To the Editor of The Bookman
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

[ 85 To the Editor of The Bookman1 Sir, – It is not often that I feel obliged to reply to criticism of my own work. If one tried to correct every misunderstanding, one would have no time for anything else. But in reading your “Chronicle and Comment” for March 1930, I find what is to me a more serious matter: a travesty, as I take it, of my attitude to one of the greatest men of our time; so I ask you, as an act of justice, to print my own comments. The matter is all the more serious because your “Chronicle and Comments” is unsigned, and therefore bears, at least, editorial approval.2 There is much in this commentary with which I agree; and so far as you criticise or censure my own writings I am indifferent. What I resent is your suggestion that I “cast scorn” on a man for whom I “profess the highest admiration” [77].3 I overlook the suggestion of insincerity. Again it is suggested that my purpose is to “ridicule” [77] Mr. Babbitt; and again that my intention may be to do him what damage I can. This is, I submit, a grave misrepresentation. Again, your critic says that I write about Babbitt “considerably more sharply” than I have written about anyone towards whom I feel “open enmity” [78]. I take exception to the suggestion that I feel open enmity towards anybody. I do not expect your critic to have read all of my hurried journalistic writing. But he should not generalise as if he had. Towards whom have I professed “open enmity?” Not even towards Mr. Shaw or Mr. Wells,whomIregardmerelyasobjectsforthepaleontologist.4 Iftowards anybody, towards such men as Mr. Bertrand Russell and Mr. Middleton Murry, about whose various doctrines I have written far more “sharply” than about those of Mr. Babbitt; but for whom, nevertheless, I have a warm personal feeling. Your critic also makes capital out of the fact that I display for Charles Maurras “nothing but the greatest respect and affection,” whereas I treat Babbitt with “patronising admiration and easy ridicule” [78].5 My personal acquaintance with M. Maurras is but slight; my acquaintance with Mr. Babbitt is of many years. Your critic quite overlooks the circumstances: that when I have spoken of Maurras it has been to defend him against what I believed to be injustice, whilst Mr. Babbitt, I am very glad to say, needs no Essays, Reviews, and Commentaries: 1930 86 ] such defence. I do not consider that any parallel can be drawn between my attitude towards Maurras and my attitude towards Babbitt; and I should be the first to admit that there are far grosser positive errors and far greater dangers in the doctrine of Maurras than in that of Babbitt.6 If indeed there is any patronage about, your critic is responsible for some: he refers to my “usual brightness” and “grave jests” [76] et caetera. May I state that for the teaching of Babbitt himself I have the greatest admiration; and to Mr. Babbitt the deepest gratitude. My own position seems to me to be very close indeed to that of Mr. More; for example as put in his admirable essay in your same number.7 What differences there are between Mr. More and myself are all on our own side of the fence, do not concern the general issues of humanism, and would appear to most humanists to be trivial theological details. My chief apprehension about “humanism” has been lest the teaching of Mr. Babbitt should be transformed, by a host of zealous disciples, into the hard and fast dogma of a new ethical church, or something between a church and a political party. If that is to happen, I confess that I prefer the subtle psychologising of Mr. Ramon Fernandez, a study of which I recommend to all American humanists, to the vague moralising of some of Mr. Babbitt’s disciples.8 On one point however I must say that your critic is near the truth. I do certainly associate the contemporary use of the word “humanism” with that of T. E. Hulme. Hulme’s use of the term is traditional and just; and if our new humanists mean something entirely different then they should call it by some other name.9 I am, Sir, Your obedient servant, [T. S. Eliot] Notes 1. Unpublished: carbon (Princeton), dated 31 Mar 1930; see L5 132-35. On 5 Apr 1930, TSE explained to Paul Elmer More...


pdf