Wednesday, 17 January 2001

T.S. Eliot: The Confidential Clerk (1958)

Edition: Faber & Faber, 1969 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 718

When Sir Claude Mulhammer's confidential clerk is forced to retire because of ill health, he appoints a young man to replace him. This sets in motion a plot which is reminiscent of Joe Orton, as both Sir Claude and his wife become convinced that the new clerk is his or her illegitimate child - both had affairs before their marriage. This obviously sounds like a recipe for a farce, but The Confidential Clerk is not a farce.

Like all Eliot's plays, The Confidential Clerk is about who we are under the facade meant for public consumption, when successive layers of pretence and secrets from our past (in this case, an example would be the identities of our parents) are stripped away. They look at this in an unusually philosophical way, but The Confidential Clerk is probably closest to a conventional drama than any other. It is not particularly dramatic, but it has more character differentiation than Eliot's earlier plays.

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