Permit me, apropos the subject, to share a modified version of the preface I wrote for my book on Eliot's early poetry:
// The various attempts to find the fundamental axioms behind both good literature and good life, said Eliot, are among the most interesting experiments of criticism in our time.* And in 'Religion and Literature' (1935), he did not hold back to say that "literary criticism should be completed by criticism from a definite ethical and theological
standpoint." The present book is a continuation of efforts in that direction. It unfolds layer after layer of Eliot's early poetry, specifically Prufrock 1917 and Poems 1920, to discover that it is here, for the first time perhaps, that the aesthetics of poetry has so subtly been wedded to the absolutes of a religious belief.
The book is a concerted attempt to counter the widely prevalent but patently mistaken notion of Eliot's early poetry as something apart from his later poetry. For, despite the apparent differences between the two poetic modes, the leitmotif of Eliot's poetry, both early and
later, remains the poet's desperate spiritual quest. In the early poetry what one envisages is that in the framework of symbolist aesthetics which commits the poet to the notion of impersonality, there is a constant personal struggle of the poet with his inner demons and, through this struggle, the poet works out a personal idiom, and a vision, with a spiritual orientation which finally culminates in his conversion to Catholicism. //
(*I'm sorry I don't have the source at hand.)
Well, so much has since been written on Eliot's early poetry that is in consonance with my
(written in 2001).