Guide Robert Southey: The Critical Heritage: Volume 47 (The Collected Critical Heritage : the Romantics)

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Southey and Wynn had been friends since their schooldays at Westminster. The abrupt, tragic closing down of his correspondence in only throws into sharper relief the vitality and diversity of a lifetime of communication. They included family, friends, fellow writers, publishers, review editors, landlords, antiquarians, scientists, politicians, bishops, wine-merchants, people he had never met and — at times to his great irritation — autograph hunters.

Southey was a busy man, and the wide range of men and women he found the time to write to indicates what might be described as the promiscuous nature of his correspondence — his ability to write a letter to virtually anyone and everyone, on virtually every subject. It is also compelling evidence of the diversity of Romantic period letter-writing. Southey wrote to individuals from very different walks of life and unsurprisingly the subject matter of his letters is extremely varied.

It covers his domestic and professional lives, local matters and international affairs. It includes complaints about a difficult younger brother, tough financial negotiations with a publisher, regional events in Bristol or Keswick, and details of atrocities committed in Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular War. Here, for example, is Southey writing in December on the dangers to national well-being of a cholera epidemic:.

We see here the moralist and polemicist, the preacher against the evils of modernity and the sickness spread by industrialisation, urbanisation and democracy, a Southey familiar to the readers of both his Colloquies and his essays in the Quarterly Review. Other letters disclose a playful friend or fond, anxious parent.

Here is Southey writing in about his delight in his first child, born after nearly seven years of marriage:. Margaret in spite of a snub snout is grown out of her ugliness. I call them all Effusions of a Father. It charts his reading, maps his changing views on politics and society, and describes his activities as a professional man of letters, including drafts of poems and prose works.

The letters published here contain important evidence of the labour involved in writing. He seems to have adapted the composition of letters to suit his circumstances, writing both in solitude and in company and, on occasions, jointly composing a letter with a family member or friend. This irregularity did not last.

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Yet the impossibility of entirely separating his correspondence from the rest of the household is witnessed by the traces left, on the manuscripts that survive, by other people and other aspects of his life. These include playful deletions or insertions in the hand of his first wife Edith; and even the paw-prints of a kitten walking over a letter before the ink had dried. In his middle and later years, letter writing was reserved for the end of the day.

At that period, the post And so pointedly regular was Southey in all his habits, that, short as the time was, all letters were answered on the same evening which brought them. The manuscripts of his letters bear inevitable traces of these evening sessions: those from the s and s are often written in a cramped hand and stained by wax or tallow from dripping candles. In spite of the pressure of time, Southey took great pains over what was an important channel of communication with friends, family and professional associates.

T.S.eliot_ the Critical Heritage, Volume 1 - MICHAEL GRANT (Edt)

His letters could be private documents, sent to friends and family and intended to be read by the recipient and perhaps a close family circle. Yet they could also be public texts, available for wider consumption. His signed newspaper letters could spark public controversy. On 5 January , he took on an even more formidable opponent, Byron, in the pages of The Courier. For Southey, though, the public letter was not just restricted to ephemeral publications such as periodicals and newspapers.

His first published prose work, Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal , exploited the public, literary potential of correspondence. It made use of letters Southey had written to friends during his time in the Iberian peninsula, blurring the boundaries between private and public correspondence.

In he returned to the epistolary travel book in a slightly different guise, publishing Letters from England under the pseudonym of Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. It was a complex realisation. It could provide him with the — somewhat self-righteous — solace that his political and cultural judgements would be vindicated in the long term. Southey lived long enough to be in the potentially uncomfortable position of having both his own private letters and letters written to or about him appear in print during his own lifetime.

In the s, his concerns surfaced over the handling of the correspondence and literary remains of Coleridge, who had died in Southey knew that Coleridge had frequently attacked him in letters, both to himself and to others. As he explained to Henry Crabb Robinson:. So little consideration is shewn in publications of this kind, that no one knows what mischief may arise from trusting any letters out of his own keeping. The Wilberforces have printed an extract from a letter of mine to their father in which the last Vicar of this place is spoken of in terms of great disparagement.

His daughters are our next door neighbours, and we are of necessity and of good will also upon neighbourly terms with them. Now they will be very much wounded if they happen to see this book, which but for this circumstance, I should as a matter of course have lent them — yet it is hardly possible that they should not see it. And tho I have said nothing but what was perfectly true, they will be very much wounded, and I am as much annoyed as I can allow myself to be by any thing in which I do not feel myself to blame.

He resolved to manage his own posterity. The future editing and publication of his massive correspondence was entrusted to a friend and disciple, the poet and civil servant Henry Taylor, whom Southey named as his literary executor and official biographer. However, all this careful planning came to nothing. On 4 June Southey married Caroline Bowles. Shortly afterwards, his health, which had been declining for some time, completely collapsed. Having tried and failed to get cooperation from the warring factions, Taylor resigned his post. With his departure went any plans for an official life of the late Poet Laureate.

It is a highly problematic edition. If it had pleased God to send William Pitt to the Devil in the year — but better late than never. Evil passions possessed him. But this fellow [ie. Circumscribed by the family feud, he had access only to a fraction of the voluminous surviving correspondence, and could see only the letters sent to individuals who were on his side of the dispute. Warter was able to draw upon some of the major correspondences that Cuthbert had been refused access to, including those with Danvers and Mary Barker. By the time he came to work on the Selections , Warter was, in fact, an old hand at editing Southey, having produced editions in of the final two volumes of The Doctor and in of the Common-Place Books.

His experience showed. However, this does not mean that he reproduced everything he saw on the manuscript page. More seriously, he occasionally - and silently - removed passages from letters. Most of his omissions were connected to family matters, or to persons still living. The accounts from York are hopeful.

But a considerable time must elapse before bodily functions which have been very long deranged can be set right by any curative treatment. The poem was not a romantic idealisation of the past, but the recognition of an imaginative life whose loss it had been Eliots peculiar genius to present and explore. Seldes was alert to the discontinuous and interrupted quality of Eliots writing, though he was none the less drawn towards the search for some inner unity, some hidden form which the text concealed.

It is worth noting also that Seldes saw Eliots pre-eminence as beyond question and fully established. As a critic, Eliot was a man of the living tradition, and no purely American sense of values could do justice to him, a theme taken up by Allen Tate in the first issue of Fugitive December Tate considered that The Waste Land raised precisely the same questions about representation as did the work of Picasso or Duncan Grant.

Using Eliots own terminology, he wrote: It is patent, for instance, that the art of Duncan Grant and of Picasso has no objective validity and represents nothing; but perhaps the world as it is doesnt afford accurate correlatives of all the emotional complexes and attitudes; and so the painter and, it may be, the poets are justified in not only re-arranging witness entire English Tradition but remaking, remoulding in a subjective order, the stuff they must necessarily work withthe material world. It was this remaking that justified Eliots aberrant versification in The Waste Land. Yet, for Tate, there still seemed to be life in the old modes, and the question for the American was to decide which tradition, the old or the modern, he was to accept.

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Clearly, Tate was not yet certain as to the meaning of tradition for Eliot, nor could he see any connection between the idea of tradition expressed in The Sacred Wood and the poetic procedures of The Waste Land. After describing the poem in terms of a spiritual drought and the failure of fertility, Wilson went on to comment that Eliots work seemed the product of a constricted emotional experience, though as a poet he belongs to the divine company. Wilson saw the poem as a triumph in spite of its lack of structural unity, each fragment being an authentic crystal, in contrast to the bewildering mosaic of the Cantos of Pound.

This comparison moved Eliot to write to both Seldes and Wilson to say that he had no wish to be praised at Pounds expense, since he was deeply in Pounds debt, and was also a personal friend. I sincerely consider Ezra Pound the most important living poet in the English language.

On 22 September , he described The Waste Land as the great knockout up to date, while on 29 November he explained his understanding of A Game of Chess, Tiresias and Phlebas, considering the quotation from The Spanish Tragedy a miracle of ingenuity. He recommended Bishop to read his essay in the Dial, which, he said, he had just completed. On 13 December, he disagreed with Bishops view of Ode as being entirely concerned with Eliots marriage. The style of these letters is free and candid, and he confessed that he found Eliot on the basis of Pounds gossip as relayed by Bishop, a dreary fellow.

Furthermore, Wilson considered Eliots influence too pronounced in Bishops poetry, an opinion he also held of Tates work. On 3 January , he wrote to Tate: I look forward to something extraordinary from you. But do try to get out of the artistic clutches of T. The Casebook reprint of this review is prefaced by a note dated , in which Aiken recalled his longstanding friendship with Eliot and also Eliots doubts about himself a month or two before his departure for Lausanne. Aiken noted that he had seen passages from The Waste Land as pieces in their own right before the publication of the finished work and felt that he should have mentioned this fact in his review, in order to draw the conclusion that such passages as A woman drew her long black hair out tight were not organically a part of the total meaning Aikens italics.

This led on to the recognition that allusion was the fundamental method of the poem, yet Aiken read these allusions as symbols in the usual sense, as concentrations of meaning in an image or images. But what it was that kept these symbols together and guaranteed their unity, Aiken was unable to say, beyond positing a dim unity of personality or consciousness that sustained the whole assemblage of fragments.

In other words, he was not prepared to re-examine that identification of meaning with unity that his reviews consistently imply and which, it might well be argued, it was Eliots purpose to displace. Ransom considered that Eliot was engaged in the destruction of the philosophical and cosmical principles by which we form our usual picture of reality, and that Eliot wished to name cosmos Chaos. The Waste Land was an unnatural inversion of a divinely constituted order, that order of which Wordsworth should be seen as the avatar. Ransom thought of Eliots problems as essentially American and used the more conservative forms of English poetry, such as those of Robert Graves, as a stick to beat him with, accusing Eliot of what Yvor Winters later called the fallacy of imitative form, the attempt to express a state of uncertainty by uncertainty of expression.

Ransoms review provoked a letter of reply from Allen Tate, who began by attacking Ransoms romantic assumptions about the creative process, assumptions about imagination and inspiration which Tate found superannuate No. Ransom had attacked Eliot because of his failure to achieve a philosophy and because of his discontinuities of form.

However, for Tate, it was precisely in the incongruities, labelled as parody by Ransom, that the form of The Waste Land resided, in the ironic attitude of the free consciousness that refused a closed system. One can see in this debate the fundamental terms of a controversy concerning the significance of Eliots enterprise that is still far from dead. For Ransom, there was, or should be, a natural cohesion between the form of the work and the order of things: the imagination, as Coleridge understood it, was the faculty by which such an order revealed itself in the forms of art.

For Tate, the possibilities of such natural discourse were over. A much later critic, Michael Edwards, put forward in a reading of the poem that may enable us to see the issues at stake more precisely. The poem enacts a movement of spirit that is fundamentally Christian, in its ambiguous and self-contradictory language revealing language itself as fallen, so that the poems scrutiny of itself becomes, at many levels, an act of exemplary recognition, a babble of dissonant voices which registers the most intimate loss that the poem is concerned with, the loss of a just, single speech.

Certainly, the antipathy the poem aroused was strong and violently felt. Clive Bell, for example, an admirer of Eliots earlier poetry, could react to The Waste Land only by way of polite maliciousness, comparing Eliot to Landor in terms. The stridency of tone in reviewers such as Squire, Powell and Lucas, or Helen McAfee in America, seems out of proportion to their consciously asserted devaluation of the poem.

Humbert Wolfe, on the other hand, though not claiming to understand the poem, was prepared to accept it for its beauty and the thrill induced by that beauty No. Munson saw the poem as the funeral keen of the nineteenth century and an aberration from the realities of the twentieth century, which were to be found in America, not Europe No. The conflict of views over The Waste Land seems to bear out Gabriel Josipovicis judgment in The Lessons of Modernism that Eliots earlier work resists that fundamental temptation, the temptation to ascribe meaning, and derives its power instead from its embodiment of a sense of awakening, an awakening that is always frightening.

There was no doubt, however, amongst the hostile reviewers, of Eliots importance, and, as George Watson put it in , admirers and detractors were equally agreed about the reality of his reputation. Poems making up the final version of The Hollow Men had appeared in Commerce and Chapbook the previous year. Commenting on Eliots reputation at this point in his career, Edgell Rickword, editor of the Calendar of Modern Letters, was in no doubt that Eliots position was unrivalled, at least amongst those awake to the reality of the art No.

It was as the poet who had come closest to the distresses of a post-war generation that Rickword valued him, an exploration that Eliot had achieved through his struggle with technique, a finer realisation of language which reached its height in The Waste Land, only to become gnomically disarticulate in The Hollow Men. It was the sense of emancipation afforded by Eliots work that was valuable, since it allowed an essential complexity of reaction. Edwin Muir was less certain about the value of the poetry, though he admired Eliots criticism unequivocally. Muirs essay appeared in the Nation New York for 5 August , shortly before the new collection of poems was published.

He found a separation between the critic and the poet, in that Eliot aimed to restore the fullness of Elizabethan poetry, in accordance with his critical insights, but succeeded only in producing a diversity of rich effects:. Mr Eliots poetry is in reality very narrow, and in spite of its great refinement of sensibility, very simple. In the main it is a statement of two opposed experiences: the experiences of beauty and ugliness, of art and reality, of literature and life. To Mr Eliot in his poetry these are simple groups of reality; their attributes remain constant; they never pass into one another; and there is no intermediate world of life connecting and modifying them.

In Muirs view, Eliot aimed at violent contrasts, as in his contrasts between formal beauty and psychological obscenity, that achieved an effect of horror. His poetry was inconclusive and fragmentary, lacking seriousness. Muir attacked Eliot for taking up poses and attitudes, not expressing principles and truths, and yet he admitted the work to be unique. This essay was reprinted twice, once that same year in the Nation and Athenaeum, 29 August, and in Transition, a collection of Muirs essays published in New York in Like Muir, Middleton Murry emphasised Eliots critical achievement at the expense of the poetry.

Both Woolf and Eliot he considered fine critics, tormented by the longing to create, whose intellectual subtleties gave rise only to futilities. Eliot, so far from being a classical writer, voiced a cry of grinding and empty desolation no classical art could possibly give order to.

Murrys sense of Eliots fragmentariness was so strong that he described it as self-torturing and utter nihilism, which only the Catholic Church could understand. One is forced to recognise that Murrys notion of classicism was limited and that he thought of Christianity mainly in terms of metaphysical certitude, despite his disclaimer in his final footnote. Thus he failed to see the elements of parody and burlesque in Eliot, taking for personal anguish, like many critics at this time and later, what was rather the exploration of new artistic possibilities.

What Murry saw in Eliots work was a symptom of the breakdown of civilisation, an expression of the sterility and loss of meaning in modern life. That Eliots poetry at this stage provoked bewilderment, either of irritation or enthusiasm, is witnessed to by I. In his New Statesman review for 20 February No.

This technique was increasingly evident in Eliots verse, and at its most extreme in The Hollow Men. In Science and Poetry Richards was led to assert that Eliot had effected a complete severance between his poetry and all belief, a view challenged by Eliot himself in , in chapter 7 of The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism. At the end of the New Statesman review, however, Richards seemed confident that in the articulation. This account of Eliots significance was added as an appendix to Principles of Literary Criticism when it was reprinted that same year.

In the USA, Eliots indigenous and religious characteristics were emphasised. For Edmund Wilson, Eliots real significance was less as a prophet of European disintegration than as a poet of the American puritan sensibility, the waste land being the emotional waste land of deprivation and chagrin. He saw in Eliots characters figures comparable to those of James and Hawthorne and at the same time insisted that Eliot was a poet of the first order No.

These comments come at the end of an essay on the first performance of Stravinskys Les Noces, a context in which thoughts about Eliot seemed not inappropriate. For Allen Tate, the new collection was a spiritual epilogue to The Education of Henry Adams, though in Eliot the puritan sense of obligation had withdrawn into private conscience No. Eliot, in returning to the source of his own culture in Europe, had been forced to confront that source with a degree of general theoretical understanding no European found necessary. As a critic and as editor of the Criterion Eliot had proposed as a rememdy for the disorder of the times that critical awareness he envisaged in The Function of Criticism Tate regarded the progressive sterilisation of the poetry as due to a rationalisation of attitude carried over from the critical endeavour, the agony of the earlier poetry being reduced to the chaos of The Hollow Men, the inevitable result of a poetry whose fundamental ground was the idea of chaos itself.

Tate saw this as a poetry of ideas, in contrast to Richards, and for him poet and critic were one. Both Wilson and Tate tried to see Eliot in context, relating the whole oeuvre to larger considerations of American history and culture. In , a number of important studies of Eliot appeared. For example, A. Mortons Notes on the Poetry of T. Eliot linked Eliot to Donne and argued for the unity of his theory and practice.

This essay formed the basis of Williamsons book, The Talent of T.


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Eliot, published in Eliots importance was by this time beyond all doubt, and in the thoughtful seriousness of his better critics one sees the fact emphasised. The question of Eliots religious beliefs was immediately broached by the reviewers. For Gerald Heard, the poem raised the question of to which tradition in English religious writing Eliot should be ascribed, that of the sanctified commonsense of the Authorised Version, Milton and Dryden, or of the iconographic tradition, found in Crashaw and Donne, and traceable back to Pearl No.

The former commended itself to Heard as the main English Protestant tradition and it was to this that he felt Eliot was returning. Eda Lou Walton considered that the religious search had begun for Eliot in The Waste Land, and she saw the intensity of pain in the earlier work muted in Ash-Wednesday into the desire for belief No. For Edmund Wilson, the imagery was more artificial, because more literary, than in the earlier work, and this seemed to him a definite feature of inferiority No.

Wilson recognised Eliots honesty, but obviously had little sympathy with Eliots religious strivings, as his review of For Lancelot Andrewes in the New Republic for 24 April makes clear. Zabel attempted to assess Eliots career to date No. The last lines of The Hollow Men represented the conclusion of Eliots Inferno, while the new volume, with the three pamphlet poems, could be seen as his Purgatorio. In the profound simplicity and visual imagination of the writing Zabel perceived the influence of Dante made manifest upon the poetry, while in Eliots conversion he recognised the guidance of Dante upon the life.

None the less, a feeling of disappointment was expressed in the review, a feeling that of profound conviction and the absolute creative certitude of which the early poems partook there was little to be found here. In his first phase Eliot spoke with an authority lacking in the conciliatory attitude of his later, religious, period. As with Edmund Wilson, Zabels assumption would appear to have been that Eliots expression of faith was less authentic than his earlier disillusionment.

No attempt was made to show that Ash-Wednesday was poorer than the earlier work, nor was it made clear why Eliots faith, according to Zabels own argument implicit in the earlier work, should have had less authority than his uncertainty or doubt. It is, of course, easy, with the benefit of hindsight, and with new material available, especially The Waste Land drafts, to see in Eliots career a continuity that contemporary reviewers could not have recognised.

And yet implicit or explicit denigration of Eliot for his reception into the Anglican Church was common. William Rose Bent accused Eliot of a new Pharisaism and, implicitly, of spiritual snobbery, even though Eliot was one of the few modern poets capable of presenting the evidence of his own soul No. Brian Howard, though he recognised Eliots technical skill, felt that Ash-Wednesday lacked the power to transport the reader, which the earlier poetry had possessed in full measure No. Doubts about Eliots religious position were mainly focused on For Lancelot Andrewes , by critics such as F.

An extensive attack on Eliots influence and reputation was was launched by Sherry Mangan in Pagany Spring , i, , in an article entitled A Note: On the Somewhat Premature Apotheosis of Thomas Stearns Eliot, of which the following is characteristic: The logical result of this constant desire for rightness and impersonality is the settling on some agreeable form of exterior authority. In Mr. Eliots case this seems to be royalism, classicism, and Anglicanism truly an imposing triad.

But it is ipso facto a retrogression, a confession of failure to create any personal standards. If certain Anglo-French circles in Paris which are in close touch with the English scene still consider the best joke of the past three years Mr. Eliots daring in proclaiming himself a royalist in politics and after all, for England, it is pretty funny , of how much less interest to our present generation in America are Mr. Eliots however sincere preoccupations with out-cocteauing M. Cocteau in what is to American-born eyes the so much swankier English Church.

Though pronounced in its ridicule, this attack on Eliot for his presumed betrayal of America is by no means a lone voice in the history of Eliots reputation. It was in part to redress these assumptions that Allen Tate wrote his review of Ash-Wednesday in , saying that for Eliots critics all forms of human action were legitimate for salvation, the historical religious mode alone being disallowed No. The quality of the poem had been ignored since it had been seen as biography and without social or political use.

For these critics, according to Tate, to approve the poem would have been tantamount to accepting the Church of England. They assumed that the poetry was the same kind of formulation as the doctrines acceded to on his reception. For Tate, the seduction scene in The Waste Land pointed up the difficulties. Many critics saw in it evidence of romantic disillusionment on the part of the poet, in which he showed what love really was, a brutal and meaningless act, designed only for procreation.

And yet, Tate argued, the scene was not concerned with disillusionment but with irony, with showing what modern man for a moment thought himself to be, with his secularisation of humane and sacramental values. Achieving, by means of this irony, insight into the folly of urbanised, dominating man, Eliot allowed the reader to experience the meaningless repetition and aimless pride of an overweening and purely secular faith. According to Tate, it was this irony that induced humility in the reader, out of the self-respect that proceeded from a sense of the folly of men in their desire to dominate a natural force or situation.

The fact that the character, the clerk, the modern mind, could not appreciate his or its own position was what constituted in Tates sense irony, and the insight into it was humility. While, in moral terms,. The recognition of this difference Tate saw as the essentially poetic attitude and one that Eliot, throughout his career, had been approaching with increasing purity. The verse that followed The Waste Land was less spectacular, since Eliot had less frequently objectified his leading emotion, humility, into irony.

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Only in the opening stanza of Ash Wednesday was there irony of the earlier kind, whereby the poet presented himself as he might think himself to be, in the pose of a Titan too young to be weary of life and yet weary of it none the less. The opening lines, far from being a naive confession, were a technical performance establishing the poets humility towards his own capabilities. Tate went on to argue that Eliot reduced conventional religious imagery from abstraction to sensation, while at the same time pushing images of his own invention over into abstraction, relating the two in such a way that the idea of the Logos itself took on through the broken and distracted rhythms almost an illusion of presence.

In this, Tate tried to point up the subtlety and profundity of the connection between Eliots understanding of poetic language and the specific nature of his Christian profession. In the next year, , F. In the opening lines of the latter poem Leavis also saw the irony of the self-dramatisation that Tate had pointed to, an irony that Leavis called a self-admonition against the subtle treasons, the refinements, of egotism that beset the quest of sincerity in these regions.

A little earlier in the essay Leavis had cited Eliots remarks to the effect that Proust represented a point of demarcation between a generation for whom the dissolution of value had in itself a positive value, and the generation that is beginning to turn its attention to an athleticism, a training, of the soul as severe and ascetic as the training of the body of a runner. Leavis recognised in this the asceticism that informed the devotion and concentration of Part II, and that turned renunciation into something positive: As I am forgotten And would be forgiven, so would I forget Thus devoted, thus concentrated in purpose.

Leavis saw this as a spiritual exercise which in its visionary imagery of leopards and unicorns could best be described as a disciplined dreaming of a kind Eliot found in Dante but believed lost to the modern world. In Part III Leavis noted that blending of the conventional and literary that Tate had already recognised, while in the fourth poem he saw how Eliot had created out of ambiguity the precarious base of a rejoicing that turned into doubt and fear in Part V.

The breathless circling movement of Part V, with its repeated play upon Word, world and whirled, was suggestive both of the agonised attempt to seize the unseizable and of the elusive equivocations of what was grasped. Of the sixth poem, Leavis wrote:. In the last poem of the sequence the doubt becomes an adjuvant of spiritual discipline, ministering to humility.

But an essential ambiguity remains, an ambiguity inescapable In this brief transit where the dreams cross. What had been striven for was realised, for Leavis, in Marina , in the image of the girl who had been lost and then found. And yet even this recognition was an oversimplification: there was in this poem an ambiguity of even greater subtlety than in Ash-Wednesday.

The indeterminate syntax of the poem intimated the kind of relation that existed between the various elements, and in that elusiveness was suggested at one and the same time the felt transcendence of the vision and its precariousness. Leavis recognised that this poetry was more disconcertingly modern than The Waste Land, and argued that the preoccupation with Christianity and the use of the Prayer Book should not blind the reader to the fact that here were modes of feeling found nowhere earlier.

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In Scrutiny Summer Leavis returned to the question of Marina, in which he found a tentatively defining exploration of the apprehension of a reality that was in time, though not of it. In this he recognised Eliot spiritual discipline, his ascesis, his technique for sincerity. With extraordinary precision and gentleness Leavis expounded Eliots achievement in the poem: Thus, in the gliding from one image, evocation or suggestion to another, so that all contribute to a total effect, there is created a sense of a supreme significance, elusive, but not, like the message of death, illusory; an opening into a new and more personal life.

The influence of Leavis in making Eliot into perhaps the most powerful literary figure of the s cannot be overestimated. In Scrutiny, begun in , and in his critical writings generally, Leavis saw in Eliots poetry and criticism the modern literature on which the sensibilities of a critical elite could be formed. In later years Leavis became less certain of Eliots place, preferring to Eliots ambivalence the more direct and realistic procedures of D.

Lawrence, and yet to the end of his life he remained preoccupied with the nature of Eliots lasting significance. Forster asserted unequivocally that Eliot was the poet of a generation, those men and women between the ages of eighteen and thirty whose opinions one most respects and whose reactions one most admires.


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Eliot was the most important author of their day, they are inside his idiom as the young of were inside George Merediths. As we have seen, Leavis, also lecturing at Cambridge, devoted considerable attention to Eliot in New Bearings, and as early as had defended For Lancelot Andrewes in the Cambridge Review against a disparaging piece in the New Statesman. Eliot appeared that same year. By , then, Eliots position as a major, if controversial, figure was fully established.

Eliot was sympathetic to Babbit and More, and in an essay for the American Bookman in November Eliot stated: The various attempts to find the fundamental axioms behind both good literature and good life are among the most interesting experiments of criticism of our time. In critics as various as Rascoe Burton, Seward Collins, Franklin Gary, Bernard Heyl and Rebecca West debated the nature of Eliots intellectual position, while in More himself, acknowledging that Eliot was perhaps the most distinguished man of letters today in the British-speaking world, commented on what he saw as the split between the earlier and the later Eliot: There it is, the dilemma that confronts those who recognise Mr Eliots great powers; somehow they must reconcile for themselves what appears to be an inconsequence between the older poet and the newer critic, or must adjust their admiration to what cannot be reconciled.

And now against this lyric prophet of chaos must be set the critic who will judge the world from the creed of the classicist, the royalist, and the Anglo-Catholic, who sees behind the clouds of illusion the steady decrees of a divine purpose. Eliots status was thus assured on several fronts, the appearance of Thoughts After Lambeth and Selected Essays September only serving to confirm his position.

Academic criticism had already made much of Eliot, and this was to continue, with F. Matthiessens The Achievement of T. Eliot and Cleanth Brookss Modern Poetry and the Tradition , while Eliots influence was felt in the high valuation given to Donne and the line of wit, as, for example, in Leaviss Revaluation , in itself an enormously influential work. The only important critic to stand out against these developments was Yvor Winters. In Primitivism and Decadence he attacked modern poetry generally and Eliot in particular, though with little or no immediate effect on Eliots reputation, sustained as it was on both sides of the Atlantic and.

During this period Eliot turned his attention towards drama, and in published Sweeney Agonistes, which ahd appeared previously in the Criterion for the issues of October and January The play was received with little enthusiasm. Bridson was disappointed with the undertaking, on the grounds that Eliot had satirized dullness by writing dully No. Likewise, M. Zabel doubted whether Eliots obviously sincere concern with spiritual matters could justify the dullness of the emptiness and sterile horror of the life presented, and he felt that Sweeney Agonistes was a tactical error after the profundity and beauty of Ash-Wednesday No.

George Barker admired the work for its exquisite, and perfectly lucid, decay No. In , after his lecture tour in America, which resulted in The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism and After Strange Gods , Eliot wrote to Paul Elmer More of a new project: Now that these two bad jobs are off my hands, I am working on something which amuses me more: the writing of some verse choruses and dialogues for a sort of play to be given to advertise the campaign for raising money for 45 new churches in London dioceses.

If I have a free hand I shall enjoy it. I am trying to combine the simplicity and immediate intelligibility necessary for dramatic verse with concentration under the inspiration of, chiefly, Isaiah and Ezekiel. It was a collaboration, as a prefatory note makes clear, Eliot working with E.

Martin Browne, Bonamy Dobre, the Rev. Webb-Odell, Frank Morley and the Rev. Vincent Howson, who wrote some of the scenes and played the part of Bert. Eliot himself wrote only one of the scenes, together with the choruses that are reprinted in Collected Poems. The reviews were, on the whole, favourable, though certain critics raised questions as to how Eliots development as an artist was being influenced by his Christian beliefs. The Times reviewer wrote on 29 May of how Eliot had made use of liturgy for his dramatic form, though wisely imitating also the ready and popular stage modes, such as music-hall, ballet and mime.

The reviewer considered that Eliot had created a new thing in the theatre and made smoother the path towards a contemporary poetic drama. Derek Verschoyle, in the Spectator 1 June , passed strictures on Eliot for not dealing more adequately with the reasons for contemporary dissatisfaction with the Church, such as the Churchs attitude to social questions. Eliot replied to this review a week later. Martin Browne, in The Making of T. Eliots Plays, points out, this review was excessively laudatory, and a more restrained, though no less approving, note was sounded in the Listener, which was happy to see so great a poet writing for a popular audience No.

An editorial in Theology No. In an important review in Scrutiny, D. Harding found the prose dialogue distressing, the parody of a class by a class, but in the verse he found innovations of tone that allowed Eliot to remain humble while being impersonally superior to those whom he upbraided.

There was here a movement towards a more personal poetry and The Rock represented a stage in Eliots development that had not yet defined itself No. Conrad Aiken also felt that Eliots career was at a transitional stage, but was less happy than Harding with the direction it was taking No. His review considered After Strange Gods as well as The Rock, and together the two works suggested that the original poetic impulse in Eliot was formalised.

Even Ash-Wednesday, supreme though it was, had to be taken to mark a diminution of vigour and inventiveness, and though he would not want to suggest that Eliots views had anything to do with this, Aikens conclusion was unmistakably that Eliots conversion had undermined his poetic genius. At that time he had urged Eliot to write for the stage and as a result of seeing The Rock he was convinced that his decision had been the right one.

As a consequence, soon after The Rock closed, he offered Eliot a commission to write the first new play for the Canterbury Festival, to be staged the following year, As Browne puts it, the purpose of the play was to be the same as that of most Greek tragedies to celebrate the cult associated with a sacred spot by displaying the story of its origin. The complete edition of the play was published on 13 June The general opinion amongst the critics was that Eliot had successfully entered upon a new phase in his career. Browne cites the reaction of an American critic, whose London Letter for the New Yorker 3 July gave an account of the first night: It is a triumph of poetic genius that out of such actionless materialthe mere conflict of a mind with itselfa play so deeply moving, and so exciting, should have been written; and so rich, moreover, in the various language of humanity.

That is perhaps the greatest surprise about itin the. Parsons made a similar point, considering that Eliots religion, so far from harming his art, as many critics had thought, was in fact the source of its renewal No.

Simon Bainbridge

In an interesting and very favourable piece, James Laughlin suggested that Eliots faith, as expressed in the play, was Thomist, and that he had attempted, at the level of the dramatic writing, a fusion of medieval and classical formulae No. Edwin Muir analysed at some length the theological significance of the play, and the meaning of martyrdom that it propounded, finding Beckets line I shall no longer act or suffer, to the swords end crucial, for it declared Beckets purification of will and his freedom from the wheel of life No.

Mark Van Doren found the play a masterpiece, of a seeming simplicity that was not, in fact, simple, and asserted that Eliot had written no better poem No. The unity of the work was emphasised by F. He considered that Eliots mode of vision was that characteristic of Dante, whereby not only a part of life was acutely realised but also the total pattern informing life. Matthiessen, unlike some other of the plays critics, approved of the speeches given to the Knights, since these showed men who deferred always to social circumstances and to the State, against which Becket was called to reassert the value of the idea rising above the value of the event.

Philip Rahv Partisan Review June , iii, also noted the importance of Eliots social views to a reading of the play, though he doubted the reality of Eliots political vision: We do not feel the joyful consummation heralded as the play ends. The formal cause of the horror expressed by the chorusthe crime of murder absolutized in an instant eternity of evil and wrong remains an abstraction. The horror is not realized as such, its language is nowise equivalent to the peculiar logic of its indicated motivation. History, ever determinate, will not be cheated of its offspring; though the poem recoils from history, only history can give it life.

Rahv wondered what had become of the Christian vision of man in the singular: Why does the chorus harp upon the image of the common man, the small folk? Throughout the action EliotBecket, the clerical philosopher, answers the complaints of those who acknowledge themselves the type of the common man in contrast to those who walk secure and assured in their fate. Who hatched this heresy of a plural man, veritably a class conception. Has Eliot heard of the role of the masses in history, of their refusal to become the fodder of eternity?

Rahv saw in the chorus, chanting the doom of man, a language far in excess of the dogma of Original Sin and of Eliots conscious ideas about man. It was in Eliots vision of the disintegration of civilisation, a prophetic sense of the modern age, that reality could be felt. Rahv recognised a creative contradiction in Eliots work, which those who could only see in terms of their ideology were blind to.

Out of the choruses, out of the self-portrayal of the plebeians, burdened with oppression, taxes, failed harvests and so on, emerged a genuine poetry of surprise and humility, that further dislocated the poets conscious intentions. Criticism of a more formalist nature attempted to see Eliots play in relation to his general literary development. Blackmur argued that one could see over the years a growth in technique aimed at appealing to more levels of response and at reaching the widest possible audience: Applying Mr Eliots sentences about levels of significance, we can say that there is for everyone the expectation we can hardly call it a plot and ominous atmosphere of murder and death; for others, there are the strong rhythms, the pounding alliterations, and the emphatic rhymes; for others the conflict, not of character, but of forces characterised in individual types; for others the tragedy or triumph of faith at the hands of the world; and for others the gradually unfolding meaning in the profound and ambiguous revelation of the expense of martyrdom in good and evil as seen in certain speeches of Thomas and in the choruses of the old women of Canterbury.

Blackmur considered that the play presented a supreme form of human greatness, the greatness of the martyr, of good and evil and suffering, and that no representation of it could fail of terrible humility and terrible ambiguity. The fundamental question was how the representation of divine realities was to be undertaken in an age without a tradition of such representation.

It was only through the chorus, the common denominator of all experience, that the extraordinary experience of Thomas could be seen and made real. Mr Eliot steps so reverently on the solemn ground that he has essayed, that austerity assumes the dignity of philosophy and the didacticism of the verities incorporated in the play becomes impersonal and persuasive.

So Marianne Moore concluded her review for Poetry for February , 19 while for John Crowe Ransom, on the other hand, writing in the Southern Review Winter , Eliot was unable to sustain the religious tone and the play, still bearing the marks of fragmenting moderniism as it did, could not really stand comparison with drama. Oh them cawkney voices, My Krizz, them cawkney voices.

Mzzr Shakzpeer still retains his posishun. I stuck it fer a while, wot wiff the weepin and wailin. My Krrize them cawkney voyces!. The direction Eliot was taking, though in one way aimed at a wider response, had alienated his oldest ally, and for Pound the split between the earlier and the later Eliot was too vast to be overcome.

Eliots separation from the avantgarde, in Pounds view, was total. Burnt Norton had not appeared before and did not appear as a book in its own right until , when the other poems of Four Quartets were also coming out as separate publications prior to the appearance of the complete poem in and The reviewers placed their emphasis mainly on the later works, especially Burnt Norton.

For John Hayward, friend of Eliot and closely associated with the writing of Four Quartets, so much that once seemed obscure now presents only occasional difficulties No. Edwin Muir stressed, as did Hayward, the beauty of Burnt Norton, finding in Eliots poetry after The Hollow Men a new kind of obscurity, one that was finally more comprehensible No.


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In the New Statesman Peter Quennell, in a survey of Eliots career, implied a preference for the earlier period, concluding that as far as the poetry was concerned Eliots religious faith had added to the delicacy while detracting from the breadth and variety of his work No. Other critics also took the opportunity to survey Eliots career, Malcolm Cowley rather dismissively No. Zabel recognising Eliots movement towards a more accessible style No. In these poems, the underlying experience remains one of suffering, and the renunciation is much more vividly communicated than the advance for the sake of which it was made, wrote Harding, in a brilliant attempt to suggest the nature of Eliots maturity in his later work No.

Harding argued that in Burnt Norton the poetry was the creation of a new concept, that the words of the poetry could take the place of our usually accepted ideas about love and eternity. Through the subtleties of rhythm and verbal suggestion Eliot had orchestrated a.

Harding here took up the complexity of Leaviss response to Eliots language and suggested modes of approaching the poetry that later critics, such as Kenner and Davie, were to employ on Four Quartets. Harding pointed to those qualities in Eliots writing that forbade the following of natural ways of thought whereby concepts might be formed that would usurp the place of spiritual realities. This, for Harding, was the fundamentally Christian quality of Eliots art, especially of Burnt Norton.

Blackmur also saw the crucial importance of Burnt Norton to an understanding of Eliots whole work, though he felt there was a problem in the poem, of the relation between the abstract and the concrete, a problem which he, Blackmur, was as yet unable to resolve No. A wholly opposing view was put forward by W. In his Introduction to the Oxford Book of Modern Verse: , of which he was editor, Yeats found Eliots art, especially the earlier work, grey, cold, dry. Not until The Hollow Men and Ash-Wednesday, where Eliot was helped by the short lines, did the poetry show any rhythmical animation. Yeats did not consider Eliots religion an enrichment, since it lacks all strong emotion; a New England Protestant by descent, there is little self-surrender in his personal relation to God and the soul.

None the less, Yeats did give Eliot good coverage in the Oxford Book, both in the Introduction and in the amount of his poetry included. In December , writing for the Harvard Advocate, Wallace Stevens found Eliots prodigious reputation a great difficulty. While the complete acceptance of a poets work, which Stevens saw in Eliots case, can help to create the poetry of any poet, it also helps to destroy it.

As Browne points out, this was the last time Eliot was to publish a play at the moment of production. This procedure had involved a great deal of alteration to later editions of the text of Murder in the Cathedral, and though The Family Reunion was not so altered Browne tells us that Eliot regretted not being able to make changes based on the experience of rehearsal and audience-reaction.

Eliot himself expected very little in favour of the play after the first night, though he hoped that the acting and production would get the recognition they deserved. The response of the critics of the daily press was mixed, Charles Morgan recognising Eliots verse skill, but finding an impression of lifeless smoothness in the second part, W.

Darlington in the Daily Telegraph faulting the dramatic effectiveness while approving the literary qualities, and Lionel Hale, in the News Chronicle, confessing himself vexed and exhausted by the effort demanded of. Other critics commented on the introduction of choric and hieratic effects into the context of a realistic drama. Desmond MacCarthy was strongly critical No. The plays connection with Eliots earlier work, especially The Waste Land and Burnt Norton, was Cleanth Brooks theme, and he suggested that Eliots problems in presenting a religious vision of life to a secularised and rationalistic audience were similar to Harrys in confronting his familys incomprehension No.

Brooks also approved of Eliots verse, saying that the closeness of texture of the writing allowed shifts of intensity to take place without strain, shifts that were the expression of the central dramatic fact of the play. Another American critic, Philip Horton, felt that The Family Reunion failed, unlike Murder in the Cathedral, because there was no adequate motivation to render the action convincing No. Horton argued that Eliot had used the play as a vehicle for his own speculations about sin, speculations which would have been more effective dramatically if presented through the consciousness of the hero, as in Hamlet.

Horton regretted this central weakness, since the verse, in its richness and flexibility, was a considerable advance on contemporary poetic drama. Horace Gregory drew on Eliots Dialogue on Dramatic Poetry , with its plea for the restoration of the unities, in order to argue that Eliots drama violated these same unities, in Murder in the Cathedral when the Knights turn to address the audience, and in The Family Reunion when Harry sets off to pursue the Eumenides in his car No.

The more general question of unity, as opposed to the specific problem of the unities, was dwelt on by practically all the plays critics, not least by John Crowe Ransom, who was sure that the Eumenides would not appear believable to a modern, hardboiled audience No. Ransom did not consider the play to be particularly Christian, and the plays success lay in its giving an impression of a reality deeper than the visible world.

In , writing for the Southern Review, vi, no. Barber found that Eliot had failed to overcome the cleavage between the modern setting and the supernatural action. As a consequence, the religious meaning of the symbols, of the Furies, remained abstract or vague and obscure, too much a matter of dark hints and furtive suggestions. Eliot had failed to make irrational symbolic significance part of a socially meaningful action, so that The Family Reunion appeared more as a work of fantasy than as a work of art.

In an earlier piece that year Southern Review, v, no. None of the critics, except perhaps Brooks, was prepared to allow that Eliots use of the mythological figures might be related to his use of myth in his poetry, that the play might be about the relation between the image and the experience of expiation, and that this relation was not susceptible of dramatic unification.

The fissures in the play, it could well be argued, are the meaning of the play, since it is here, precisely in the dislocation of unity, that the elusiveness and the problem of meaning are most strongly felt. Eliot composed Burnt Norton quickly, finishing it only a few weeks before its inclusion in Collected Poems East Coker was published in a supplement to the New English Weekly Easter number, on 21 March , in the dark days of the war.

The Dry Salvages, written, like the other two poems, at high speed, was published in the New English Weekly for 27 February , and by Faber a Faber in pamphlet form on 4 September that same year, with over 11, copies being printed. The writing of Little Gidding proceeded with less rapidity. Eliot was weakened by exhaustion occasioned by his wartime duties and by illness, especially bronchitis and feverish colds. At this time also he suffered the extraction of his teeth and the painful adjustment to dental plates.

Dame Helen Gardner suggests that, beyond these afflictions, a further reason for Eliots difficulties was his realization that the three earlier poems that he had written so easily had grown into a unity, and that the fourth and concluding poem was to be more than a fourth poem of the same kind as its predecessors. It had to gather up the earlier ones and be the crown and conclusion of the series. The poem finally appeared in the New English Weekly on 15 October and appeared as a pamphlet on 1 December, in a printing of 16, copies.

It had taken Eliot just over a year to complete Little Gidding. Four Quartets first appeared in America, published by Harcourt, Brace on 11 May , in two impressions, the first of which was so badly done, as the result of unskilled wartime labour, that all but copies of the 4, printed were destroyed. All would have been destroyed, but for the need to meet the publication. The English edition did not appear until 31 October , and bore on its dust-jacket the statement: The four poems which make up this volume have all appeared separately.

The author, however, has always intended them to be published as one volume, and to be judged as a single work. It should be noted also that in Four Quartets the Greek epigraphs were printed on the reverse of the Contents page, thus making them seem to refer to the whole poem. In Collected Poems they were returned to being epigraphs for Burnt Norton alone. Thus it was East Coker, the second poem of the sequence, that first appeared singly, as a pamphlet. The general response was to emphasise yet again Eliots commanding position in the world of letters.

Two days after publication, G. Stonier was moved to assert that Eliots authority seemed even more powerful and exclusive than Arnolds had been; it was rather of Claudel that he was reminded No. Eliot is the only great English poet living, was the opinion of James Kirkup, who found the calm resignation of the poem comparable to that of the aged Goethe or to the visionary humility of Rilkes Duino Elegies No.

On the other hand, the Times Literary Supplement 14 September was decidedly cool: [Eliots] poetry is the poetry of disdaindisdain of the tragic view of life, of the courageous view, of futile sensualists, of poetry, and now even of himself. He is becoming more and more like an embalmer of the nearly dead; he colours their masks with expert fingers to resemble life, but only to resemble.

As Bernard Bergonzi remarks, it was still possible as late as for doubts to be expressed about the ultimate worth of Eliots achievements. Leavis, 24 though the Times Literary Supplement remained distinctly unsympathetic towards Eliot at this time. Leavis himself reviewed the poem in the Cambridge Review 21 February , lxii, , , finding it superior to Burnt Norton. In America, the Southern Review devoted considerable coverage to Eliot.

Eliot jr, that it was an excellent detective article, following up every clue, and even discovering source material that Eliot had not read. The essay is an expanded exegesis, which three years later was supplemented by Curtis Bradford Southern Review Winter , lii, , both writers treating the poem as a paraphrasable prose discourse and paying little or no attention to the variations in tone and rhythm that work so elusively to give East Coker its life.

The Dry Salvages revealed, for J. Hogan No. Like Kirkup, Hogan compared Eliot to Rilke and saw in the work of both poets a turning inward, a reaching towards an inner kingdom which was not a condition of stasis or passivity but vigilance, not the absence of struggle, but the absence of uncertainty and confusion. The Times Literary Supplement had reviewed Burnt Norton disparagingly in a short notice on 12 April , finding it difficult to say precisely what Eliots symbolism meant.

This same attitude continued later that year, in a review headed Mr T. Eliots Progress 4 September. Addressing itself with greater emphasis to Points of View July than to The Dry Salvages, it attacked Eliots views of the past and tradition, finding in them not a sense of history but despair of the present. Eliots attitude towards discipline was considered to point to Maurras, whereas the only man fit to rule was crowned, indeed, but on a Cross.

As for The Dry Salvages, a note of quiescence, even of bleak resignation was in it. It had lost that spice of wit which was woven into the logic of the earlier poems. The attack on Eliots ideas of tradition was taken up by other critics. Van Wyck Brooks, in Opinions of Oliver Allston , accused Eliot of being a destroyer of tradition, while George Orwell, in late , in Poetry London, accused him of a negative acceptance of defeat and a half-hearted conservatism which Orwell, at that date, called Ptainism No.

Kathleen Raine struck back in the same issue of the journal, saying that Eliot, as a poet and Christian, had shown a deeper respect for the ordinary man than could ever be found in the simplifications Orwell offered to a public he inwardly despised No. Eliot appeared in Theology, a long study of Eliot as a Christian poet No. Eliot appeared in New Writing and Daylight the same year No. In Scrutiny Summer , F. Leavis published a study of the first three poems of the Quartets, a study which was reprinted next year in Education and the Idea of the University.

Leavis emphasised not the Christian side of Eliot but the way in which the poetry makes its explorations into the concrete realities of experience below the conceptual currency, in this consciously following Hardings earlier formulation of the creation of concepts. On the publication of Little Gidding in December , Muriel Bradbrook presented in Theology March what was the conclusion to her essay of the year before.

Taken together, the two essays make a sustained study of Eliots work Nos and She saw, in the changing use of the I in Eliots work, an index of Eliots growing understanding of the theme of renunciation, the via negativa. In Little Gidding what emerged was not dogma, but the dramatisation of Christian experience, an experience one felt in the act of reading to be both highly personal and genuinely representative. These essays are early attempts to. The Anglican literary revival, associated with Charles Williams, C. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers, with Kathleen Raine and David Gascoyne on the poetic fringes of the movement, was making itself felt in this work, as well as in that of Helen Gardner.

The Scrutiny group also saw the religious implications of Eliots work and yet did not accede to them in expressly Christian terms. Harding, writing in Scrutiny for Spring No. The pentecostal fire was noted as central to this experience, but Harding made no attempt to relate it to Eliots Christian belief, nor did he attempt any analytical justification for his high valuation of the poem.

It was this lack of close analysis that led a correspondent, R.