William Empson tells a story about Eliot and letters:

“Ah, letters,” he said, rather as if they were some rare kind of bird, “I had to look into the question of letters at one time. I found that the mistake . . . that most people make . . . about letters, is that after writing their letters, carefully, they go out, and look for a pillar-box. I found that it is very much better, after giving one’s attention to composing the letter, to . . . pop it into the fire.”

Empson commented on Eliot’s observation of letters, that “this kind of thing was a little unnerving, because one did not know how tragically it was to be taken; it was clearly not to be regarded as a flippancy.”

Grateful as I am for letterboxes, I wish that Eliot had popped two or three of his own letters into the fire, notably a remarkably insolent letter of June 18, 1925 to Marianne...

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