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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: March 2010

The Elder Statesman (1959)

Summary

"Love and Mr. Eliot."

Time 72 (8 September

1958), 43–44.

On opening night at the Edinburgh Festival last week, the author (who will be 70 this month) sat in the audience holding hands with his 31-year-old wife, his former secretary whom he married a year and a half ago. That scene offered a clue to the proceedings onstage. More than any of his previous plays or most of his poems, T. S. Eliot's The Elder Statesman extols love. Compared to The Cocktail Party and The Confidential Clerk—intellectual avocados spiky with Greek myth and Christian mysticism—Eliot's latest seems as simple as the peach that Prufrock was once afraid to eat.

The play's theme: dishonesty toward oneself is the worst policy. The play's hero: Lord Claverton, an aged, retired Cabinet minister who idly fingers the empty pages of his once-crowded engagement book. Two unwelcome visitors from the past destroy the sand castle of his memories—precarious memories of what was essentially bogus success. Visitor No. 1 is a moneyed spiv from Central America who shared in a disreputable episode of Claverton's youth. Visitor No. 2 is Maisie Moutjoy (now respectably renamed Mrs. Carghill), a onetime chorus girl whom the young Claverton seduced; in true Victorian melodramatic fashion. Claverton's father had squelched her breach-of-promise suit with cash. Nowshe accuses her former lover of having posed as a man of the world during their affair, just as he has since posed as an elder statesman: “You'll still be playing a part in your obituary, whoever writes it.”

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T. S. Eliot
  • Online ISBN: 9780511485466
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511485466
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