Tag Archives: T. S. Eliot

The Waste Land at 100

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, one of the most influential poems of the twentieth century. To celebrate the occasion, we present a selection of images from first and early editions of the poem. King’s College is very fortunate in hosting one of the largest collections of manuscript and printed materials by Eliot thanks to the bequest of his close friend John Hayward (1905-65), who shared a flat with the poet from 1946 to 1957. Hayward read English and modern languages at King’s from 1923 to 1927 and went on to become an accomplished editor and critic. He met Eliot for the first time while still an undergraduate at Cambridge in 1926.

Eliot’s correspondence suggests that The Waste Land was written between late 1920 and early 1922. Though the drafts were lost during his lifetime, they resurfaced in 1968 and were published in a facsimile edition by his widow Valerie in 1971:

Eliot’s pencil draft of the beginning of the fifth section of the poem, “What the Thunder Said” (The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts Including the Annotations of Ezra Pound, ed. Valerie Eliot [London: Faber, 1971], p. [70]; YIM ELI, ZWA 3XP 1).

The poem was first printed in the inaugural issue of the literary journal The Criterion, edited by Eliot, which, according to his bibliographer Donald Gallup, appeared around 15 October 1922:

Front cover of the first issue of The Criterion, October 1922 (HC2.1.1 21).

The opening of The Waste Land from The Criterion, pp. 50-51. The poem was published almost simultaneously in America in The Dial, LXXIII.5 (Nov. 1922), pp. [473]-485.

It was then published in book form in New York on 15 December 1922 in a limited edition of 1,000 copies:

Dust jacket of The Waste Land (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922). The colophon on p. [6] reads: “Of the one thousand copies printed of The Waste Land this volume is number 914” (Hayward.H.9.6).

It was in this volume that the epigraph and the “Notes” to the poem were first included. Eliot later reminisced in “The Frontiers of Criticism” (1956): “I had at first intended only to put down all the references for my quotations, with a view to spiking the guns of critics of my earlier poems who had accused me of plagiarism. Then, when it came to print The Waste Land as a little book – for the poem on its first appearance in The Dial and in The Criterion had no notes whatever – it was discovered that the poem was inconveniently short, so I set to work to expand the notes, in order to provide a few more pages of printed matter, with the result that they became the remarkable exposition of bogus scholarship that is still on view to-day” (The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot: The Critical Edition, ed. Jewel Spears Brooker and Ronald Schuchard [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019], vol. 8, p. 127):

First page of the “Notes” to The Waste Land (Hayward.H.9.6).

The first English edition appeared the following year on 12 September 1923: it was hand-printed by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press in Richmond. Virginia typeset the whole poem on her own between 23 June and 8 July 1923, writing to Barbara Bagenal on 8 July: “I have just finished setting up the whole of Mr Eliots poem [The Waste Land] with my own hands: You see how my hand trembles” (The Letters of Virginia Woolf, ed. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann [New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978], vol. 3, p. 56):

Front cover of the first English edition (Richmond: Printed and published by Leonard and Viriginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, Hogarth House, Paradise Road, 1923; Hayward.H.9.8A). The printed label at the top is known to exist in three states. This is the first state featuring a border of asterisks.

Title page of the first English edition of The Waste Land. This copy was bequeathed by another Kingsman, Dadie Rylands (1902-99), who worked for six months with Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press in 1924.

In the copy of the first edition which Eliot presented to Ezra Pound, the dedication (For Ezra Pound / il miglior fabbro) appears as an autograph inscription. It was first printed in 1925 in the collection Poems, 1909-1925:

Title page of The Waste Land as printed in Poems, 1909-1925 (London: Faber & Gwyer, 1925, p. 63; Hayward.H.9.10).

To mark this momentous centenary, the BBC broadcast the radio drama “He Do The Waste Land in Different Voices,” as well as a programme on the importance of The Criterion, which is still available here. A documentary on the poem broadcast on BBC2 on 13 October can also be viewed here.


Cheyne Links with King’s

Charles Robert Ashbee (1863-1942) came up to King’s College in 1883 and read History. The friends he made in Cambridge and the books he read contributed to his development into what biographer Alan Crawford described as an ‘Architect, Designer & Romantic Socialist’. Ashbee’s memoirs came to King’s a few years after he died, with his ‘journals’ (correspondence and scrapbooks bound together) and some genealogical papers given by his widow ten years later. With the death of their daughter Felicity in 2008, the last large tranche of Ashbee papers came to King’s, including his Jerusalem papers (for more on which see this online exhibition).

But in May we were given two more drawings by C. R. Ashbee and they’re rapidly becoming some of my favourite things. The first drawing is a design for a crucifix medallion. It’s stamped ‘This design is the property of The Guild of Handicraft Ltd … Chipping Campden, Glos. and is to be returned to them’ with the design number and date added by hand. It’s labelled ‘Silver Cross, enamelled & chased’. At 7 mm diameter, it’s probably drawn life-size.

CRA/100. Guild of Handicraft design for a crucifix medallion

CRA/100 (detail). Silver Cross, enamelled & chased

The other drawing, which is too big for us to reproduce for the blog, is floorplans for a house that Ashbee designed for 37 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, called ‘Magpie & Stump’ after an ancient pub once run on the site (see the ‘Places’ section of the ‘Summary’ tab here). The Victoria and Albert Museum holds in its collection the elevation of that building.

Ashbee’s parents separated in 1893, his mother bought the freehold of 37 Cheyne Walk and he designed the house for her and her unmarried daughters. Ashbee lived there as well, doing a fair business as an architect (he built 6 more houses on Cheyne Walk over the next 20 years, but only 2 survive) while also managing the Guild he had begun in 1888.

CRA/23, f4. 37-39 Cheyne Walk (The Ancient Magpie and Stump is the nearest) as published in Neubauten in London (Berlin, 1900)

If you’re in Cambridge you can see the drawings themselves during the Long Vacation 2017, displayed in the exhibition cases in the Archives Centre Reading Room. See Getting to the Archive Centre. There is no need to book an appointment just to look at the exhibition. More permanently, and to learn more about C. R. Ashbee and see more of his papers, visit our on-line exhibitions page about him. And when the Chapel is open to visitors you can see the frame Ashbee designed for a painting he gave to the College in the 1930s, Madonna in the Rosary which can also be seen in the Chapel virtual tour (Click ‘Navigate the Chapel’ and then click on the link to ‘Visit St Edward’s Chapel’ in the top right/northeast corner).

To satisfy patient readers who have come this far, there is another Cheyne link with King’s which was brought to my attention by a colleague. T. S. Eliot lived with John Davy Hayward (1905-65, King’s College 1923) in 19 Carlyle Mansions at 122 Cheyne Walk, for ten years after WW2. Because of this friendship and co-habitation, Hayward collected many Eliot drafts, some letters, ephemeral publications, first editions and proof copies of Eliot’s works, which form the Hayward Bequest of T. S. Eliot material.