T.S. Eliot, toilet and turds….

It now appears the reason why T.S. Eliot insisted on his middle initial was because he was painfully aware of what his name would have spelled backwards without it. His great friend W.H Auden (whose H was idiopathic) wrote a palindrome on the subject:

T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad. I’d assign it a name: gnat dirt upset on drab pot-toilet.

S was a real name, though, it stood (appropriately) for Stearns, a name by which he briefly tried to be known as a student: i.e. T. Stearns Eliot. This is, incidentally, the reason that it’s the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. The debilitating fear of the cloacal also produced, through inversion, the completely superfluous reference to the Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii, the hermit thrush seen in his The Waste Land

But sound of water over rock

Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees.

The notes to The Waste Land were utterly unintentional. It was decided that the poem was too short to publish on its own, so T.S. Eliot composed them to fatten  up the volume, and also to gleefully mention the word Turdus. within the author’s notes on The Waste Land.

Apropos nothing at all,  the phrase What the Dickens has bugger all to do with Charles Dickens (unless Shakespeare was blessed with the gift of prognostication). It pops up in The Merry Wives of Windsor and is derived (like almost every other renaissance expletive) from the word Devil.


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