I am really, really curious about examples ofpeople idolising or eulogising
Eliot the man. Obviously there his been admiration for his work, but I can
recall a single example of ELiot the person having been held up as some
shining example. In fact the only focus on his life on this list that I
can recall is the ad personam attacks.
It's one thing to say that biography helps to explicate a work, its another
just to trash some one because one doesn't like his moral behaviour.
And as to moral behaviour, I'm not at all sure, even granted the so-called
facts, which, given the onesidedness of the sources, are to be held in
some doubt. There is genuine guilt, and then there are guilty feelings.
We all have to make difficult decisions sometimes and we do the best
we can, but regret that the decisions aren't perfect and have negative
A friend of mine had to come to look after his 90 year old father,
whose erratic driving was creating difficulties. The father could not
be convinced to stop driving, so my friend just sold the car out from
under his Dad, or as my friend put it, "I shot his horse." So my friend
felt guilty about doing it, and his Dad wouldn't forgive him. So my
friend felt guilty even though he did do the right thing. He saved his
father from harming himself and others, perhaps even quite disasterously.
And where were Emily and Mary in all this? Did they have no responsibility
for their lives? Eliot followed his heart and found
happiness it seems. It was much to little, too late. I don't begrudge
it to him. If he felt any guilt about Emily and/or Mary it sure didn't
----- Original Message -----
From: "Carrol Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, June 14, 2007 7:34 AM
Subject: Re: Of "awful daring"
> Nancy Gish wrote:
> > Many people on this list find it a constant need to idealize him and
> > speak of how great he was, etc. Yet that never seems to trouble you.
> > If praising him is valid, critiqueing him is valid. You can't have it
> > both ways. The alternative is to focus on the poetry itself, but that
> > never seems the limit.
> Diana Manister wrote:
> > Well there is either psychopathology or a moral sense. If you know a
woman is waiting to marry you throughout her adult life, and you continue
the relationship for 30 years, and marry two other women, you either feel
guilty or you don't. Do you have a third alternative Peter? Diana
> The third alternative is the one Nancy suggests. That can't be
> satisfactory I suppose to those who seemingly are more interested in The
> Oracle (Platonic Form of) than in the verse produced. I say Platonic
> Form because what they are searching for clashes so sharply with any
> relationship to poems that Eliot himself (man, critic, poet) would have
> Probably some day someone will write a dissertation linking that small
> group of writers who collect a circle of fans (the sports metaphor
> intended) for whom the poem or novel is nothing more than a potential
> route to the Abstract (Ideal) Figure who is assumed to inhabit it. One
> can see this in the Janeites, though they merely want to love her, not
> impose her on others as a Religious Icon. Argument or discussion in such
> a context is pointless. I believe the Browning Circles of the late 19th
> c. were another instance. And apparently at one time Frost was such for
> one group of readers. When Trilling gave a public lecture in which he
> pointed to the grimness at the center of Frost's poetry, there was a
> fantastic explosion. One NYC psychiatrist wrote a bizarre letter to the
> NYRB in which he spoke of Frost up in New Hampshire pouring maple syrup
> on his pancakes while laughing at the big-city jerk. (Or something like
> In the case of Eliot (as of Frost), however, worship of an imaginary
> Icon obscures the poetry, and generates among other things a large body
> of commentary which is merely "explaining away" this or that detail of
> the poems not consistent with the Idol. In the case of Austen it
> conceals how damn wonderfully vicious she was.
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