This assumes that the completely un-researched opinion of the reviewer
somehow displaces all the very fully researched evidence for the issues
he simply denies. "Slim, even nonexistent" is not remotely accurate, and
one has no need to simply echo others; the evidence is in Eliot's work.
It may be interpreted in different ways, but it is there.

For example, Julius was shredded by many on the grounds that Eliot had
Jewish friends and colleagues and did not personally discriminate. But
then Julius never said otherwise. He said that Eliot wrote lines and
made statements that normalized anti-Semitic attitudes. And Eliot did.
So it depends how you define "anti-Semitism" not how Eliot treated his
friends. It is like American white liberals once announcing that some of
their best friends were black. Not the point at all. And Eliot admired
and was influenced all his life by Charles Maurras, an open and avowed
anti-Semite who said Dreyfus should have been treated as guilty even if
he was not because the state mattered more. And Maurras praised and
idealized the official who planted evidence against Dreyfus, who was, in
fact, not guilty. So Eliot had some seriously questionable ideals that
require no reliance on other scholars to reject. Just read Ken Ascher,
for example; the quotations are extensive.

Even Marianne Moore was distressed at the attitude of the young man in
"Portrait of a Lady"--hardly the most misogynist of Eliot's work. But
the portrait of Fresca as a "doorstep dunged by every dog in town" is
hateful by any criteria. 

So here is the apparent conclusion of the push to exclude anything in
Eliot's actual life and writings that is unpleasant: in future, any
biography of Pound should omit the fact that he broadcast for Mussolini
since it is not part of a polished biography. And no biography of Woolf
should include the voices or the suicide. And Lawrence's pretty vile
ideas should all be omitted. A life should be only admiration for great

None of Eliot biography that is based on evidence is "demonizing." Nor
does it in any way undermine the brilliant poetry. But a biography is
the study of a life, not only of works.

>>> Ken Armstrong 08/24/15 11:53 AM >>>

On 8/24/2015 10:33 AM, Nancy Gish wrote:

Much of this review is generally knowledgeable and useful, but it ends
on a weird note. A biography is by definition the story of a life, and
it is not meant to be "finished" and "polished" at the expense of the
life itself.

Apparently the reviewer agrees with you, at least in part: "No
biography, of course, can declare itself the final version of a life
story, but every biographer ought to try to fashion his account for
permanence." The reviewer was not promoting polish in place of accuracy.
What he was speaking against was what he characterized this way:
"Eliot’s reputation has been battered by fads in literary scholarship
since his death. He was sometimes called a fascist during his life;
later scholars would make a dogma of it. He has been accused of
antisemitism and homosexuality. The basis of such claims has sometimes
been slim, even nonexistent, but, in brief, Eliot’s reputation has been
kept alive mostly by demonizing the man himself." You may disagree with
this, but he names no names and as a claim hardly seems to fall in the
category of "weird." In as low but accurate voice as he can he is
calling it as he sees it.

Ultimately he seems to be trying to do a service to the demonizers by
pointing them in the direction of their better selves: "Crawford thus
demonstrates a claim Eliot frequently made in his critical essays: The
true form of a poet’s life is defined by the poems themselves." I'm not
sure he's put it just right, but his intention seems honorable.

Ken A

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