Friday, June 5, 2009

The Infamous Mrs. Eliot © Megan Snider

"I came to persuade myself that I was in love with Vivienne simply because I wanted to burn my boats and commit myself to staying in England. And she persuaded herself (also under the influence of Pound) that she would save the poet by keeping him in England. To her, the marriage brought no happiness. To me, it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land."
--Eliot, writing about Vivienne Haigh-Wood-Eliot

I've read a lot concerning Eliot's relationship with his wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood. For some reason, it is not until tonight I feel quite so sorry for her. I've read this story before in a seperate book, but I'll leave it here for your reference. (Click to read.)

Strangely enough, I can see myself as the next Vivienne Haigh-Wood. I don't run, but I have walked after a few ambitious male writers. LOL. I guess my high esteem of Eliot took away from the fact that he did not do a great deal to rehabilitate his wife. It is possible he did not know what to do or he did not care. It seems as if he rather abandoned her now that I see the story again. I always saw Vivienne as an interference because I believe he married her for the wrong reasons-- but that was not her failure; it was his. Assertions of his suppressed homosexuality also spring up which I will not really go into detail about. (I have had headaches for three weeks now; leave me be.)

I'm not sure why I have a renewed sympathy for Vivienne. I went over "The Wasteland" with my mother the other day-- yes, it's true; I did-- and she pointed out that Eliot's supposed answers to his wife in the poem did little to help soothe her condition.

Supposedly, so I was once taught once upon a class, the quoted sections are mimicking Vivienne, while the unquoted remarks are Eliot.

'My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.

'Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.

'What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

'I never know what you are thinking. Think.'

I think we are in rats' alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.

'What is that noise?'

The wind under the door.

'What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?'

Nothing again nothing.


'You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember


I remember

Those are pearls that were his eyes.

'Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?'


O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—

It's so elegant

So intelligent

'What shall I do now? What shall I do?'

'I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street

'With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?

'What shall we ever do?'

The hot water at ten.

And if it rains, a closed car at four.

And we shall play a game of chess,

Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

I'm not sure where the passage ends; there is interference from a number of voices in the poem. But, you can see the general idea. Eliot is in blue; his wife is in red. The passages I am unsure about are left in the color of the regular text. I will not assume anything about Eliot. That's a good way to get kicked in the pearly whites.

Vivienne's condition was marked down to "hysteria" thanks to the wonderful attention doctors pay to women in particular. It seems to be a "nerve condition" or, more appropriately, an Anxiety Disorder and psychosis from the paranoia. Strangely enough, both Vivienne and Eliot display disordered thought. Eliot's passages clearly state apathy, lethargy, and depression. He's not hard to nail down in this respect.

The Shakespeare reference, I can explain thanks to an excellent doctor I once had. I wondered about that for a long time. But, my headache is pounding and I'm concerned over my writing status. So, not tonight; I have a headache. LOL.

© Megan Snider

I've had enough with critics and editors! Enough! Enough! Enough! (Especially ones with no degrees.) Everyone's a critic, eh?

If you have complaints, send them to: kissmyfoot@idon'

Writers with Mental Illness © Megan Snider

Writers with Mental Illness

Charles Dickens--Clinical Depression
Sylvia Plath--Clinical Depression, possibly Bipolar Disorder
Ernest Hemingway-- Clinical Depression, possibly Bipolar Disorder
Tennessee Williams--Clinical Depression
Franz Kafka-- Clinical Depression, Anxiety Disorder
John Keats-- Clinical Depression, Bipolar Disorder
Leo Tolstoy-- Clinical Depression
Virginia Woolf-- Bipolar Disorder
Edgar Allan Poe-- Clinical Depression, possibly Bipolar Disorder
F. Scott Fitzgerald-- Clinical Depression, Bipolar Disorder
Lord Byron-- Bipolar Disorder
Samuel Taylor Coleridge-- Bipolar Disorder
Ralph Waldo Emerson-- Bipolar Disorder
Herman Melville-- Clinical Depression
Friedrich Nietzsche-- Clinical Depression
Kurt Vonnegut-- Clinical Depression, Bipolar Disorder
T.S. Eliot-- Clinical Depression (and the wifey, too-- Vivienne Haigh-Wood)
Anne Rice-- Clinical Depression
Anne Sexton-- Clinical Depression
JK Rowling-- Clinical Depression
Amy Tan-- Clinical Depression
Mark Twain-- Clinical Depression
Walt Whitman-- Clinical Depression
Jack Kerouac-- Schizophrenia

If you have anyone to add, please drop me a line with the author and his or her disorder. This list is in no way complete. It probably never will be. I dispute some of the folks and diagnoses on this list, but who am I to criticize?

It is not uncommon for Bipolar Disorder to couple up with severe Clinical Depression. When I began to study mental illness, I had trouble with this concept. Now that it possibly has happened to me, I have less of a problem rationalizing it and accepting it.

We must not forget that spectrum disorders like Schizoaffective Disorder have not been identified enough to be applied to this list. So consider the diagnoses you see here as broad labels, but frank confirmations of some mental illness present in the author.

Keep in mind also that severe emotional disturbance and depression can create psychosis-- just as severe fear can generate it. So, by no means marginalize these authors and say, "Oh, he or she ONLY had THIS."

Also, do not rule out drug use pertaining to these authors. Drug usage intensifies and antagonizes mental illnesses.

Mental illnesses link hands quite frequently and easily, sort of like a game of "Red Rover" gone out of control. Once they link hands and the more comrades that are added to the line, the harder it is for you to break free and the more painful the attempts become. Skinned knees, raw elbows, a bloody nose, a black eye, a chipped or missing tooth are the physical symptoms of the psychological scars we carry for trying to break through that damned line.

I had a professor who used to say in response to my confession of mental illness, "You are in good company."

I believe he meant that all writers and artists go through a similar journey through Hell.

© Megan Snider

So, don't despair for you are in good company.

Indeed. The thought of that is a lullaby that hums me quietly to sleep.