The comments that Eliot made on Lawrence are mostly found in “After Strange Gods”  as remarked by a few here (that he disowned them later is news to me, but then it doesn’t surprise me; for, Eliot could talk ambiguously at most of his own statements that he made earlier in his works.  His later comments on his essay “Hamlet and his problems” and “Tradition and Individual talent” comes to my mind).  His comments on Lawrence seem to be scattered, but yet significant for the attitude he had towards art. 

 

There seems to be more of Eliot’s comments as a foreword to a book written by Fr.William Tiverton (on Lawrence), which is of interest for two reasons : the first reason, it seems to have been written much after the time of Eliot’s disowning of the comments that he made on Lawrence in his book “After Strange Gods” and the second, he was still hell bent on making his entirely unjustifiable comments on Lawrence. (I haven’t come across the book; I am referring again to the comments made by Leavis in the book “D.H.Lawrence : Novelist”). 

 

The comments made by Eliot in this book are not only nauseating but raise questions as to the very nature of his artistic genius.  He comments on the bringing up of Lawrence in the household of a working class with the kind of ‘piety’ associated with it to have resulted in his ‘ignorance’ that is born out of not being associated with the ‘environment of a living and central tradition’.  It raises first the question as to what Eliot held as the very ‘environment of a living and central tradition’.  Was it the environment of his ‘Cocktail Party’ that Lawrence was not associated with that made him ‘ignorant’ in Eliot’s eyes?  If it was a literary ‘sensibility’ that Lawrence was found ‘ignorant’ in, one starts wondering if Eliot’s perception of it was itself flawed compared to the fullness of achievement found in Lawrence’s works.

 

I remember some remarks made earlier that Eliot with his kind of educational, Elizabethan and religious background couldn’t have found Lawrence to his liking.  But when you read Eliot’s comments on Lawrence, they appear much more than that ; nor can they be considered passing remarks or minor judgements, which could be flawed and hence not viewed seriously.  There is a cynical force behind them which makes them all the more to be analysed.

 

I also remember another remark that it was psycho-analysis that is implied in the terminology Leavis uses in his comparison.  What Leavis means as a defeat of intelligence as related to ‘Life’ (in Eliot and with Flaubert), is, as I can understand it, his reference to the conditions of health and wholeness in the psyche in Lawrentian terms and not in any abstract psychological terms.  Lawrence in his “Fantasia of the Unconscious” makes a detailed study of all the modes of consciousness in their essential interaction with each other and the related perception that shapes human relations and ‘intelligence’.  Neither Lawrence nor Leavis were Freudians, though Lawrence was thankful to Freud for pulling down the idealists to the earth. 

 

 

 



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