Sunday 1 January 2012

Locked Up: ‘Patients’ and their Gaolers. 6. Vivienne Eliot. Carole Seymour-Jones conducts Inner Circle Seminar 173 (19 February 2012)

T. S. Eliot   Virginia Woolf   Vivienne Eliot
Locked Up:
‘Patients’ and their Gaolers

6. Vivienne Eliot
First wife of T. S. Eliot

Vivienne Eliot

Carole Seymour-Jones
Inner Circle Seminar No. 173
introduced by
Anthony Stadlen
Sunday 19 February 2012
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Today’s seminar is devoted to the events that led to the incarceration as a mental patient’ of the poet T. S. Eliot’s first wife, the governess and writer Vivienne née Haigh-Wood (28 May 1888 – 22 January 1947).
Her mother deplored Vivienne’s moral insanity’. And Virginia Woolf wrote: Oh – Vivienne! [...] This bag of ferrets is what Tom [Eliot] wears round his neck.’
Vivienne Eliot was imprisoned in an asylum from 1938 until her death in 1947.
Carole Seymour-Jones is a qualified existential psychotherapist and author of Painted Shadow: The Life of Vivienne Eliot, first wife of T.S. Eliot (2001). In today’s seminar she will discuss Vivienne’s contribution to Eliot’s work. She will show how his poem The Waste Land (1922) was born from the turmoil of his marriage with Vivienne, but that she has been effectively airbrushed out of history. Adducing evidence from sources denied to other biographers, such as Vivienne’s diary which Carole Seymour-Jones finally won the right to quote, she will help us make socially intelligible how Vivienne’s family came to see her as ‘ill’ and to commit her to a madhouse.
Carole Seymour-Jones is also author of A Dangerous Liaison: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre (2008); coeditor of Another Sky: Voices of Conscience from Around the World (2007) by imprisoned and tortured writers; and chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of English PEN. She is an ideal guide to help us make sense of the social and interpersonal events that led to Vivienne Eliot’s being locked up.

Venue: Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ (
Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £50, others £135, some bursaries; mineral water and liquorice allsorts included; payable in advance; no refunds unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857 E-mail:
For further information on seminars, visit:

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and colleges.

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