Reconstruction: Murry, Eliot, and the
Eliot and Murry were peculiarly insulated from the First World War. Murry had been declared unfit for military service, and only in the latter part of the war did he take up an administrative post in the War Office. Indeed, his only spell in France during the war years was in 1916, when he had an idyllic holiday with Katherine Mansfield in Bandol in the south of the country. Eliot had arrived in Britain in 1914, and although he volunteered for military service towards its end, he passed the war firstly in education and then in banking. Although neither was directly involved in it, however, the war and its aftermath would prove of lasting consequence to their criticism.
Their very remoteness from the war would, perhaps ironically, give them a particular advantage over those among their literary contemporaries who had experienced it more directly. For while many of these contemporaries would undergo a kind of literary paralysis, and would only be able to come to terms with the war towards the end of the 1920s (when most of the classic war memoirs were written), Murry and Eliot were able to recognize the war's devastating consequences for intellectual culture without having undergone the kind of experience that might make them despair of a cultural remedy for that devastation.
Murry, in particular, had felt the immediate effects of the war as a cultural and intellectual crisis in this way, and had incorporated that sense of crisis into his criticism. While at Bandol he had been working on his first critical monograph, Fyodor Dostoevsky, in which he proclaimed the necessity of the 'dawn of a new consciousness' that he purported to find in the works of Dostoevsky. Those works, Murry