I find the research into written correspondence a fascinating field. Whether it’s letters by the founding fathers, famous writers or even, in this case, the greatest comedic character of all time. The New Yorker has a great writeup about the study of letters written between poet T.S. Eliot and comic legend Groucho Marx. You have to delve deep until you tap into their respective fears and desires to truly understand what is being said between the two.
Though Eliot was considered the reigning poet of the English-speaking world, and Groucho his counterpart in the world of comedy—celebrated by the likes of Antonin Artaud—each man seemed to provoke in the other a desire to conceal an essential liability. Eliot seems to have wanted Groucho to consider him a warm, ordinary guy and not the type of stiff, repressed person who disdained from a great height “free-thinking Jews.” He can’t quite bring it off—his acquired British self-deprecation stumbles into an American boorishness. On the eve of Groucho’s visit to London, Eliot wrote, “The picture of you in the newspapers saying that … you have come to London to see me has greatly enhanced my credit in the neighbourhood, and particularly with the greengrocer across the street. Obviously I am now someone of importance.”