In this Book
The period of T. S. Eliot’s life between the ages of forty-one and forty-five was a time of great inner disturbance, including the permanent separation from his wife Vivien. And yet these difficult years also witnessed a steady widening and deepening of his critical interests, in essays that represent the crucible of Eliot’s mature literary, cultural, political, and theological thought.
Among the highlights of work included in this volume are two books of collected lecture series, The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism and John Dryden: The Poet, The Dramatist, The Critic; two pamphlets, Thoughts after Lambeth and Charles Whibley; and substantial essays on seventeenth-century drama, “Cyril Tourneur,” “Thomas Heywood,” and “John Ford” that originally appeared as leading articles in the Times Literary Supplement. Also included are a dozen BBC broadcasts, restoring material cut from the original typescripts, and more than fifty miscellaneous essays, including previously uncollected Criterion editorials, prefaces, letters, and reviews.
Eliot returned to the United States in 1932 for the first time in seventeen years to assume the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship of Poetry at Harvard, providing in his Norton lectures his most important statement on the history and development of English literary criticism, his major engagement with the legacy of the English Romantic poets, and a principal defense of the obscurity of modern verse. He delivered more than forty public talks during the nine months he spent in the United States. Most of his talks were never intended for publication. This volume includes the texts of five unpublished American lectures reconstructed by the editors from a range of contemporary eyewitness accounts. They supplement and enrich our knowledge of Eliot’s statements on literary, cultural, and religious matters, and provide revealing glimpses into his thoughts about particular authors.
The most important previously unpublished materials in this volume are the lecture notes to Eliot’s undergraduate class on contemporary literature at Harvard, English 26: “Contemporary English Literature (1890 to the Present Time).” Ninety-two pages of handwritten notes for twenty lectures reveal unparalleled evidence of Eliot’s thoughts on his contemporaries, including James Joyce, Ezra Pound, W. B. Yeats, and D. H. Lawrence.
Upon his return to the United Kingdom in 1933, Eliot embarked upon a new direction as a creative writer—composing verse choruses for a religious drama. His hopes for creative renewal, however, did little to assuage the guilty qualms ascribed to the “honest poet” in the concluding lecture of The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, who worried that he had “wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing.”
Table of Contents
- Part 1: Essays, Reviews, and Commentaries
- pp. 1-2
- The Modern Dilemma. Syllabus for Four BBC Broadcasts
- pp. 323-326
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- Preface to Transit of Venus: Poems, by Harry Crosby
- pp. 365-368
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- Part 2: Lectures in America, 1932-33
- pp. 569-570