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394 ] The Monthly Criterion To the Editor of The Nation and Athenaeum The Nation and Athenaeum, 43 (21 Apr 1928) 74 Sir, – Mr. Edwin Muir, in his interesting review of Mr. Sherard Vines’s book in your issue of April 14th, speaks very amiably of what he calls “the school of criticism which is represented chiefly by The Monthly Criterion.”1 For this we should be grateful, but I should like to forestall a possible misconception .Itwouldbeunfortunateifamytharosetotheeffectthat“theCriterion school of criticism” consisted of a compact body of theorists all holding one and the same theory. Someone would eventually demolish this myth, and the “group” itself would be held responsible for its propagation. I see the danger of misunderstanding in the way in which Mr. Muir joins the names of “Mr. Eliot, Mr. Read, and Mr. Richards.” I have great respect for the theories of the two latter: but it does not follow that I accept all of their theories, or that they accept all of mine or each other’s. There are manifest divergences of whicheveryoneisaware;andifweaddthenamesofotherCriterioncontributors , including foreign writers such as Mr. Fernandez and Mr. Curtius, the scope of divergence will be still more patent.2 In short The Criterion is not a “school,” but a meeting place for writers, some of whom, certainly, have much in common; but what they have in common is not a theory or a dogma. AsforMr.Muir’sothercriticisms,Ishouldbeverygladifhewoulddevelop them at more length than is possible within the limits of a review of a book.3 Yours, etc., 24, Russell Square, London, W.C.1. T. S. Eliot April 17th, 1928. Notes 1. In his review of poet and critic Sherard Vines’s Movements in Modern English Poetry and Prose (1928) in the issue of 14 Apr (49), the Scots poet and critic Edwin Muir (1887-1959) went on to criticize Vines for his uncritical assessment of the Criterion school: “The truth seems to be thatheisnotaquiteconvincedadherentofthetheoriesofMr.Eliot,Mr.Read,andMr.Richards; and that . . . he has no salient theory of his own. It is a pity, for if he had a theory he might have been able to subject the Criterion school of criticism to the test which it most needs at present: a friendly but rigorous examination.” [ 395 The Monthly Criterion 2. The French critic Ramon Fernandez had contributed an essay on “The Experience of Newman” in the Criterion of Oct 1924 (84-102) and “A Note on Intelligence and Intuition,” translated by TSE in the issue of Oct 1927 (332-39); the German critic Ernst Robert Curtius had contributed essays on “Balzac” in Jan 1923 (127-42), “On the Style of Marcel Proust” in Apr 1924 (311-20), and on “Restoration of the Reason” in Nov 1927 (389-97). 3. Muir further criticized TSE and Herbert Read for their ongoing controversy with John Middleton Murry: “The controversy, doomed from the beginning to be profitless, began vaguely enough on the literary plane as a contest between Classicism and Romanticism; but . . . now it is concerned with nothing less than the claims . . . of intuition and intelligence. . . . Mr. Eliot and Mr. Read have written valuable criticism; but it is a pity they have wasted so much time latterly in rendering homage to Reason which does not serve it in any way. The sham conflict between intelligence and intuition has arisen simply because Mr. Eliot’s ideas have found support and opposition, but no criticism.” See TSE’s “Mr. Middleton Murry’s Synthesis” (3.271). ...


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