What Val has to say about Tom and Viv

Blake Morrison
Saturday 23 April 1994 23:02 BST

VALERIE ELIOT, the widow of the poet T S Eliot, today speaks out for the first time against the portrayal of her husband in the film Tom & Viv, writes Blake Morrison.

In an exclusive interview with the Independent on Sunday, she describes the film as inaccurate, dishonest and malicious: 'I worry that people will never look at his poetry but see the film and think: what a monster of deparavity, like Macavity the Cat.'

In the film, which stars Willem Dafoe as Eliot and Miranda Richardson as his first wife Vivienne, the poet helps to incarcerate a perfectly sane Vivienne in a mental home.

But Valerie Eliot has released for the first time two letters which show that he was away at the time of her committal, that Vivienne had been found wandering in a distressed, paranoid and 'deplorable' condition (one of her delusions was that Tom 'had been beheaded'), and that at least three different doctors recommended that she be admitted to a home. Once there, says Valerie Eliot, Vivienne felt comparatively secure and happy, and declined opportunities to move.

Mrs Eliot also dismisses the idea that Vivienne played any part in the composition of The Waste Land beyond creating the 'hell' which drove him to write it. 'It was Tom who tried to get her going as a writer, not the other way about,' she says.

Valerie Eliot worked for some years as T S Eliot's secretary before marrying him when he was 68 and she was 30, 10 years after Vivienne's death. She says that far from being cold and self-absorbed, 'he was made for marriage, a natural for it, a loving creature . . . Tom and Vivienne were just two people who shouldn't have married. But Tom tried very hard and for a very long time to make a go of it, and he's never given credit for that, is he?'

Full interview, Sunday Review

(Photograph omitted)

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