is probably her depiction of the twilight of the Bloomsbury crowd. As my dad would say, “With all this nihilism, no wonder the Nazis came to power.” Or words to that effect… (sigh)Unfortunately I cannot recommend this book. It is much too detailed and somewhat meandering. If only biography could be kept to a certain number of pages, forcing authors too summarize rather than list the daily blow-by-blow. Some chapters and sections were well written and got to the heart of the matter, some provided good social background, but then the correspondence and the daily schedule comes back to the fore and one’s eyes start to glaze as one reaches for the mug of coffee and realizes with chagrin that one’s daily allotment has run dry…(view spoiler)[The Wasteland was about his pining for his first French love, killed with the British at Gallipoli, a death by water … and the strain of a faux marriage, especially when at least one half of the marriage (and perhaps even Eliot at times) has expectations of a real marriage. (hide spoiler)]With all due respect to the modern literature crowd, T. S. Eliot’s Wikipedia page needs a substantial re-write.

  • Aida Ghazar
    2019-03-23 23:18

    This book is a biography of T. S. Eliot ,Ezra Pound.... and the Bloomsbury group rather than Vivenne Haigh-Wood.I wished I knew more about Vivienne but it seems she is still condemned to stay "a shadow"and Eliot the dominating figure.However it is a sad account,though very long and too much detailed,of how T.S. Eliot,an American,who once in England wants to stay there and be a successful literary figure."I came to persuade myself that I was in love with her simply because I wanted to burn my boats and commit myself to staying in England".So Vivienne ,who was a very talented and active young woman,was instrumental for him, to achieve his goal.He wanted to have literary success,to be famous and financially in good shape.He had no shame of how he could use Vivienne to reach his aim.Once he was successful ,and Vivenne , in turmoil of events ,was now considered a nuisance,he was to get rid of her.That was achieved with the help of Vivienn's own brother and thus she was committed to an asylum.Maurice ,her brother,had confessed that"It was only when I saw Vivie in the asylum for the last time I realized I had done something wrong.She was as sane as I was.....and I sat in front of Vivie and actually burst in tears...What Tom and I did was wrong...I did everything Tom told me to...I think he bit off more than he could chew".Eliot produced his best works when he was living with Vivienne and finally he received the Noble Prize in literature which he did not deserve.

  • Carol Bachofner
    2019-03-17 17:10

    This very frank biography of Vivienne Eliot is an eye-opener. I read this in London while there on a study abroad session. It made me question everything I thought I knew about TS Eliot and Ezra Pound. It is also a very poignant picture of what women of Vivienne's day suffered (in silence often) in terms of how their mental health was wrongly described by the men around them.

  • Joanna Chen
    2019-03-19 18:10

    I have a thing about T S Eliot, I admit. I got a kick out of reading the source of a lot of his poetry: whole phrases lifted out of other people's speech. I enjoyed the gossip as well about the Bloomsbury group. They were awfully busy, old fellow, mostly screwing each other.

  • Bernadette Calonego
    2019-03-01 15:12

    If I were an aficionado of dead British and American literati, I would have given this book 5 stars. Because in that case, I would have licked up all the immensely detailed descriptions of the famous poets and writers from Virgina Woolf to Ezra Pound.But I really wanted to know more about Vivienne Eliot, the first wife of American-British poet T.S. Eliot. She deserves being written about, as this intriguing and talented woman was locked away in a psychiatric clinic by her husband (they never divorced) and by Vivienne`s own brother - although the brother later confessed that Vivienne had never been insane and he regretted the decision.This book confirms once more that some famous writers and poets are not so perfect human beings, often nasty, cruel and petty. T.S. Eliot appears in a very bad light on these pages (and some other celebrities, too). He won the Nobel prize for literature, but then we all know that some writers who truly would have deserved the Nobel did not get it.Vivienne Eliot is a tragic case, what happened to her seventy years ago could have happened to any rebellious, eccentric, obstinate woman who would not be silenced.The most important truth (in my eyes) in the book: England had a long history of husbands who had their wives locked away in asylums when they wanted to get rid of them.In this case, it was an American turned Brit (T.S.Eliot) who continued the horrid tradition.Although Eliot tried to delete everything from his records that would stain his reputation (for instance the persistant rumours that he was a homosexual and would not consummate the marriage), his actions come to haunt him long after his death in 1965.

  • Katlyn
    2019-03-17 16:00

    I really hate not finishing books that I start, but to be honest, I'm about 65 pages in and probably won't finish. I started regretting the purchase about 12 pages in, and it has failed to convince me otherwise. As other critics have noted, "Painted Shadow" seems a fair description of Seymour-Jones' treatment of the subject. Poorly organized and with no coherent line of argument, the episodes she imagines contain little relevant support from her research; in fact, her claims often remain unsubstantiated by the corresponding quotes/paraphrases. This lack of strong evidence only emphasizes the heavily biased language she uses to tell the tale of this hapless, misunderstood woman. There may be some truth to the book's premise, but it is drowned out by the unnecessarily intimate and unfounded portrayal of the Eliots' history; I believe the critic who used the term "gossip" got it spot on. I don't think I've disliked a book or its style so much in a long time.

  • Todd
    2019-03-12 17:06

    The first half of the book drags with a lot more trivia than I really need to know.

  • Nicole
    2019-03-14 17:57

    a remarkable and tragic woman