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Dear Tim,

Thanks for sending this. It's fascinating. I think there is a real problem
with both treating biography as a necessary source and with just rejecting
it. On the one hand, no one thinks Iago or Lear is Shakespeare, and we all
acknowledge that in drama there may be characters wholly unlike the author.
That is also true of poetry; despite some claims to the contrary, it can be
dramatic rather than lyric.

But it is also true that Eliot did use his own experience and said so about
*TWL*. After all, it was Eliot who wrote the poem. No one would imagine it
was Whitman or Tennyson or even Pound, let alone H.D. or Moore or
Dickinson. Or, really, much of anyone else. So to simply discard what a
life can help reveal is as limiting, sometimes distorting, as
simplistically assuming a lyric voice in every poem.

It seems to me that the problem in Peters's 1952 claims, as noted above, is
that it really is speculative and offers (from what is here) no real reason
to make its identification.

By the way, claims about the "soul of Western Europe" are equally
speculative and vastly over-generalized. I doubt they have much to do with
the souls of the women of Western Europe or the souls of peasants or even
warrior kings.
Cheers,
Nancy

On Fri, Nov 29, 2019 at 6:30 PM Materer, Timothy J. <[log in to unmask]>
wrote:

> > I have thought about his extreme reaction to Peters's article on him
> being gay himself
>
> First, I take it that no one has responded to my question about how Eliot
> could agree with Aldington about not liking Jesus only about a year before
> Eliot was received into the C of E because the agreement is in fact
> inexplicable.
>
> Secondly, before one states that Eliot’s reaction to Peter’s article was
> extreme, one should be sure which version of Peter’s article Ellot was
> reacting to.  There are two versions, one in 1952, which Eliot reacted to,
> and one in 1969, to which of course he could not react. Unfortunately,
> critics have invariably assumed that Eliot was reacting to the 1969
> version, which, thanks to Geoffrey Bateson’s editorial malfeasance, was a
> very different and sanitized version.
>
> I’ve addressed this matter in T. S. Eliot and his Biographical Critics,
> Essays in Criticism, Volume 62, Issue 1, January 2012, 41–57. Here is an
> excerpt that details some of the differences between the two versions.
>
> Bateson does not explain that the article
> he reprinted in 1969 is not the original 1952 version that Eliot
> saw. Peter himself may have misled his readers about the
> degree of difference when, in the 1969 postscript to the
> ‘reprint’, he stated that it was ‘almost verbatim an essay which
> was printed in Essays in Criticism’ in 1952 (p. 165). Almost is
> a deceptive word, for substantial omissions and changes were
> in fact introduced into the 1969 text, and later in the postscript
> Peter modifies his ‘almost verbatim’ claim: ‘In reprinting the
> article, however, a few phrases that might have been misinterpreted
> have been modified’ (p. 166). Works such as James
> E. Miller’s studyof The Waste Land and Carole Seymour-Jones’s
> biography of Vivienne Eliot, which criticise Eliot’s character on
> the basis of the Peter incident, do not notice the extent of the revisions,
> but many passages were added or rewritten which would
> have allowed the reader not to misinterpret but, rather, to interpret
> correctly Eliot’s reason for disliking the original article.11
>
> Two passages that Peter added in 1969 demonstrate particularly
> how he modified the argument in the original article.
> While, in the 1952 version, he writes that the poem’s persona
> laments the death of a young man, in the 1969 redaction he
> adds: ‘An appropriate parallel would be the situation recorded
> in In Memoriam’ (p. 143). After the following statement in
> 1952, ‘the poem certainly reads more lucidly if we suppose
> both the main characters to be male rather than epicene’
> (p. 246), Peter adds in 1969 the phrase, ‘a modern Tennyson
> and a modern Hallam, as it were’ (p. 144). The fact that these
> phrases do not appear in the article that Eliot himself saw undercuts
> Bateson’s argument that Eliot should have grasped that Peter
> was treating The Waste Land as a dramatic monologue.
>
> But perhaps the most telling revisions concern the word ‘guilt’,
> which is often either omitted or changed to ‘grief’ in the revised
> article, as in the following phrases (the first page number is
> from 1952, the second from 1969): ‘admitting the sense of
> guilt [grief] which oppresses him’ (pp. 248/147); ‘the poet’s
> intention was also to imply that all guilt [grief] is one guilt
> [grief]’ (pp. 249/147); ‘a guilt [grief] that is all pervading and
> ineluctable’
> (pp. 249/147). And the words ‘guilt’ and ‘guilty’ are
> simply excised in 1969 from the following 1952 phrases: ‘the
> mental process by which guilty memories are repressed’
> (pp. 249/147); ‘to keep his guilty secrets secure’ (pp. 249/148);
> ‘guilty secrets which he is anxious to keep private’ (pp. 249/
> 148). Similarly, Peter drops the concluding phrase from the
> original description in 1952 of ‘the speaker’s wretchedness and
> the guilt which exacerbates it’ (pp. 250/148). The cumulative
> effect of these changes is to obscure that in the original essay
> Peter was not stressing the speaker’s elegiac ‘grief’ so much as
> his confessional ‘guilt’. In addition, passages that occur in both
> the 1952 and 1969 articles emphasise, without using the word,
> the guilt that the speaker feels for continuing to love the young
> man: for example, the speaker must seek a ‘rationalization’ to
> ‘justify the love that he still feels’ (1969, p. 148). The figure of
> Mr Eugenides, ‘a ‘seedy pederast’, reflects how the speaker is ‘disgusted
> with his own motives’ (1969, p. 154). According to Peter,
> the introduction of Tiresias into the poem indicates that the
> speaker is ‘helplessly suspended between the poles of male and
> female’ (1969, p. 154). These passages certainly challenge
> Bateson’s assertion that Peter was describing nothing more
> than the Tennysonian sort of grief shown in the elegy for
> Hallam: Tennyson expresses no debilitating guilt for loving his
> young friend.
>
> Three longer deleted passages show how much more emphatically
> Peter had argued in 1952 that the speaker’s ‘guilty secret’
> was homosexual passion, illustrating what Robert Canary has
> called Peter’s ‘tendency to argue through innuendo’.12 In discussing
> the nightingale’s lament in The Waste Land, Peter states in
> the 1969 version: ‘There seems also to be the suggestion that
> his own lament will be vulgarized and debased in the same
> way by those who read it unsympathetically’ (p. 150). In the
> 1952 version, the following phrase appears after the word
> lament: ‘which may take its origin from a type of desire less
> often condoned even than that of King Tereus’ (p. 252). Peter
> is obviously referring to the poem’s secret as homosexuality;
> and it certainly appears to be a guilty one if, as Peter suggests,
> it is less condoned than rape. The speaker is said to feel this
> passion but ‘a part of his mind at least still regards it as depraved’
> (1952, p. 250); in 1969 Peter drops the phrase ‘regards it as
> depraved’ and replaces it with the word ‘rejects’ (p. 148).
>
> Two more occurrences of the word ‘guilt’ are dropped from
> a 1952 passage in which Peter argues that a line from Dante’s
> Purgatorio, in addition to the lines from that poem spoken by
> Arnaut Daniel (The Waste Land, l. 428; Purgatorio, xxvi.
> 148), is relevant to the theme of guilty love.13 Arnaut Daniel
> speaks of plunging into Purgatory’s refining fire. Peter observes
> that Daniel’s words express his guilt, which he relates to the
> guilt of another figure in the Purgatorio, Guinizzelli, who confesses
> that his sins were ‘ermafrodito’. (Peter compares Daniel
> and Guinizzelli because the two figures appear in the same
> canto.) After dropping the words ‘and guilt’ from a description
> of the speaker’s ‘grief and guilt’, Peter eliminates the following
> passage from the 1952 version:
>
> guilt is again suggested by the line from the Purgatorio (here
> also the provenance of the quotation seems to me to go a
> long way to confirm my interpretation of the poem:
> Nostro peccato fu ermafrodito), and here as in the earlier
> sections of the poem the weight of the guilt is all but insupportable.
> (1952, p. 265)
>
> Although the word ‘ermafrodito’ may be translated in various
> ways, he apparently interprets the ‘peccato’ or ‘sin’ as homosexual
> or bisexual.14 Since Guinizzelli confesses that ‘Nostro peccato
> fu ermafrodito’, Peter believes that Eliot’s fascination with this
> canto confirms his preoccupation with deviant sexual passion.
> Elsewhere, in a passage that appears in both versions of the
> essay, Peter reveals his view of The Waste Land’s theme most
> clearly in an analysis of the loveless sexuality portrayed in
> ‘A Game of Chess’. It is the speaker’s homosexuality that, he
> argues, best explains his rejection of heterosexual love: ‘It is not
> mere arbitrary custom which decrees that Woman is Man’s
> natural mate and, where a man or woman has in effect to
> maintain that it is, an invidious picture of the opposite sex,
> such as the first scene here suggests, is often enough the result’
> (pp. 250/148). Peter implies that the speaker’s recoil from the
> sexual affairs in ‘A Game of Chess’ is the result not of an absence
> of love but rather of his sexual orientation, one which Peter
> himself evidently implies is unnatural. Altogether, Eliot’s
> reaction to his speculations seems entirely understandable, for
> Peter’s analysis is clearly directed at the poet’s as well as the
> ‘speaker’s’ obsessions. Bateson is on weak ground in his claim
> that Eliot should have seen that Peter was treating the poem
> merely as a dramatic monologue, with no personal implications
> regarding the author – and indeed the claim is implicitly contradicted
> by Bateson himself when he writes a few lines later in his
> preface to the 1975 reprint of Essays in Criticism, ‘The soul in
> agony in that poem, if in some sense the collective soul of
> Western Europe, is surely also that of Thomas Stearns Eliot’.
>
>
> T. S. ELIOT AND HIS BIOGRAPHICAL CRITICS 43
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