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Eliot started out as a clerk in Colonial and Foreign department of Lloyd’s “on the false pretense of being a linguist” (one supposes his Harvard Sanskrit probably did not get too much use, though he did know French and Italian, and picked up a little Norwegian, Spanish, Dutch, and Swedish). He took the job because he thought it would leave him time to write both verse and criticism in the evenings. In 1914 he was already contributing to the New Statesman, and the promise of work in the American magazines like the Dial and the Century were on the horizon. Commissions from British magazines would soon follow.
Both Eliots’ health improved once he started working at the bank, a fact which is not to be underestimated. The letters are in large part a catalogue of ailments and unsuccessful cures, especially Vivien’s. But the bank, in the early years, exerts a stabilizing force on the couple: “Vivien was very anxious about my health while I was at home—it seemed to get worse and worse; and now I am better and more cheerful and find she is much happier. Then too I have felt more creative lately.” The bank has stirred Eliot to write poetry again along with his critical essays. Eliot is genuinely interested in his banking work as well, as he writes to his father: “I am absorbed during the daytime by the balance sheets of foreign banks. It is a peaceful, but very interesting pursuit, and involves some use of reasoning powers.” Vivien, perhaps over-enthusiastically, goes so far as to write to Eliot’s mother that Tom is considering banking asa “money-making career!” She continues, “We are all very much surprised at this development, but not one of his friends has failed to see, and to remark upon, the great chance in Tom’s health, appearance, spirits, and literary productiveness since he went in for Banking. So far, it has obviously suited him. He is extremely interested in finance, and I believe he has a good deal of hitherto unexpected ability in that direction.” Vivien prattles on that she feels in a couple of years Eliot might be able to continue at the bank both making money and producing poetry, as he has written five “most excellent poems in the course of one week” and oh, what a miracle that would be.
The Letters of T.S. Eliot