December 20, 2016

1. Eliot, Pound, Lewis

A. Introduction

I discovered a wonderful essay called “Eliot, Pound, and Lewis: A Creative Friendship.” It’s about three men-of-letters who had American roots but lived in Europe: T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Wyndham Lewis. The author is Henry Regnery, a publisher of conservative books (now deceased). The essay first appeared in 1972, in a conservative quarterly called Modern Age. Regnery helped found Modern Age in 1957, and it’s still going today. Regnery also founded Regnery Publishing, which published conservative authors like William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk.1B

Perhaps Regnery was drawn to Eliot, Pound, and Lewis because he felt they had been maligned by the liberal establishment. Eliot, Pound, and Lewis have been accused of anti-Semitism, and of Fascist sympathies. Regnery felt that the establishment was forgiving toward intellectuals who dallied with Communism, but unforgiving toward intellectuals who dallied with Fascism.

Perhaps another reason why Regnery was drawn to these writers is that he had some personal contact with them. Eliot worked in the same industry as Regnery — publishing. Eliot worked at Faber and Faber, a London publisher, from 1925 to 1965, and he was a mentor to Regnery. Regnery writes,

[Eliot’s] patience and helpfulness to young authors was well known — from personal experience I can bear witness to his kindness to inexperienced publishers; his friends, in fact, thought that the time he devoted to young authors he felt had promise might have been better spent on his own work.

I found Regnery’s essay enlightening because I knew little about these three writers. Poetry doesn’t attract me as much as fiction does; though Lewis wrote novels, Eliot and Pound were primarily poets. Furthermore, I have an aversion for the avant-garde, and all three of these writers have an avant-garde tendency. So I had only a slight acquaintance with these three writers, and I learned a lot from Regnery’s essay.

Such essays are the bane of my existence, and among the foulest fruits of the Internet. Too interesting not to read, too enlightening not to write about, such essays draw me away from the projects I should be working on. I need to travel to the Mongolian steppes, or the Antarctic wastes, or the plains of Mars, to get away from such essays. How can I get revenge except by distracting you, dear reader, from your projects? Misery loves company.

What Regnery chiefly admires in these writers is neither their politics nor their poetry, but their commitment to culture, their serious attitude toward civilization. When Eliot wanted Lewis to contribute to his magazine, the Criterion, Eliot wrote to Lewis, “I am not an individual but an instrument, and anything I do is in the interest of art and literature and civilization, and is not a matter for personal compensation.” Lewis responded,

I will give you anything I have for nothing, as you did me [referring to Eliot’s contributions to Lewis’ magazine], and am anxious to be of use to you: for I know that every failure of an exceptional attempt like yours with the Criterion means that the chance of establishing some sort of critical standard here is diminished.

Eliot edited the Criterion from 1922 until 1939. Orwell called it “possibly the best literary paper we have ever had.”

Regnery sees all three as outsiders:

In their basic attitude toward the spirit of their time, all three were outsiders; it was a time dominated by a facile, shallow liberalism.... Above all they were serious men, they were far more interested in finding and expressing the truth than in success as the world understands it.... The royalties Lewis earned from [Time and Western Man], one of the most important [books] of our time, which represented an immense amount of work and thought of the highest order, didn’t amount to a pittance, but Lewis’ concern, as he put it toward the end of his life, was for “the threat of extinction to the cultural tradition of the West.”

Perhaps it was Pound’s commitment to culture that made him such an extraordinary discoverer and promoter of literary talent. Pound promoted the careers of Joyce, Eliot, Frost, Hemingway, etc. In 1925, Hemingway wrote

We have Pound the major poet devoting, say, one fifth of his time to poetry. With the rest of his time he tries to advance the fortunes, both material and artistic, of his friends. He defends them when they are attacked, he gets them into magazines and out of jail. He loans them money. He sells their pictures. He arranges concerts for them. He writes articles about them. He introduces them to wealthy women. He gets publishers to take their books. He sits up all night with them when they claim to be dying and he witnesses their wills. He advances them hospital expenses and dissuades them from suicide. And in the end a few of them refrain from knifing him at the first opportunity.

Hemingway had a high opinion of Pound’s poetry, writing “The best of Pound’s writing — and it is in the Cantos — will last as long as there is any literature.”

All three of these writers were born in the 1880s. All three lived to be at least 70. All three were married. All three were from the upper class of society — indeed, their names suggest their social class:

Ezra Weston Loomis Pound
Percy Wyndham Lewis
Thomas Stearns Eliot

Pound attended Penn, and eventually graduated from Hamilton. Eliot attended Harvard. Lewis had an American father and a British mother. His parents separated when he was about 10, and his mother returned with Lewis to England, where he attended the Rugby School and then the Slade School of Art.

All three of these writers wrote for periodicals and edited periodicals; Lewis and Eliot started periodicals.

Regnery is surprised that the three remained friends for many years:

When we consider the very different personalities of these three men, all enormously gifted, but quite different in their individual characteristics — Pound, flamboyant, extravagant; Eliot, restrained, cautious; Lewis, suspicious, belligerent — we can’t help but wonder how it was possible for three such men to remain close friends from the time they met as young men until the ends of their lives.

Regnery says that their friendship endured because of their shared aims, their shared commitment to culture. “It was this mutual concern, on a very high level, and an utterly serious attitude toward creative work that brought them and held them together.”

Regnery notes that Lewis received help from academic institutions, but not until after he had died:

Since his death, Cornell and the University of Buffalo have spent large sums accumulating Lewis material — manuscripts, letters, first editions, drawings, etc. When they could have done something for Lewis himself, to their own glory and profit, they ignored him.

(Lewis’ father invited him to return to the U.S., and attend Cornell, but Lewis remained in Europe.)

B. Wyndham Lewis

Lewis met Pound in London in 1910. Lewis was equally accomplished as an artist and a writer. He made paintings and drawings of literary acquaintances, such as Pound.

Ezra Pound, by Wyndham Lewis


Below is a photo of Pound (left) with Ford Madox Ford (seated center) and James Joyce (right). Standing is John Quinn, a New York lawyer who was a patron of writers and artists.


James Joyce, by Wyndham Lewis

Ford Madox Ford had his own magazine, The English Review, and Ford published several of Lewis’ stories around 1910, when Lewis was 28. (Ford also helped D. H. Lawrence early in Lawrence’s career.)

Wyndham Lewis

Lewis’ first novel, Tarr, is set in pre-war Paris, and depicts two artists, an Englishman named Tarr and a German named Kreisler. Regnery says that Tarr “attracted wide attention; Rebecca West, for example, called it ‘A beautiful and serious work of art that reminds one of Dostoevsky.’” Kreisler is “a violent German Romantic of protean energy and a failure as an artist.”1 Lewis wondered later if Kreisler anticipates Hitler. Lewis was interested in Nietzsche, and Tarr contains Nietzschean themes.

Another well-regarded novel by Lewis is The Revenge for Love (1937), which deals with Spain in the period just before the Spanish Civil War. “It is strongly critical of communist activity in Spain, and presents English intellectual fellow-travelers as deluded.”2 Lewis was critical of the Soviet Union, and critical of Britain’s “left-wing orthodoxy.”

Lewis during World War I.
Lewis was in combat, and also worked as a “war artist.”

Lewis also wrote philosophical works, such as The Art of Being Ruled and Time and Western Man. Lewis opposed the view that “time and change are the ultimate realities,”3 that the present is merely a way-station on the road to the future. Lewis’ position reminds one of anti-historicist thinkers like Leo Strauss. Lewis’ position also reminds one of Zen, which freezes time by focusing on the present moment. Lewis may have been inspired to write about time and change because of his opposition to Henri Bergson. Early in his career, he attended Bergson’s lectures; later he was “savagely critical” of Bergson.

To break free from the time philosophy, Lewis “offers the sense of personality, ‘the most vivid and fundamental sense we possess’.... It is this sense that makes man unique; it alone makes creative achievement possible.”4 Lewis somehow believed that the sense of personality requires a personal God; evidently he doesn’t share Nietzsche’s atheism.

Lewis was a highly versatile author, writing short stories, novels, poetry, drama, literary criticism, and art criticism. In a volume of critical essays called Men Without Art (1934), Lewis wrote one of the first essays on Faulkner.

In 1931, Lewis visited Berlin, and then published Hitler, in which he depicted Hitler as a “man of peace,” and the victim of communist bullying. After visiting Germany again in 1937, Lewis retracted his earlier views, but he remained a controversial figure in Britain; Auden called him, “that lonely old volcano of the Right.” Regnery defends Lewis:

The political books Lewis wrote in the thirties, for which he was violently and unfairly condemned, were written not to promote fascism, as some simple-minded critics have contended, but to point out that a repetition of World War I would be even more catastrophic for civilization than the first.

Lewis was unpopular not only because of his political views, but also because of a satirical work called The Apes of God (1930), in which he mocked London literary figures.

Lewis wrote two autobiographical works, Blasting and Bombardiering (1937) and Rude Assignment (1950), as well as a semi-autobiographical novel, Self Condemned (1954). In 1951, Lewis became completely blind, but he somehow continued writing until his death in 1957. Unable to read the proofs of his last book, his old friend T. S. Eliot came to his aid.

C. T. S. Eliot

Eliot met Pound in 1914; they were introduced by a mutual acquaintance, Conrad Aiken. Pound immediately recognized Eliot’s talent, and said that Eliot was “worth watching.”

A few weeks later Eliot... sent him the manuscript of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Pound was ecstatic.... It was he said, “the best poem I have yet had or seen from an American. Pray God it be not a single and unique success.”

Pound forwarded Prufrock to Harriet Monroe, editor of a Chicago-based magazine called Poetry. Prufrock appeared in Poetry in 1915, five years after Eliot began writing it. (Click here for Eliot’s reading of Prufrock.)

Pound deserves credit for appreciating Prufrock, which was a revolutionary work at the time — obscure, disjointed, strange. Prufrock depicts a man’s stream-of-consciousness, interior monologue, and does so before Joyce made the technique famous. Where did Eliot get this approach? Eliot was influenced by a little-known French poet, Jules Laforgue. Laforgue, in turn, was interested in the psychology of the unconscious, as he found it in Schopenhauer and von Hartmann.

But Laforgue wasn’t the only writer who steered Eliot toward stream-of-consciousness. Eliot was also influenced by Henry James, who depicted consciousness rather than character, experience rather than ideas. Eliot was a fan of James, and called him, “the most intelligent man of his generation.”5 One might say that Eliot and James were kindred spirits. Eliot complained that we often allow ideas to “corrupt our feelings.” But James had escaped from ideas; according to Eliot, James had “a mind so fine that no idea could violate it.”6 Like Impressionist painters, James, Laforgue, and Eliot aim to depict, not reality itself, but one person’s impression of it.

Many critics have written about Prufrock’s opening lines:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table...

One critic said, “Prufrock, not the evening, is etherized upon a table. Like everything else in the poem, the tired, sleepy evening is an aspect of Prufrock’s mind.”7 Prufrock’s stream-of-consciousness, like Henry James’ “unreliable narrator,” tells us more about the narrator than about the world.

Eliot would be the first to admit that he didn’t invent stream-of-consciousness. Indeed, Eliot argued that it’s impossible for a poet to invent, and that

the poem which is absolutely original is absolutely bad.... True originality is merely development; and if it is right development it may appear in the end so inevitable that we almost come to the point of view of denying all ‘original’ virtue to the poet. He simply did the next thing.8

Eliot’s conception of originality applies to philosophy and science, as well as poetry. Each philosopher begins where the last philosopher left off. Prufrock is original, but not “absolutely original.” It’s a further development of Laforgue and James, as Nietzsche is a further development of Schopenhauer. Eliot “did the next thing.”

We noted earlier that Wyndham Lewis was critical of the French philosopher Bergson. Eliot admired Bergson, especially when he was writing Prufrock.9 Eliot studied philosophy as a Harvard undergrad, and almost earned a PhD in philosophy from Harvard. As a grad student, Eliot became a fan of the British philosopher F. H. Bradley, and he wrote his PhD dissertation on Bradley. Eliot praises Bradley as warmly as anyone ever praised a philosopher. Eliot praises Bradley for his combination of “acute intellect and passionate feeling.” Eliot argued that,

There is no greater mistake than to think that feeling and thought are exclusive — that those beings which think most and best are not also those capable of the most feeling.10

This quotation reminds one of Eliot’s theory of “dissociation of sensibility,” — that is, a dissociation of feeling and thought that began around 1640, and continued through the 1800s. “Tennyson and Browning,” Eliot wrote, “are poets, and they think; but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the odor of a rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his sensibility.” Eliot championed Metaphysical poets like Donne, and criticized later poets, like Milton, Dryden, Tennyson, and Browning.11 Eliot championed the philosopher Bradley for the same reason that he championed Donne — Bradley’s ability to combine thought and feeling.

Let’s return to Prufrock. Prufrock contains odd phrases that can be traced to earlier writers, yet Eliot insisted that he was unaware of these earlier occurrences. The novelist Laurence Sterne wrote, in a letter, “I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be,” and the exact same phrase occurs in Prufrock.12 When someone pointed this out to Eliot, he said it was “interesting,” but he said he was certain that he hadn’t read Sterne’s letter, or seen it quoted. What are we to believe? Is this something occult, some sort of literary telepathy?

Another critic, John Pope, found numerous parallels between Prufrock and Crime and Punishment.13 The protagonists of both works wander down foggy streets, haunted by an “overwhelming question.” Both protagonists ask themselves, “Do I dare? Do I dare?” Prufrock says, “There will be time to murder and create.” Both protagonists climb stairs in order to act, then change their mind, and “descend the stair.” Both protagonists think about Lazarus.

Prufrock drowns without making a decision, while Raskolnikov (the protagonist of Crime and Punishment) commits a murder, then finds his way to spiritual rebirth. But John Pope argues that Prufrock, too, or his creator, eventually finds his way to spiritual rebirth. In The Waste Land, Eliot describes “spiritual sterility,” but also suggests the possibility of “regeneration.” In his Four Quartets, Eliot finally achieves this regeneration. So the potential for rebirth exists in Prufrock as in Raskolnikov; in other words, Crime and Punishment anticipates the spiritual development of Eliot/Prufrock.14

But the most striking parallels between Prufrock and Crime and Punishment are the verbal parallels. John Pope begins by noting that Constance Garnett’s translation of Crime and Punishment appeared nine months before the publication of Prufrock. Pope surmises that Eliot read Garnett’s translation as he was composing Prufrock.

Here’s one of the verbal parallels:
After Raskolnikov confesses his crime to Sonia, he tries to explain his motive for the murder. But Sonia says, “Oh, that’s not it, that’s not it.... How could one... no, that’s not right, not right.” Raskolnikov says, “That’s not it, you are right there.... No, Sonia, that’s not it... that’s not it!” In Prufrock, we have

That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.

And a few lines later,

That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.

Here’s another verbal parallel:
Raskolnikov says to Sonia,

I know it all, I have thought it all over and over and whispered it all over to myself, lying there in the dark.... I’ve argued it all over with myself, every point of it, and I know it all, all! And how sick, how sick I was then of going over it all!

Prufrock says,

For I have known them all already, known them all —
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons....
And I have known the eyes already, known them all....
And I have known the arms already, known them all....

John Pope mentions yet more verbal parallels, and concludes, “Unless the gods of chance have performed one of their strangest miracles, the Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment was a major source of inspiration for Prufrock.” Pope wrote to Eliot, asking about the parallels between Prufrock and Crime and Punishment. Eliot responded that he did indeed read Crime and Punishment (and two other Dostoyevsky novels) when he was writing Prufrock.

These three novels made a very profound impression on me and I had read them all before Prufrock was completed, so I think you have established very conclusively the essentials of your case.

But Eliot read Dostoyevsky in a French translation; the Garnett translation didn’t appear until late 1914, about three years after Prufrock was completed. “I have never read Mrs. Garnett’s translation of Crime and Punishment,” Eliot wrote to Pope. So the numerous verbal parallels between Prufrock and Crime and Punishment remain a mystery. “The gods of chance have performed one of their strangest miracles.”

If you’re receptive to the occult, when you hear the word “chance,” you suspect the presence of the occult. Perhaps this is a new topic of literary inquiry: allusions to works not yet published, and quotations from published works that the quoter never saw. There must be many such allusions and quotations, many such ‘strange miracles.’15

T. S. Eliot by Wyndham Lewis

In 1915, Eliot married Vivienne Haigh-Wood, an English woman. Vivienne had literary interests, and contributed to Eliot’s magazine, the Criterion. It was an unhappy marriage, and Vivienne was eventually committed to an insane asylum. In 1922, Eliot published The Waste Land, which was shaped by his unhappy marriage, by the work of James Frazer and Jessie Weston, and by other influences (Frazer and Weston wrote about the fertility myths of prehistoric societies). Eliot dedicated The Waste Land to Pound, whom Eliot called “il miglior fabbro” (the better craftsman).

Between 1938 and 1957, Eliot had a female friend/companion named Mary Trevelyan, who wrote a “riveting memoir” of Eliot called The Pope of Russell Square. During the last eight years of his life (1957 to 1965), Eliot was married to his secretary, a much younger woman named Esmé Valerie Fletcher. Eliot had no children with either of his wives.

In 1939, Eliot published a volume of light verse called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (“Old Possum” was Pound’s nickname for Eliot). This volume later became the Broadway musical Cats.

In 1943, Eliot published Four Quartets, a collection of poems that Eliot (and many critics) regarded as his masterpiece. “The Four Quartets cannot be understood without reference to Christian thought, traditions, and history.”16 Eliot was serious about Christianity, at least in his later work. Regnery writes,

The primary aim of all three, Pound, Eliot and Lewis, each in his own way, was to defend civilized values. For Eliot, the means to restore the health of Western civilization was Christianity. In his essay The Idea of A Christian Society (1939) he pointed out the dangers of the dominant liberalism of the time, which he thought “must either proceed into a gradual decline of which we can see no end, or reform itself into a positive shape which is likely to be effectively secular.” To attain, or recover, the Christian society which he thought was the only alternative to a purely secular society, he recommended, among other things, a Christian education.

The goal of a Christian education was to create an elite “Community of Christians.”

It will be their “identity of belief and aspiration, their background of a common culture, which will enable them to influence and be influenced by each other, and collectively to form the conscious mind and the conscience of the nation.”17

In 1933, Eliot delivered a series of lectures at the University of Virginia, a series that was published in 1934 under the title After Strange Gods: A Primer of Modern Heresy. In After Strange Gods, Eliot says that “unity of religious background” is important, and that “reasons of race and religion combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable.”18

Eliot’s poetry often has Christian-philosophical ideas, and his criticism shows respect for philosophy/ideas/content. Eliot criticized the tendency, found in some modern poets, to make language all-important, to make language an end in itself. Eliot said, “The extreme awareness of and concern for language [is] something which must ultimately break down.... Poetry is only poetry... so long as the subject matter is valued for its own sake.”19 Eliot believed that we shouldn’t judge literature on purely aesthetic grounds. “The ‘greatness’ of literature cannot be determined solely by literary standards.... Literary criticism should be completed by criticism from a definite ethical and theological standpoint.”20

But Eliot failed to appreciate any philosophy but his own Christian philosophy. He failed to appreciate Shakespeare’s Hermetic philosophy; he spoke of Shakespeare’s “inferior and muddled philosophy of life.”21 He failed to appreciate the deeper meaning in Poe’s work; he said that Poe has “the intellect of a highly gifted young person before puberty,” and that Poe appealed to readers “at the period of life when they were just emerging from childhood.”22 Eliot failed to appreciate D. H. Lawrence’s philosophy, which respects the unconscious and aims for psychological wholeness; Eliot accused Lawrence of being egotistical, cruel, and humorless.

The only philosophy that Eliot appreciated was the Christian philosophy that he found in Dante and the Metaphysicals. Eliot understood that content matters, worldview matters, language shouldn’t be an end in itself, but his view of philosophy was old-fashioned, Western, narrow.

Eliot failed to grasp the Oxford theory (he accepted the conventional view of Shakespeare). But he realized that Shakespeare’s Sonnets were more than pretty words; he realized the Sonnets were autobiography. He admitted that he didn’t understand the Sonnets: “This autobiography,” Eliot said, “is written by a foreign man in a foreign tongue, which can never be translated.” Eliot didn’t realize that the Oxford Theory would provide the Rosetta Stone that would make it possible to understand the Sonnets.

One of Eliot’s most influential essays was his essay on the Metaphysical Poets. He admired the Metaphysicals for their ability to combine objective and subjective, and he criticized the Romantics for excessive subjectivity. Thus, he initiated a “revaluation” of English literature, a new view of English literature. As he said in his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” “The past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.”23

Eliot’s essays have a ponderous, pedantic tone that made academics swoon. He influenced the “New Criticism,” which took an impersonal approach to literature, and held sway in academia from about 1940 to 1970. So great was Eliot’s influence in these years that one critic dubbed it “The Age of Eliot.”24

Those of us who believe that civilization must move past monotheism will take issue with Eliot’s worldview. But there’s no denying his genius or his deep commitment to culture.

D. Ezra Pound

We can divide Pound’s life into six periods:

  1. his American period, from his birth in 1885 until 1908; Pound was born in Idaho and grew up in Pennsylvania; when he was about 20, he “resolved that at thirty I would know more about poetry than any man living.... I learned more or less of nine foreign languages, I read Oriental stuff in translations, I fought every University regulation and every professor who tried to make me learn anything except this, or who bothered me with ‘requirements for degrees.’”25
  2. his London period, from 1908 to 1920; in London, he became close friends with Yeats, and met Dorothy Shakespear, an English painter; Dorothy was interested in astrology, and “asked Pound for his exact moment of birth to prepare an astrology chart.” Dorothy predicted, “You will marry twice and have two children.”26 Pound and Dorothy married in 1914.
  3. his Paris period, from 1921 to 1924; in Paris, he began a 50-year affair with Olga Rudge, an American violinist, while still maintaining his relationship with Dorothy Shakespear; Pound had a son with Dorothy and a daughter with Olga (fulfilling Dorothy’s prediction of two women and two children); while in Paris, Pound became friends with Hemingway, Ford Madox Ford, etc.
  4. his first Italian period, from 1924 to 1945; in Italy, Pound worked on his Cantos, a sprawling work inspired by Dante
  5. his hospital period, from 1945 to 1958, when Pound lived in a psychiatric hospital in Washington, DC; Pound’s living conditions at the hospital were quite good, and he wasn’t eager to leave
  6. his second Italian period, from 1958 until he died in Venice in 1972, at age 87

Dorothy Shakespear, Pound’s wife, passport picture


Olga Rudge, Pound’s mistress

During his London years, Pound met an economic theorist, Major Douglas. Influenced by Douglas, Pound became obsessed by “usury,” and blamed Jews for establishing a “usurocracy.” According to Pound, the British had become a slave race, governed since Waterloo by the Rothschilds.27 During World War II, while living in Italy, Pound made radio broadcasts in which he excoriated the British: “You let in the Jew and the Jew rotted your empire, and you yourselves out-jewed the Jew.... You stand for NOTHING but usury.”

As a result of these broadcasts, Pound was charged with treason by American authorities; at the end of World War II, Pound was imprisoned by U.S. forces at a camp near Pisa. He was kept in a small outdoor cage, and these harsh conditions led to insanity. When he was moved to better conditions, Pound regained his sanity, and he began writing the Pisan Cantos, initially on a sheet of toilet paper. In 1949, his friends arranged for him to receive the Bollingen Prize from the Library of Congress, sparking “enormous controversy.”28

A Portrait of the Artist as a Caged Animal

One of the themes of Pound’s life was Oriental culture — his interest in it, and its influence on his own poetry. During his London years, Pound often visited the British Museum, and he became friends with Laurence Binyon, a curator of Japanese prints. These prints were often inscribed with poetry.

Influenced by these Japanese poems, and in collaboration with his poet-friends Richard Aldington and Hilda Doolittle, Pound developed a type of poetry that he called Imagism. “The aim was clarity: a fight against abstraction, romanticism, rhetoric, inversion of word order, and over-use of adjectives.”29

Pound had met Hilda Doolittle at Penn when he was 16 and she was 15. Later she joined him in London. Hilda was Pound’s “first serious romance.”30 He wanted to marry her, but her family objected. Hilda eventually married Richard Aldington, but the marriage didn’t last. Hilda became involved with various men and various women. In the 1930s, she became a friend and patient of Freud “in order to understand and express her bisexuality.”31 Hilda also had a “close but platonic relationship with D. H. Lawrence.” Near the end of her life, Hilda wrote End to Torment: A Memoir of Ezra Pound. She also wrote Winter Love, which describes her relationship with Pound in poetic form.

Hilda Doolittle (“H.D.”)

During Pound’s London years, the Oriental scholar Ernest Fenollosa died and his widow gave his notes to Pound. Working from Fenollosa’s notes, Pound translated Chinese poems and published them in a book called Cathay. Ford Madox Ford called Cathay “the most beautiful book in the language.”

In his last years, Pound became gloomy, regretting his support for Fascism, and losing faith in his literary work. When the poet Allen Ginsberg visited him in 1967, Pound told him, “My poems don’t make sense.... [I’m] not a lunatic, but a moron.... The worst mistake I made was that stupid, suburban prejudice of anti-semitism.”32

Let’s give Wyndham Lewis the last word about Pound:

He was a man of letters, in the marrow of his bones and down to the red rooted follicles of his hair. He breathed Letters, ate Letters, dreamt Letters. A very rare kind of man.

© L. James Hammond 2016
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1B. Another conservative author published by Regnery was Richard Weaver, best known for Ideas Have Consequences. Weaver was an English teacher at the University of Chicago, and he was known as a great teacher. Weaver had a religious reverence for language, and believed that “misuse of language caused social corruption.” He wrote a book called The Ethics of Rhetoric.

Weaver’s roots were in the South, and he tried to preserve the agrarian tradition. He grew up in North Carolina and Kentucky. He was a grad student at Vanderbilt, where his mentor was John Crowe Ransom, one of the Southern Agrarians. While teaching in Chicago, Weaver spent summers in North Carolina. “To connect himself with traditional modes of agrarian life, he insisted that the family vegetable garden in [North Carolina] be plowed by mule.” Weaver died at 53. back

1. Wikipedia back
2. Wikipedia back
3. This is Regnery quoting Lewis. back
4. A quote from Regnery, containing a phrase from Lewis. back
5. Pound was also a fan of Henry James. See his essay on James in Literary Essays of Ezra Pound. back
6. See “Tradition and the Individual Talent in ‘Prufrock’” by Stanley Sultan, Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Mar., 1985), pp. 77-90, This essay is interesting, but it’s written in a thorny, academic style. Other essays on Prufrock:
  • “Dante and T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock,” by Frederick W. Locke (MLN, Vol. 78, No. 1, Italian Issue, Jan., 1963, pp. 51-59, on web here) throws light on the opening of the poem, and though it doesn’t teach us much about Dante, it has some interesting remarks about Baudelaire.
  • “Charlotte Eliot and ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’” describes Prufrock as a revolt against Eliot’s Protestant background.
  • “Knowledge and Experience in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” deals with the English philosopher F. H. Bradley. I found it obscure and difficult to read.
  • Some critics praise an essay called “Observations on ‘Prufrock,’” by Roberta Morgan and Albert Wohlstetter, Harvard Advocate, CXXV, 27 ff. (Dec., 1938), but I haven’t been able to find it online.
7. Jewel Spears Brooker, quoted in Donald J. Childs, “Knowledge and Experience in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” on web here.

If Prufrock is “etherized,” then he’s receptive to the unconscious — receptive to the memories and images that reside in the unconscious. One thinks of the last chapter of Joyce’s Ulysses, and the half-asleep Molly Bloom. back

8. From Eliot’s Introduction to Pound’s Selected Poems, quoted in “Tradition and the Individual Talent in ‘Prufrock’” back
9. “Over thirty years after writing the poem, Eliot told an inquirer that he was a Bergsonian when he composed The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” (See Donald J. Childs, “Knowledge and Experience in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”) back
10. Quoted in Donald J. Childs, “Knowledge and Experience in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

Here’s a sample of Eliot’s remarks on Bradley:

Few will ever take the pains to study the consummate art of Bradley’s style, the finest philosophic style in our language, in which acute intellect and passionate feeling preserve a classic balance: only those who will surrender patient years to the understanding of his meaning. But upon these few, both living and unborn, his writings perform that mysterious and complete operation which transmutes not one department of thought only, but the whole intellectual and emotional tone of their being.
11. Perhaps Donne could combine thought and feeling because he believed in an inter-connected world, he had a Hermetic worldview, as Shakespeare did. Connectedness, for poets like Donne, was a theory and also a feeling. Once Newton broke the world into separate objects, connectedness was lost. (For more on Hermetic vs. Newtonian poetry, see The Breaking of the Circle: Studies in the Effect of the “New Science” on Seventeenth-Century Poetry, by Marjorie Hope Nicolson.) back
12. “Laurence Sterne and Eliot’s ‘Prufrock’: An Object Lesson in Explication,” by Seymour L. Gross, College English, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Nov., 1957), pp. 72-73, on web here back
13. “Prufrock and Raskolnikov,” by John C. Pope, American Literature, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Nov., 1945), pp. 213-230, on web here back
14. See the last sentence of “Prufrock and Raskolnikov” back
15. In an earlier issue, we mentioned several cases of plots borrowed from events that hadn’t yet occurred. Joyce believed there were “many instances” of his fiction anticipating future events. This, too, might be a new topic of literary inquiry. back
16. Wikipedia

Prufrock’s attitude toward Christianity is irreverent, ironic. How should we explain this? Did Eliot become more pious as he grew older? back

17. Occasionally Eliot speaks of a spiritual life that isn’t narrowly Christian. According to Wikipedia, Eliot “also had wider spiritual interests, commenting that ‘I see the path of progress for modern man in his occupation with his own self, with his inner being’ and citing Goethe and Rudolf Steiner as exemplars of such a direction.” In my view, focus on the “inner being” is an important part of spiritual life; it plays a role in Zen and Jung, it isn’t tied to Christianity. back
18. This is a quote from Eliot; it can be found in Wikipedia and in The New Criterion. Did Eliot think that a large number of free-thinking non-Jews was also undesirable?

Eliot didn’t republish After Strange Gods; one critic speaks of “his suppression of the book.” back

19. This is a quote from Eliot’s 1948 essay “From Poe to Valéry” back
20. This is a quote from Eliot’s 1935 essay “Religion and Literature” back
21. Ironically, this is a quote from Eliot’s introduction to G. Wilson Knight’s Wheel of Fire, the very book that refutes Eliot’s assertion. back
22. “From Poe to Valéry” back
23. Eliot was influenced by one of his professors at Harvard, Irving Babbitt. Babbitt was a conservative, a critic of Rousseau, and a critic of Romanticism. Babbitt and Paul Elmer More were leading figures in the so-called New Humanism. Eliot wrote an essay called “The Humanism of Irving Babbitt.” back
24. In his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” Eliot set forth what he called the “Impersonal theory of poetry.” He said, “Honest criticism and sensitive appreciation is directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry.... The more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates.... Impressions and experiences which are important for the man may take no place in the poetry, and those which become important in the poetry may play quite a negligible part in the man, the personality.”

Shakespeare’s sonnets refute this theory, since they’re based on key events in the poet’s life — his desire that his son marry, and his concern that his son has been arrested and sentenced to death. None of the “negligible” events in the poet’s life had such an impact on his poetry. back

25. Wikipedia back
26. Wikipedia back
27. Wikipedia back
28. Wikipedia back
29. Wikipedia back
30. Wikipedia back
31. Wikipedia back
32. Pound’s bitterness in his final years reminds one of Ford Madox Ford’s bitterness in his final years. Ford said, “‘I helped Joseph Conrad, I helped Hemingway. I helped a dozen, a score of writers, and many of them have beaten me. I’m now an old man and I’ll die without making a name like Hemingway.’ At this climax Ford began to sob. Then he began to cry.” back