The Invisible Poet: T. S. Eliot

The Invisible Poet: T. S. Eliot

The Invisible Poet: T. S. Eliot

The Invisible Poet: T. S. Eliot

Excerpt

Impenetrability! That's what I say!

--Humpty Dumpty.

We may assume that everyone by this time knows who T. S. Eliot is, that it is no longer necessary to testify to his lucidity, that there are as many handbooks as needed, that his religious affiliation is neither a cachet nor a curiosity, that his private life deserves to remain no less private than he has chosen to keep it, and that scholarship has barely omitted to scrutinize a line (unless perhaps "jug jug jug . . ."). Yet opinion concerning the most influential man of letters of the twentieth century has not freed itself from a cloud of unknowing. He is the Invisible Poet in an age of systematized literary scrutiny, much of it directed at him.

This is partly a deliberate achievement (he is the "impersonal" poet, and also Old Possum), partly the result of chance, but chiefly a consequence of the nature of his writing, which resists elucidation as stubbornly as Alice in Wonderland. Though he became, while still a "difficult" writer, very famous, he was for years the archetype of poetic impenetrability. It was a safe joke only a decade ago to suggest that the BBC maintain its standard of entertain-

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