The Magazine

Sincerely, Young Possum

T. S. Eliot on the threshold of eminence.

Dec 31, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 16 • By WILLIAM H. PRITCHARD
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Many of the letters are written to Bonamy Dobrée, a member of the Criterion phalanx who had accepted a teaching position in Cairo. There is some rather heavy joking in the slightly obscene mode of Eliot’s “King Bolo” poems, but also a couple of pertinent questions about life in Dobrée’s new setting: “The only thing I want to know about the camel is whether, as American authorities assert, it is always necessary to walk a mile for one.” Dobrée took that one more or less in stride, but it was followed by another query about the camel: “Do they fold their tents, and if so in how many folds, and if so is it always in the same folds like a napkin or serviette (as called in seaside hotels)?” 

Dobrée couldn’t answer that one.

William H. Pritchard is Henry Clay Folger professor of English at Amherst College.