Preface to Homage to John Dryden: Three Essays on Poetry of the Seventeenth Century
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546 ] Preface1 Homage to John Dryden: Three Essays on Poetry of the Seventeenth Century London: Hogarth Press, 1924. Pp. 46; Preface, 9. The three essays composing this small book were written several years ago for publication in the Times Literary Supplement, to the editor of which I owe the encouragement to write them, and now the permission to reprint them.2 Inadequate as periodical criticism, they need still more justification in a book. Some apology, therefore, is required. My intention had been to write a series of papers on the poetry of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: beginning with Chapman and Donne, and ending with Johnson. This forbidden fruit of impossible leisure might have filled two volumes. At best, it would not have pretended to completeness; the subjects would have been restricted by my own ignorance and caprice, but the series would have included Aurelian Townshend andBishopKing,andtheauthorsofCooper’sHillandTheVanityofHuman Wishes,3 as well as Swift and Pope. That which dissipation interrupts, the infirmities of age come to terminate. One learns to conduct one’s life with greater economy: I have abandoned this design in the pursuit of other policies . I have long felt that the poetry of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries , even much of that of inferior inspiration, possesses an elegance and a dignity absent from the popular and pretentious verse of the Romantic Poets and their successors. To have urged this claim persuasively would have led me indirectly into considerations of politics, education, and theology which I no longer care to approach in this way. I hope that these three papers may in spite of and partly because of their defects preserve in cryptogram certain notions which, if expressed directly, would be destined to immediate obloquy, followed by perpetual oblivion. T. S. Eliot Notes 1. Plans for this volume, the fourth in the Hogarth Essays series published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, were under way by May 1924 but did not take definite shape until TSE wrote to [ 547 Preface to Homage to John Dryden Virginia Woolf on 27 Aug: “When do you want the MSS? I should like at least to provide a short preface, which might take two or three nights’ work, and make a few alterations in the text to remove the more patent evidences of periodical publication” (L2 483-84). The volume, dedicated “To George Saintsbury,” was issued 30 Oct 1924. TSE wrote to Woolf after receiving his author’s copies on 12 Nov to “thank you and Leonard for giving my essays those advantages of print and form. . . . The book gives me great pleasure – if I do not read it” (L2 537). 2. The essays, published between Mar and Oct 1921, included “John Dryden” (350), which TSE told Woolf he considered the best, “The Metaphysical Poets” (375), and “Andrew Marvell” (309) (L2 484); all three were first published in the TLS while Bruce Richmond was editor. 3. John Denham and Samuel Johnson, respectively. ...