Vivian Haigh Eliot

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Vivian Haigh Eliot (Haigh Wood)

Birthdate: (58)
Birthplace: Bury, Lancashire, England
Death: January 22, 1947 (58)
London, England
Immediate Family:

Wife of T. S. Eliot, Nobel Prize in Literature, 1948

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About Vivian Haigh Eliot


Eliot's first wife, Vivien Haigh-Wood, was a dancer and socialite from a well-to-do family in England with whom Eliot was set up with after he sent a letter to one of his close friends complaining that he was still a virgin. He married her rather quickly after their first meeting at the Hampstead Registry Office in London in June of 1915, and the two spend over 20 tumulus years together. Eliot's family did not approve of the union, primarily because they discovered that Vivien had a history of mental instability, but also because she refused to visit the US during the war and thus alienated Eliot from his parents and siblings. This alienation was one of the causes of Eliot's feelings of extreme guilt in the 1920's following his father's death which caused him to be checked into a mental hospital.

Eliot and Vivien clearly did not have an ideal relationship. They had a myriad of sexual problems, and Vivien had frequent nervous breakdowns, menstrual problems, and was overall physiologically unstable. They divorced in 1939, and Vivien spent years begging Eliot to return to her, but to no avail. She was eventually checked into an insane asylum, where she later died.

Eliot's marriage to Vivien clearly affected his writings. In The Wasteland Eliot discusses a man stuck in a disintegrating and hopeless marriage, and this aspect of the storyline was clearly a derivative of his own personal experiences. Moreover, in Family Reunion, there are remnants of Eliot's guilt over leaving Vivien.

Eliot's second wife, Esme Valerie Fletcher, was Eliot's secretary at Faber and Faber. This marriage was much more successful than Eliot's first union, even though Valerie was 38 years younger than Eliot. In fact, she is still alive today and is a well-known editor and literary executive and had published many of Eliot's original manuscripts and personal letters. She is relatively wealthy as a result of Eliot?s literary success and specifically because Eliot's 1939 novel, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats was adapted into the Broadway play Cats.

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Vivian Haigh Eliot's Timeline

May 28, 1888
Bury, Lancashire, England
January 22, 1947
Age 58
London, England