T. S. ELIOT: a symposium for his seventieth birthday, edited by Neville Braybrooke (Rupert Hart-Davis, 21s.).
SYMPOSIA in honour of great
men are apt to he disappointing: the contributions they contain are too often overshadowed by the eminence of the man himself and of his work. This danger Neville Braybrooke and his team of 50
contributors have brilliantly avoided in the present book in honour of T. S. Eliot's 70th birthday, which he celebrates today (Friday). It is a book to he read and to be kept.
Besides the hidden labour of editing the whole, Mr. Braybrooke has written an introduction in which he lightly and illuminatingly explores some of the threads that Eliot has woven into his work. The frontispiece is by David Jones: a magnificent inscription of the epigraph about the Sibyl of Comae which stands at the head of "The Waste Land." Vernon Watkins has composed a splendid ode which, more than anything else in English, approaches the actual feel of a classical Greek poem.
ROSE MACAULAY and Harold ' Nicolson describe what is. to younger generations who have grown up with Eliot's words echoing in their minds, an inconceivable experience: the impact made by hie earlier poems, especially "The Waste Land," when they first appeared. To balance this, there is a section contributed by schoolchildren which shows his effect on the minds of those still in their teens: like Horace, Eliot has become a school text-book in his own time.
All the facets of Eliot's genius are here displayed and discussed: there are papers on producing his plays, on interpreting his roles (by Robert Speight), on filming and televising his dramatic work, on setting his poetry to music, on Eliot as a classical scholar, as a translator, as a political writer, as a moralist. Oddly-enough there is no one paper on his work as an editor, though there are frequent references to his handling of the " Criterion."
To crown the whole book. G. S. Fraser has contributed an enlightening study comparing Eliot and Yeats, the only other 20thcentury poet writing in English to have attained the same eminence, though so strikingly different in technique, in subject-matter, and in his whole approach to life.