I appreciate your comments on Gordon, who is a serious and scrupulous
biographer and who, ironically, seemed to me in the early two books to be
too defensive in the face of the facts she gave.
On Seymour-Jones, I want to make clear that I did not say she did her
homework properly but only that she did it. I said that on the basis of
studying her citations and bibliography first. I am only in Chapter 3, and it
is apparent that she does have a serious gap between the material she has
dug up and a tendency to overread it or simplify poetic personae as simply
Tom. But one can read a biography with such flaws and learn a great deal.
I am fascinated with her sheer mass of previously unstudied material, which
I can differentiate from her sometimes simplistic interpretations. I think you
would find it an important book even if it is deeply flawed, as it may well
turn out to be on the basis of the little I have read.
I want to add that I appreciate Rick Seddon's posting Jewel's very balanced
review because Jewel has long been committed to treating Eliot with
respect as a person, and she and I have often disagreed on reaction while
agreeing on meanings and sources, so her review is very important in this
discussion. I think her article in the book Cassandra and I are editing will
be an equally important contribution to acknowledging Eliot's many sides.
Date sent: Sun, 27 Jan 2002 20:50:52 +0100
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From: "INGELBIEN RAPHAEL" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Eliot biographies--why not, then, disprove?
From: Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
> I think it is essential to deal with the fact that Gordon's tone changed
> she learned more. No one has yet suggested any reason why she would
> have any animus or develop any prejudice. Scholarship, to be honest,
> must go where evidence leads, and it seems to have led her to material
> that changed her response. There is no reason at all to assume she
> started with any prejudice, as your emphasis on the previous books
It's true that 'An Imperfect Life' is more censorious than 'Eliot's Early
Years' and 'Eliot's Second Life'. In fact, there used to be a time when
Gordon could even sound defensive about Eliot's reputation (if not in
print, at least in her teaching). I think she felt under pressure after
Julius and others had launched systematic attacks on Eliot's politics, and
took them into account in 'An Imperfect Life' (rightly or wrongly is a
whole debate in itself). What I'm trying to say here is this: any
characterization of Gordon's work as a prime example of politically
correct debunking is simply wide off the mark. She simply isn't that kind
As for Seymour-Jones: I don't intend to read the book, partly because I
have other priorities, partly because some reviewers pointed out flaws
that I regard as too serious. If she can mistake an allusion to Pater's
conclusion to the Renaissance for a reference to Vivien, she hasn't in my
view done her homework properly.
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