The Table Talk of T.S. Eliot

Eliot was at a fashionable dinner party of London intellectuals where the conversation was rather stilted because everybody felt they had to say something profound in front of the great man (who said very little.) Eventually after an awkward silence the wife of an academic complained about her high electricity bills. The other guests were a little shocked that such trivial matter was being discussed, however Eliot suddenly came to life. "Are you on the night tariff?" he asked the woman and proceeded to discourse knowledgeably about reducing household bills.

Another instance where Eliot succeeded in flummoxing high minded intellectuals was at the Wednesday Club in 1956 - the writer Paul Bloomfield reported the following. Asked for his favourite passage of English prose, the great poet at once replied, assisting his performance with the appropriate gestures:

'Well,' cried Boss McGinty at last, 'is he here? Is Birdy Edwards here?' 
'Yes,' McMurdo answered slowly, 'Birdy Edwards is here. I am Birdy Edwards.' 

After a bemused silence, in which none knew, or cared to admit they knew, the source, Eliot pleasantly revealed it: Conan Doyle's The Valley of Fear.

One thought on “The Table Talk of T.S. Eliot

  1. TS Eliot Society UK

    When Bertrand Russell died, Valerie Eliot, the poet's widow, wrote of her husband’s favourite story.

    Late one evening, TS Eliot stopped a taxi. As he got in, the driver said: “You’re T S Eliot.” When asked how he knew, he replied: “Ah, I’ve got an eye for a celebrity. Only the other evening I picked up Bertrand Russell, and I said to him: 'Well, Lord Russell, what’s it all about?'

    "And, do you know, he couldn’t tell me.”


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