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Arnolfini - est 1961

With Niamh Cusack, Lyndall Gordon and Noreen Masud

Join us for an evening of performance and discussion to uncover the great women who inspired T.S Eliot’s The Waste Land.

To mark the centenary of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land , we’re joined by author Lyndall Gordon to shine a light on the women in TS Eliot’s life, particularly the ‘hyacinth girl’ who appears in The Waste Land. In her new book The Hyacinth Girl: TS Eliot’s Hidden Muse, Gordon tells the story of Emily Hale, an American actor and drama teacher for whom Eliot concealed a lasting love.

The lovestruck writer penned 1,131 letters to her over the years, insisting that these weren’t released until 50 years after his death. They reveal a romance that spanned most of his life, which greatly influenced his creative practice.

Eliot also had ties to three other English women when he was at the height of his powers: his first wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood, who ended up in an asylum; Mary Trevelyan, his church-going confidante; and his second devoted wife, Valerie Fletcher. All four women were closest to Eliot and recorded their time with the great author in autobiographical sketches, diaries and memoirs.

The evening begins with Niamh Cusack reading The Wasteland, followed by Lyndall Gordon in conversation with Noreen Masud.

This event is part of the Here and There/The Wasteland project.

Niamh Cusack is an actor, whose theatre credits include My Brilliant Friend and The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Nighttime at the National Theatre, as well as numerous productions at the RSC including MacbethAs You Like ItRomeo and Juliet and Othello. She has also appeared at the Old Vic in Dancing at LughnasaThe Playboy of the Western World and Cause Celebre, and most recently starred in a Bristol Old Vic production of Hamlet. Her most recent television work includes Archie, The Virtues, The Tower and Brassic, with films including Four Mothers andThe Land of Saints and Sinners.

Lyndall Gordon is the prizewinning author of biographies of Henry James, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft, T. S. Eliot and Emily Dickinson, and is the author of Outsiders: Five Women Writers Who Changed the World. She has also penned two memoirs, Shared Lives, a story of women’s friendship, and Divided Lives about her mother whose spiritual journey opened TS Eliot’s poetry for her.

Noreen Masud is a Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature at the University of Bristol, and an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker. Her research covers all kinds of bases: flatness, spivs, puppets, leftovers, earworms, footnotes, rhymes, hymns, surprises, folk songs, colours and superstitions. She works mostly on 20th-century literature, but makes forays into Victorian and Romantic literature too.

The front cover of the book entitled The Hyacinth Girl - TS Eliot's Hidden Muse

Lyndall Gordon’s The Hyacinth Girl will be available to buy from Arnofini Bookshop on the night