A Critical Difference: T. S. Eliot and John Middleton Murry in English Literary Criticism, 1919-1928

By David Goldie | Go to book overview

3
Orthodoxy and Modernism
The Claims of Religion, 1926-1928

THE first phase of the explicit disagreement between Eliot and Murry, framed largely as a contention between classicism and romanticism, had effectively ended by mid-1924. Murry's last contribution to the debate, "Romanticism and the Tradition", which had been published in April's Criterion, elicited only an indirect response from Eliot in the form of an editorial "Commentary" in the following July. "Romanticism and the Tradition" had returned Murry to a favourite argument: that 'the tradition of Romanticism is just as lofty and august as the tradition of classicism'.1 In making this argument Murry had directly confronted those, like Eliot, who criticized his blurring of religious and aesthetic boundaries and who insisted on an absolute separation between the two areas of activity. For Murry, arguments of this kind, relying ultimately for their authority on dogma rather than experience, showed the paucity of both religious and literary traditionalism. The error of assuming no relation between the activities of religion and literature, he had contended, comes from attempting to compare two barren categories devoid of the spiritual content by which they were originally related. Instead of constituting two living and changing areas of experience, the religion described by the Catholic and the literature conceived by the traditionalist persist only as skeletal traces of the living forms that once animated them:

The vital motion of religion becomes petrified into dogmas and ceremonies; the vital motion of literature is ossified into forms and canons; and between

____________________
1
"Romanticism and the Tradition", Criterion, 2/7 ( Apr. 1924), 272-95 (p. 273).

-128-

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A Critical Difference: T. S. Eliot and John Middleton Murry in English Literary Criticism, 1919-1928
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Oxford English Monographs i
  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Reconstruction: Murry, Eliot, and the Athenaeum, 1919-1921 12
  • 2 - The Criterion Versus the Adelphi, 1922-1925 69
  • 3 - Orthodoxy and Modernism the Claims of Religion, 1926-1928 128
  • Select Bibliography 197
  • Index 211
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