memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Mr, Eliot’s peaceful Xmas

I woke one morning last month with the memory that I was in possession of a Christmas card from T.S. Eliot, in his capacity as director of the Publishing house of Faber & Faber, to my aunt Mary G. Milner as a published Faber author.

It is a rather stylish document with the cover and back designed by Barnett Freedman, the noted lithographer, illustrator and book designer, who did a lot of work for Faber.

It was the first Christmas of peace after the war – a time of paper shortage for publishers – and I suppose that Faber had decided to splash out a little.

Let’s trace the journey of this particular copy (which by the way is still in its original brown envelope – dated 15th Dec. 1945 and a little blue George XI tuppeny-happney postage stamp ).

Firstly T.S. Eliot (the great seminal modernist poet of the 20th century) conscientiously signs it and on the envelope writes out my aunt’s name & address and adds it pile of cards for the post.

On its arrival in South Yorkshire it is redirected back to London by my grandfather where he happens to know that his daughter is spending the first Christmas of peace at my parents’ gaff in Hampstead.

(Cool address, isn’t?

We had no money in those days, my mother used to say airily.

Well, I asked her once, what did you used to eat, then?

Oh, you know, just omelettes and things …)

Now let’s go back to the card: beautiful art & craft design by Barnett Freedman – very period

And on the back too.

You open it up the A3 size and best quality Faber paper and voilà, the poet’s signature (or autograph perhaps I should say).

I handle it with reverence.

And that’s it, I say to myself as I’m about to publish this onto Word Press, a nice neat little blog, of rather narrow interest admittedly but not totally without interest … but I then pause and continue my musings … what shall I do now with this piece of literary/family memorabilia? If is merely found among his things after my death, my successors might not appreciate it so much i.e. they might know/care diddly squat about early 20th century English modernist poetry.

But it’s marketable.

I might sell it on e-bay and buy one those George-Clooney-type espresso coffee machines with the proceedings.

or there again, I might not. E-bay is rather vulgar, isn’t it?

Comments on: "Mr, Eliot’s peaceful Xmas" (5)

  1. Oh my Goodness Tom! WHat a Wonderful little treasure! And LOOK at that signature!! AHhhhh. I’d be envious, if that would fit comfortably into my polite little self. Well anyway, how intriguing and special. Thank you ever so much for sharing : ) ! ~ Lily

    P.S. T.S. Eliot has been one of my favorite writers ever since my university days. I think it was particularly: “human kind cannot bear very much reality” that made me feel understood. You know he was born here–St. Louis and educated at Harvard — but he met and married an English woman and he chose to stay in England. Well I did want to stay when I visited, too…


    • Yes, Lily, one my greatest influences too; his wife Valerie Eliot died only last week, I noted in Time magazine. « … on Margate sands I can connect nothing with nothing»


  2. Wow Tom, something to hold onto!
    I LOVE TS Eliot…have a super day! Thanks for sharing that…..


  3. Always good to hear from you! How about some vitriol from your erudite mind… get the blood boiling!


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