ON POETRY AND POETS, by T. S. Eliot (Faber, 21s.).
ONE hesitates to say how welcome comes this book, since a certain detachment in Mr. Eliot seems to rebuff the vulgarity of reviewers. The chill bays which decorate his brow have kept some of us at a respectful distance; and now. when we discover him genial and unbending, it is hard to express our delighted recognition.
"On Poetry and Poets" is the most impressive collection of critical pieces published by an English author during the last 20 years. It comprises 16 studies, most of them first delivered as lectures and addresses, and all save two of them dating from 1940 onwards (the exceptions being an essay on Byron and an early article on Sir John Davies).
Mr. Eliot's high gifts of discerning sensibility and rare discrimination are outstandingly present in this volume. To them are added charity and wisdom in a fuller degree than in this critic's earlier writing. Conspicuously absent is that "prissiness" of language sometimes detected in Mr. Eliot's prose. "We all want to get drunk now and again, whether we do or not" comes as a pleasant admission from one who confesses to "a Calvinistic heritage and a Puritanical temperament."
These,-and such statements, are perhaps the late fruits of what Mr. Eliot calls his "Catholic cast of mind.' Certainly his hook is full of generous recompense for original wrongs (see his addresses on Milton and Goethe).
Few of iis have needed convincing concerning Mr. Eliot's critical talents. "On Poetry and Poets" offers something new: a demonstration of amiableness conveyed through his personality in print.