Essays and Lectures
Eliot’s first essay on Baudelaire, which was included in For Lancelot Andrewes, after appearing in May 1927, was a critical review of Arthur Symons’ translations of Baudelaire. It has as much to say on Symons as on Baudelaire, and is particularly critical of his transformation, rather than translation, of Baudelaire, a rendering in terms of religious aestheticism, ritual, and confession which recalls Pater, and is as incongruous with Eliot’s own period (he adds with some chronological confusion) as with that of Shaw, Wells, Strachey, and Hemingway. Using ‘violet’ pejoratively (instead of with approval, as in The Waste Land), Eliot illustrates how Symons, using ‘counters of habitual and lazy sentiment’, envelops the definition of Baudelaire in the ‘Swinburnian violet-coloured London fog’ of the eighteen-nineties. He had assumed that Baudelaire’s poetry was devoted to the passions, and was affected by heredity and nervous temperament. ‘If a writer sees truly’, Eliot answers, making less of his conditional clause than he ought, ‘his heredity and nerves do not matter’ — a statement that must seem inconsistent with other, more striking, assertions he made on the relationship between poetry and the writer’s nerves.
KeywordsLiterary Criticism Christian Faith Christian Society Conditional Clause English Poet
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