These 'Critical Heritage' volumes on T. S. Eliot get off to a bad start, and persevere. The chosen items are 'printed verbatim', 'apart from the silent correction of spelling errors and other minutiae'. Why then preserve 'elegaic' and For Launcelot Andrewes? Did F.L. Lucas really write, unremarked, that Eliot may have been indebted to something called 'Childe Harold to the Dark Tower Came'? Yes he did, actually. But the editing and printing of these books are so slovenly that, half-unjustly, one is inclined to give everybody else the benefit of the doubt. Meeting a critic called Cleanth Brook, or a title The Romantic Image, or an Eliot work called 'Eeldrop and Applepex', one is in danger of what would here be called apopexy. French words are usually, though not with the assurance of invariability, docked of their accents. English words mutate into such forms as 'notive', 'wordly', 'myseries', and 'conrete'. Sometimes you start to wonder whether it is the original author (in the following case, Harriet Monroe) or the editor (Michael Grant) or you yourself who must be getting giddy: 'While stating nothing, it suggests everything that is in his rapidly moving mind, in a series of shifting scenes which fade in and out of each other like the cinema. The form, with its play of many-colored lights on words that flash from everywhere in the poet's dream, is a perfect expression of the shifting scenes which fade in and out of each other like the cinema. The form, with its play of many-colored lights on words that flash from everywhere in the poet's dream, is a perfect expression of the shifting tortures in his soul.' Come again? Or rather, let the middle sentence go.
LRB 2 December 1982 | PDF Download