A Peaceful, but Very Interesting Pursuit

Lisa Levy in The Rumpus:

ScreenHunter_20 Feb. 10 13.30From 1917 until 1925, T.S. Eliot worked in a bank. A simple, declarative sentence, a biographical fact. Not the subject of dissertations or the reason two hefty volumes of The Letters of T.S. Eliot (Volume 1: 1898-1922; Volume 2: 1923-5) have just been published, but along with his disastrous and draining marriage to Vivien Haigh-Wood, Eliot’s employment at Lloyd’s Bank of London was the driving force of his life in the years of these letters, until he left Lloyd’s in October 1925 for a position as an editor at the publishing house Faber & Gwyer (later to be Faber & Faber).

There is a general antipathy about hearing too much about a writer’s day job once he has become successful, and Eliot’s successes piled up as he rose at Lloyd’s: Prufrock and Other Observations was published in 1915; his essays collected in The Sacred Wood in 1921; The Waste Land stormed both sides of the Atlantic in 1922, etc. Like Eliot at the bank, we know Wallace Stevens sold insurance, but nobody wants to think about the poet at the water cooler, or, even worse, pouring over actuarial tables. Same goes for William Carlos Williams being a doctor: Do we want a man so skilled with words to perform our annual physicals? It’s fine for a writer to have a quirky or strange day job, like nude model, “oyster pirate,” even garbage man. Yet the point of the writer’s life must remain to end up at the writer’s desk somewhere, with all that nonsense left behind.

More here.