In his essay 'JOHN FORD', Eliot says that 'the whole of Shakespeare's work is one poem'. He continues, 'and it is the poetry of it in this sense, not the poetry of isolated lines and passages or the poetry of single figures which he created, that matters most.' Eliot maintains that it is this 'one significant, consistent and developing personality', that makes Shakespeare 'a great poet'. And yet, though he identifies the presence of this 'personality', he does not analyse its constituents. In this study of Eliot, I have attempted to characterise his 'significant, consistent and developing personality'. I want, in the words of Matthew Arnold, to see his achievement 'steadily and see it whole'. But I have also tried to do local justice to Eliot's genius at the level of the word, the phrase, and the passage. I am interested in the 'one poem', but it would be philistine to slight the detail of individual poems.
Eliot's lifelong themes, despite the manifest and exemplary variety of the poems, are consistent. One major theme is the failure to . . .