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Christopher Ricks, 18 October 1984

Tough guys don’t dance 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 231 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7181 2454 5
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... and murder, knows its own strength. The strength is essentially dramatic, but decanted. T.S. Eliot envied the Jacobean dramatists: The ideal condition is that under which everything, except what only the individual genius can supply, is provided for the poet. A framework is provided. We do not mean ‘plot’; a poet may incorporate, adapt or invent as ...

Why didn’t he commit suicide?

Frank Kermode: Reviewing T.S. Eliot, 4 November 2004

T.S. EliotThe Contemporary Reviews 
by Jewel Spears Brooker.
Cambridge, 644 pp., £80, May 2004, 0 521 38277 7
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... what the editor describes as ‘the most comprehensive collection of contemporary reviews of T.S. Eliot’s work as it appeared’. There are other such collections, but this one will be enough for most people. The editor is American, and she is contributing to a series which gives the same treatment to Emerson, Edith Wharton, Ellen ...

How much?

Ian Hamilton: Literary pay and literary prizes, 18 June 1998

Guide to Literary Prizes, 1998 
edited by Huw Molseed.
Book Trust, 38 pp., £3.99, May 1998, 0 85353 475 6
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The Cost of Letters: A Survey of Literary Living Standards 
edited by Andrew Holgate and Honor Wilson-Fletcher.
W Magazine, 208 pp., £2, May 1998, 0 9527405 9 1
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... in the history of early Modernism centres on Ezra Pound’s attempt to ‘liberate’ T.S. Eliot from his clerk’s job at Lloyds Bank. In 1921, Pound started up a fund called Bel Esprit and set about trying to persuade 30 subscribers to fork out ten pounds each: £300 p.a. would, he believed, enable Eliot to forsake ...

Poor Harold

C.H. Sisson, 3 December 1981

Harold Nicolson: A Biography. Vo. II: 1930-1968 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 403 pp., £15, October 1981, 0 7011 2602 7
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... which the BBC published to accompany the series gave me my first sight of the work of T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and I believe James Joyce, though I learn from the volume before me that Sir John Reith, reigning at the BBC, forbade Nicolson to mention Ulysses, then banned. Little encounters of that kind were to be expected in those days, and Nicolson ...

Eliot at smokefall

Barbara Everett, 24 January 1985

... Hastings’s play, Tom and Viv, and the other the publication of Peter Ackroyd’s biography, T.S. Eliot. They of course share a subject, the poet himself. But this choice of subject, the life of the writer with perhaps the biggest public image of any in our time, suggests something else they have in common. These two works are in one way more alike than might ...

Short Cuts

Deborah Friedell: First Impressions, 16 August 2007

... inspection, the poems didn’t stand up. They’re not embarrassing – just too indebted to T.S. ...

Door Closing!

Mark Ford: Randall Jarrell, 21 October 2010

Pictures from an Institution: A Comedy 
by Randall Jarrell.
Chicago, 277 pp., £10.50, April 2010, 978 0 226 39375 9
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... the role of pedagogue to undergraduates, taking his first job at Amherst College in 1917. Pound, Eliot, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Hart Crane all lived by other means; though it’s worth pointing out that the poetry and criticism of Eliot in particular, and to a lesser extent of ...

You’ve listened long enough

Colin Burrow: The Heaneid, 21 April 2016

Aeneid: Book VI 
translated by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 53 pp., £14.99, March 2016, 978 0 571 32731 7
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... inform and rebuke him. Heaney implicitly presented himself as kin to Dante or Aeneas, or to T.S. Eliot in Dantesque prophetic mode: a poet who could absorb and transform voices from his own and from the literary past. But he combined that self-aggrandisement with a powerful dose of guilt. The imperial poets Dante and Virgil were unsettling doubles for a poet ...

First Pitch

Frank Kermode: Marianne Moore, 16 April 1998

The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore 
edited by Bonnie Costello and Celeste Goodridge et al.
Faber, 597 pp., £30, April 1998, 0 571 19354 4
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... word she wrote them. There survive a hundred letters to Ezra Pound and another hundred to T.S. Eliot; five hundred to the historical novelist Bryher (Winifred Ellerman) and sixty to Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), who was Bryher’s lover. Elizabeth Bishop, a favourite in later years, received more than two hundred, over a period of almost forty years. Faced with ...

The Wrong Blond

Alan Bennett, 23 May 1985

Auden in Love 
by Dorothy Farnan.
Faber, 264 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 571 13399 1
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... comes to the confirmed bachelor old friends find it difficult to take. Chums winced to see T.S. Eliot spooning with wife No 2, smirked when they brazenly held hands, and there was a bit of that with Auden. Look at it from the friends’ point of view. They have to budge up to make room for the new companion, knowing as they do so that they will be seeing ...


Ian Hamilton: I ♥ Concordances, 22 August 1996

... What was T.S. Eliot’s favourite colour? Which season – summer, autumn, winter, spring – would you expect to feature most often in the works of Philip Larkin? And which of these two poets would you reckon was the more self-centred, fond of flowers, susceptible to hyphens, keen on using the word mother? Such are the questions that can spin off from too many hours spent browsing in the realms of the Concordance ...

Big Ben

Stephen Fender, 18 September 1986

Franklin of Philadelphia 
by Esmond Wright.
Harvard, 404 pp., £21.25, May 1986, 0 674 31809 9
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... and re-inventing him according to our predilections. Franklin is a phenomenon very like what T.S. Eliot called a classic – entailing, to use Frank Kermode’s words in his book of that name, ‘the paradox that there is an identity but that it changes.’ Thus an American woman academic reviewing this book has drawn her readers’ attention to his marrying ...

She Who Can Do No Wrong

Jenny Turner, 6 August 1992

Curriculum Vitae 
by Muriel Spark.
Constable, 213 pp., £14.95, July 1992, 0 09 469650 0
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... she was overworking frantically, sending out poem after poem, keeping critical projects on T.S. Eliot, Cardinal Newman and possibly the Book of Job all bubbling on the back-burner at the same time. Spark then became anorexic, using dexedrine as a substitute for regular meals. Her breakdown when it came appeared as a visitation from ...

Men at forty

Derek Mahon, 21 August 1980

Selected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 137 pp., £3.50, May 1980, 0 85646 058 3
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by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 80 pp., £2.95, April 1980, 0 85635 332 9
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... the middle years of the century. At this point I can no longer avoid mentioning the name of T.S. Eliot, to whom above all others Sisson appears to be indebted for his cultural frame of reference. Now, it’s well-known that, far from meeting the challenge posed by Eliot’s innovations, English poets as a whole nodded ...

The Verity of Verity

Marilyn Butler, 1 August 1996

Essays in Appreciation 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 363 pp., £25, March 1996, 0 19 818344 5
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... as his title promises, the creative writers Marlowe, Donne, Clarendon, Crabbe, Austen, George Eliot, Lowell and Hardy; the historian Clarendon, the philosopher Austin and the biographers Gaskell, Froude and Hallam Tennyson; and, throughout, the line of great dead critics – Johnson, Coleridge, Arnold, T.S. ...

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