I don't know if I would be so confident of Leavis's assertions; though I admit
I have not read his work on Lawrence. I have to go by what you detail in your
post and what I know of Eliot and Lawrence, a fair amount, and what I know
of Leavis, much less I'm afraid. However, I don't agree with the evaluation of
Eliot as a lesser artist than Lawrence for several reasons. First, Leavis, though
he was indeed an influential and important critic, was also the exponent of a
very specific type of criticism, one that focuses on both close attention to the
text, and one that uses the very criteria in the portion of your post that I include
below. It is a moral criteria that looks for and at life affirming or enhancing or
fulfilling values, or at least Leavis's version or definition of those values. There
are many other ways to judge art and/or artist, and again definitions of life
affirming are not monolithic. There also seems to be a hint of psychoanalysis
implied in asserting degrees of "intelligence born of  the whole integrated
psyche." There are those who might not agree with such critical approaches
and some critics who use "psychological approaches," broadly defined, might
not agree with a hierarchical evaluation of writers or their texts based on
their degree of psychic integration. I'm pretty mercenary in my critical approach,
or at least I think I am, and I'm not comfortable with the comparison of these
two figures in a ratings war, particularly not on the criteria Leavis seems to use
in your explanation and what I've read of and about him. I think he is right if
he asserts that Eliot was not a fan of Lawrence because E. was a person less
comfortable with the body, sensuality, and sexuality, and that hindered his
appreciation of Lawrence, but that's a guess  or an instinctive response on
my part rather than the product of any investigation. I'd also caution against
a theory "based particularly on Eliot's dramas and a few of his later critical
works." One could focus on certain aspects of Lawrence's work and perhaps
find his vision incomplete, and as Marcia has pointed out in another post,
Lawrence is an uneven writer from a number of perspectives. I think each
figure is a major writer, and that each has flaws and even bad individual
    One final observation here, and you'll have to pardon me for shifting to
a less scholarly tone. I find it ironic that Leavis--an uptight conservative,
intellectual--is more or less saying Eliot is an inferior artist in comparison to
Lawrence because he (Eliot) is an uptight, conservative, intellectual. I
would assert, half in jest, that it's the similarity in personality, and critical
approach--both men favor a moral rubric for judging the arts, both look closely
at texts, and though Leavis seems unhappy with Eliot's vicious attacks on
Lawrence (or at least that's what I gather from your post), I've heard Leavis
was famous for his very mean attacks also--that allows Leavis to explain
correctly why Eliot reacts to Lawrence the way he does.


Obla Vishvesh wrote:

Leavis asserts that it is a “failure
of intelligence” as Henry James put it aptly, on the
character of Flaubert’s masterpiece Madame Bovary and
it is precisely the presence of intelligence, an
intelligence born of the whole integrated psyche that
characterizes the works of Lawrence. Lawrence was very
much against any life negating interests, for he had a
magnificent perception of life in its fullness and
lived from its sources than from the mind. The lack of
such “intelligence born of the whole integrated
psyche”, Leavis finds, makes him less of the
“representative in consciousness of the complex need
of the whole being”, and hence makes him a lesser
artist than Lawrence.  (And Leavis, a great critic
that he is, substantiates his statements by his
analysis of Eliot, particularly his dramas and a few
of his later critical works).   Comparison with
Lawrence aside, this, as Leavis points out, not only
stood in his way of understanding Lawrence, but also
let him malign Lawrence, and bestow greater importance
to James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.