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Yes Tom, but as Nancy noted elsewhere, the damage was done. Like feathers broadcast by the wind from a torn pillow, his remarks could not be gathered and re-stuffed. 

 

Besides, it's not unknown for old men to recant their sins; it's the price of a ticket to heaven.

 

Diana
 






Nancy Gish wrote  (Sun 8/16/09 2:41 AM) about TSE's discussion of D. H. Lawrence in ASG (published in 1934):
N>
N> We are constantly hearing on this list and elsewhere that TSE himself was somehow
N>  not to be discussed as a person ever, and his "impersonal theory of poetry" was
N>  somehow beyond question, yet his own writing is viciously personal here--not as
N>  an aid to interpretation but as an attack on writers he judges
N>  as not acceptable in themselves.
N>
N> How is one supposed to address that?

Eliot himself has something to contribute to your question, Nancy, from his 1961 essay, "To Criticize the Critic". In that essay, TSE looks back at his own body of criticism and reflects on his prior writings through the eyes on a man at the end of his career. He writes, "There are errors of judgment, and, what I regret more, there are errors of tone: the occasional note of arrogance, of vehemence, of cocksureness or rudeness, the braggadocio of the mild-mannered man safely entrenched behind his typewriter." Towards the end of the essay, Eliot writes, "There is . . . one contemporary figure about whom my mind will, I fear, always waver between dislike, exasperation, boredom and admiration. That is D. H. Lawrence."  I have quoted a few excerpts below but the whole essay is well worth re-reading.

-- Tom --


From Eliot's "To Criticize the Critic" (1961) 
========================================================================
 (P 13-16)
. . . when I first applied myself to the required reading for this address, it was so long since I had read many of my essays that I approached them with apprehension rather than with hopeful expectations. 

   I am happy to say that I did not find quite so much to be ashamed of as I had feared. There are, to be sure, statements with which I no longer agree; there are views which I maintain with less firmness of conviction than when 1 first expressed them, or which I maintain only with important reservations; there are statements the meaning of which I no longer understand. There may be areas in which my knowledge has increased; there are areas in which my knowledge has evaporated. On re-reading my essay on Pascal, for instance, I was astonished at the extent of the information I seem to have possessed when I wrote it. And there are some matters in which I have simply lost interest, so that, if asked whether I still hold the same belief, 1 could only say 'I don't know' or 'I don't care'. There are errors of judgment, and, what I regret more, there are errors of tone: the occasional note of arrogance, of vehemence, of cocksureness or rudeness, the braggadocio of the mild-mannered man safely entrenched behind his typewriter. Yet I must acknowledge my relationship to the man who made those statements, and in spite of all these exceptions, I continue to identify myself with the author.

    Even in saying that, however, I think of a qualification. I find myself constantly irritated by having my words, perhaps written thirty or forty years ago, quoted as if I had uttered them yesterday. One very intelligent expositor of my work, who regarded it, furthermore, with a very favourable eye, discussed my critical writings some years ago as if I had, at the outset of my career as a literary critic, sketched out the design for a massive critical structure, and spent the rest of my life filling in the details. When I publish a collection of essays, or whenever I allow an essay to be re-published elsewhere, I make a point of indicating the original date of publication, as a reminder to the reader of the distance of time that separates the author when he wrote it from the author as he is today. But rare is the writer who, quoting me, says 'this is what Mr. Eliot thought (or felt) in 1933' (or whatever the date was). Every writer is accustomed to seeing his words quoted out of context, in such a way as to put an unintended construction upon them, by not over-scrupulous controversialists. But the quotation of pronouncements of many years ago, as if they had been made yesterday, is still more frequent, because it is most often wholly without malice. 

. . .

   So far as I can judge, from references, quotations and reprints in anthologies, it is my earlier essays which have made the deeper impression. . . . When we are young we see issues sharply defined: as we age we tend to make more reservations, to qualify our positive assertions, to introduce more parentheses. We see objections to our own views, we regard the enemy with greater tolerance and even sometimes with sympathy. When we are young, we are confident in our opinions, sure that we possess the whole truth; we are enthusiastic, or indignant. And readers, even mature readers, are attracted to a writer who is quite sure of himself.

. . .

(p 24-26)

. . .Perhaps my judgment is less assured about writers who are contemporary or nearly so, than about writers of the past. Yet my valuation of the work of those poets contemporary with me, and of those poets younger than myself with whom I feel an affinity, remains unchanged. There is however one contemporary figure about whom my mind will, I fear, always waver between dislike, exasperation, boredom and admiration. That is D. H. Lawrence. 

   My opinions of D. H. Lawrence seem to form a tissue of praise and execration. The more vehement of my ejaculations of dislike are preserved, like flies in amber, or like wasps in honey, by the diligence of Dr. Leavis; but between two passages which he quotes, one published in 1927 and the other in 1933, I find that in 1933 I was wagging my finger rather pompously at the bishops who had assembled at the Lambeth Conference, and reproaching them for 'missing an opportunity for dissociating themselves from the condemnation of two very serious and improving writers' - namely, Mr. James Joyce and Mr. D. H. Lawrence. I cannot account for such apparent contradictions. Last year, in the Lady Chatterley case, I expressed my readiness to appear as a witness for the defense. Perhaps the counsel for the defense were well advised not to put me into the witness box, as it might have been rather difficult to make my views clear to a jury by that form of inquisition, and a really wily prosecutor might have tied me up in knots. I felt then, as I feel now, that the prosecution of such a book - a book of most serious and highly moral intention - was a deplorable blunder, the consequences of which would be most unfortunate whatever the verdict, and give the book a kind of vogue which would have been abhorrent to the author. But my antipathy to the author remains, on the ground of what seems to me egotism, a strain of cruelty, and a failing in common with Thomas Hardy - the lack of a sense of humour. 

   My particular reason for referring to my response to the work of Lawrence is that it is well to remind ourselves, in discussing the subject of literary criticism, that we cannot escape personal bias, and that there are other standards besides that of 'literary merit', which cannot be excluded. It was noticeable, in the Chatterley case, that some witnesses for the defense defended the book for the moral intentions of the author rather than on the ground of its being important as a work of literature. 

. . . In other types of criticism, the historian, the philosopher, the moralist, the sociologist, the grammarian may play a large part; but in so far as literary criticism is purely literary, I believe that the criticism of artists writing about their own art is of greater intensity, and carries more authority, though the area of the artist's competence may be much narrower. I feel that I myself have spoken with authority (if the phrase itself does not suggest arrogance) only about those authors - poets and a very few prose writers - who have influenced me; that on poets who have not influenced me I still deserve serious consideration; and that on authors whose work I dislike my views may - to say the least - be highly disputable. And I should remind you again, in closing, that I have directed attention on my literary criticism qua literary, and that a study in respect of my religious, social, political or moral beliefs, and of that large part of my prose writing which is directly concerned with these beliefs would be quite another exercise in self-examination. But I hope that what I have said today may suggest reasons why, as the critic grows older, his critical writings may be less fired by enthusiasm, but informed by wider interest and, one hopes, by greater wisdom and humility. 
========================================================================
 


Date: Sun, 16 Aug 2009 02:07:58 -0400
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Eliot's Suppressed Lecture
To: [log in to unmask]


I'm glad you put this on.  But I wish I had figured out earlier that this was one of the published lectures.  Somehow I got the idea from the first post that it was (as in "suppressed") not one of the three in the original book. 
 
Last year I found (at an excessive cost but worth it) an actual copy of After Strange Gods--in, of all places, a small bookshop in Wiscasset, Maine.  It was the only one then I could find anywhere on the internet.  So of course I got it.  I reread the third lecture just now, and what strikes me, apart from its meanspiritedness, is the personalizing he feels no hesitation to use.  We are constantly hearing on this list and elsewhere that TSE himself was somehow not to be discussed as a person ever, and his "impersonal theory of poetry" was somehow beyond question, yet his own writing is viciously personal here--not as an aid to interpretation but as an attack on writers he judges as not acceptable in themselves.
 
How is one supposed to address that?
Nancy
>>> Tom Colket 08/16/09 12:56 AM >>>


> T. S. Eliot’s Suppressed Lecture . . 
> Eliot withdrew After Strange Gods from publication, 
> and it has remained unavailable ever since. 
 
That is, it "remained unavailable " until the Internet came along. Eliot's "After Strange Gods" lectures, including the one with the phrase "free-thinking Jews", is on-line and available for a free download. It was digitized by the University of Toronto in 2007 and is listed as "not in copyright".
 
Try:
 
http://www.archive.org/details/afterstrangegods00eliouoft
 
 
-- Tom --
 





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