My evenings are currently spent curled up on the chair in my room with young Tom Eliot. He is wonderful company and he loves his mother very much. He is, at the moment, rather worried, now he has a collection of poems coming out in America, about how she will react to certain of them. 'Sweeney Erect' especially. He thinks Americans will find him 'disgusting.' I'm looking forward to finding out.
For now, though, I am pondering:
Whether one writes a piece of work well or not seems to me a matter of crystallisation – the good sentence, the good word, is only the final stage in the process. One can groan enough over the choice of a word, but there is something much more important to groan over first. It seems to me just the same in poetry – the words come easily enough, in comparison to the core of it – the tone – and nobody can help one in the least with that.*
To be on the safe side I looked 'crystallisation' up in my dictionary:
‘to give definite or concrete form to: to crystallise an idea.’
And I looked up 'core':
'the central, innermost, or most essential part of anything.'
Is he saying that the tone is the core of a piece of writing, or the tone conveys the core?
I looked up 'tone' and now I'm reeling. What does he mean by 'tone' and how can it be separated from one's choice of words?
How can crystallisation – making an idea concrete – be separated from one's choice of words?
What am I missing? I seem to be in a bit of a pickle.
*In a letter to Lytton Strachey dated 1 June 1919, in The Letters of T.S. Eliot (London: Faber and Faber, 1988) pp 298
Earth's core picture from: http://www.oup.co.uk/oxed/children/oise/pictures/earth/earthcore/
Crystal pictures from: http://chemistry.about.com/od/growingcrystals/ig/Crystal-Photo-Gallery/