On Sat, 18 Nov 1995, Greg Foster wrote:
> I will say, though--and perhaps I can start an argument by doing so
> in loaded terms--that I do not see this fascination with murder as
> evidence that Eliot was secretly a nasty person. I believe his
> interest was simultaneously morbid and highly moral. If he found in
> himself suggestions of an H. H. Crippen or a Cecil Maltby or an Edith
> Thompson, he found them in the course of a rigorous self-examination
> leading directly to the Christian concern with atonement expressed in
> _The Family Reunion_. I see no evidence that this was hypocritical.
> I also believe that his interest was not merely personal--i.e., it
> wasn't merely that Crippen & Co. did in reality what Eliot could only
> fantasize about as a release from the misery of his first marriage;
> it also forms part of a deeper concern with the dominant values of
> his society and the foundation of those values. This concern is
> reflected in his critique of popular evolutionism (my personal
> obsession) and in his social criticism generally.
> Greg Foster (& his intolerable shirt of asbestos)
Greg & Co.,
Okay, I'll bite on this one. I do not like biographical criticism
as such, but due to my own obsession with TSE's poetry, I think that his
persona varies enough (from poem to poem) to demonstrate this "rigorous
self-examination." OTOH, I do think that he was "a nasty person,"
judging the poet by his literary persona. His theories support an
intellectual elitism, too, which I find attractive/repulsive. I consider
myself the same type of 'nasty' person (but only in terms of nastiness,
not necessarily in terms of poetic genius). Not that I want to murder my
wife (if I had one, maybe I would), but that a human is a nasty animal
and tse's observations represented in various ways that nastiness.
Acknowledgement of our basic nastinesses does not mean that we are
evil fiends bent on subversion. As Greg points out, with TSE, it is
quite the opposite. His religious zeal reminds me of William Blake, who
everyone agrees was a wild-eyed madman. However, it is important for
biographical consideration always to keep in mind that a human life,
observed after it is over, is still not a static thing. Maybe he was
hungry or tired when he did (and wrote) the stuff we might call nasty.
That is why I avoid biographical evidence for my arguments, it is not
convincing because it is too speculative.
BTW, I am not calling for people to stop with the biographical messages
/collaborations--I enjoy reading it. I just won't respond to it too
much when it is used to support wild conjectures. How often do you want
to hear me say that it isn't convincing? : )
Brice Matson ([log in to unmask])