English Lion, 1930-1933: Introduction
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[ ix English Lion, 1930-1933 Introduction The period of T. S. Eliot’s life between the ages of forty-one and forty-five, the years covered by this volume, was a time of great inner disturbance, including the permanent separation from his wife Vivien. His publications from 1930 to 1933 are marked by clear continuities with his earlier prose – most notably, the preoccupation with Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and seventeenth-century poetry – albeit addressed with significant shifts of emphasis and tone. These years also witness a steady widening of interests from literary and critical to religious, cultural, and political commentary , a natural development from his writings of the late 1920s. His output in this period is slightly less intensive than in the 1920s. Two books of prose criticism – The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, collecting his 1932-33 Charles Eliot Norton lectures, and John Dryden: The Poet, The Dramatist, The Critic (1932), collecting three radio broadcasts from the previous year – emerged from commissioned public addresses. (His 1933 Page-Barbour lectures at Virginia, After Strange Gods, were revised before publication in 1934.) Two pamphlets, Thoughts after Lambeth and Charles Whibley (both 1931), along with substantial essays on “Arnold and Pater” (1930), “Cyril Tourneur” (1930), “Thomas Heywood” (1931), and “John Ford” (1932), were among those that made up the canon-forming Selected Essays of 1932 (his remarkable 1931 preface to Pascal’s Pensées was added to the third English edition in 1951). Eliot wrote quarterly editorial Commentaries for the Criterion, which from January 1931 were signed “T.S.E.” and which doubled inlengthtodealwiththepoliticalandeconomiccrisis.Hedeliveredadozen BBC broadcasts and contributed miscellaneous occasional essays, prefaces, letters and reviews. During nine months in the United States, he gave over forty public talks and an undergraduate class on contemporary literature (his extensive lecture notes are published here for the first time). After the publication in 1930 of his poems Ash-Wednesday and Marina, he published in the following year two experimental parts from “Coriolan,” a long poem that was never finished. The end of 1933 saw Eliot drafting sketches in the “Landscapes” sequence – the first tentative steps of his late poetic style – and composing verse choruses for a religious pageant play, The Rock. English Lion, 1930-1933 x ] Eliot’s Life, 1930-1933 Eliot sailed from Southampton to Montreal on 17 September 1932 and then traveled to Boston to assume the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship of Poetry at Harvard. He was returning for the first time since he left the United States as a graduate student seventeen years earlier. His homecoming placed the spotlight on the identity of this naturalized British citizen and Anglican churchman, uncovering some tension in the sources of his cultural authority. The editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had introduced a commissioned article, “Letter from a Distinguished Former St. Louisian,” by remarking that Eliot “has so long been an expatriate that he is more often regarded as an English rather than an American author.” Indeed, after his triumphant return to Harvard, Eliot was hailed in the Chicago Daily Tribune as an “English Lion.” His arrival was timed to coincide with the first American edition of Poems, 1909-1925 and the publication of Selected Essays, collecting the critical prose that he felt was of lasting significance. If this was a period of consolidation and public acclaim, it was also a time ofprofoundpersonalupheaval.InFebruary1933,EliotwrotefromHarvard to instruct his London solicitors to draw up a Deed of Separation from Vivien Haigh-Wood, his wife since 1915. On his return to England in the summer of 1933, Virginia Woolf noted in her diary that Eliot spoke with asperity about the failure of his marriage but that in his mid-forties “he wants to live, to love.”1 Some reviewers of Selected Essays found it difficult to reconcile the author of the later critical essays with the poet of The Waste Land. In an essay entitled “The Cleft Eliot,” Princeton theologian and philosopher Paul Elmer More, pondering the dichotomy in Eliot’s work between “the older poet and the newer critic,” wondered if Eliot’s public role as an Anglican moralist entailed a renunciation of the past.2 Eliot felt that he had crossed a spiritual watershed. He confided to More: “Some people find themselves consequently in circumstances such that the whole of their mortal life must be a torment to them . . . Hell is, for such people, here and now” (L5 292-93). The two correspondents discussed spiritual and moral issues in depth...