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 literature.
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.
N>>> Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]>08/24/15 11:53 AM >>>
On 8/24/2015 10:33 AM, Nancy Gish wrote:
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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.
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