*Feeling the Elephant: T.S. Eliot's Bolovian Epic*

By Loretta Johnson

*Journal of Modern Literature*

Vol. 37, No. 4, (Summer 2014), pp. 109-129

This essay assembles the “Bolovian Epic” from the Columbo and Bolo verses
and nonsense letters that T.S. Eliot wrote over a period of eighteen years
(1910–1928). Such an aggregation is made possible by the publication of
excised poems from the “Waste Land” Notebook and Volumes I–IV of The
Letters of T.S. Eliot. Rather than seeing individual parts of the epic as
simply obscene, I interpret the whole project and its contexts as grounded
in his appreciation for the primitive and a critical disdain for the
so-called civilized. Eliot invents a composite race of people, the
Bolovians, whose influence on modern times includes racy behavior,
religious affinities, and bowler hats. Understanding this bawdy, blue, or
nonsense material contributes to an increasing revision of previous
scholarship defaming Eliot's moral and cultural values.