Knowing Reality: A Reading of Four Quartets

  • Patrick Grant


There is an uneasy current of opinion about Four Quartets, suggesting that they are dogmatic, and consequently Christian readers are drawn to them, but secular humanists are not. ‘There can be little doubt — simply as a matter of fact, whether it ought to be so or not — that the radical difficulty is doctrinal’,1 says Graham Hough with an embracing confidence that might carry our assent, were it not that such rhetorical gestures commonly provoke the anxiety they would allay. The world ‘little’ already suggests Hough’s uneasiness; ‘radical’ then follows to qualify the statement further (but what might it mean, here?) Hough almost says, ‘There is no doubt that the difficulty is doctrinal’, but, astutely enough, he fudges. And so it is with a good deal of criticism of Four Quartets, which (as often with secondary literature) takes on a colouration of the original. As Hugh Kenner says, the poem creates an impression of being ‘innocently transparent’2 — plain and straightforward, that is — but keeps falling away into obscurity and enigma.


Dark Night Finite Centre Religious Sense Unmoved Mover Secular Humanist 
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  1. 1.
    Graham Hough, ‘Vision and Doctrine in Four Quartets’, Critical Quarterly 15 (1973) 108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hugh Kenner, The Invisible Poet: T. S. Eliot ( London: W. H. Allen, 1960 ) 249.Google Scholar
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    See Peter Ackroyd, T. S. Eliot ( London: Hamish Hamilton, 1984 ) 160.Google Scholar
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    F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality. A Metaphysical Essay (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930) 199–200, et passim.Google Scholar
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    T. E. Hulme, Speculations. Essays on Humanism and the Philosophy of Art (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971. First published, 1924 ) 118.Google Scholar
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    Denis Donoghue, ‘T. S. Eliot’s Quartets: A New Reading’ (1968), ed. Bergonzi, T. S. Eliot. Four Quartets, 213.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Grant

There are no affiliations available

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