Would the Real Mr. Eliot Please Stand Up?

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By the late 1920s Eliot realised that posterity would probably be interested in ‘the man behind the poetry’. This is why he asked his mother to arrange to have his letters to her destroyed after her death. It is also why his second wife, Valerie Fletcher, kept such a close eye on biographical activities in the late-twentieth/early twenty-first century, effectively preventing, for example, any helpful quotation of the poetry.

Eliot the man has not yet been satisfactorily written up. This failure has arguably delayed a thorough and proper evaluation of Eliot the poet.

Based on the still patchy evidence available, a sort of compound ghost of a writer – an anti-Semite , a misogynist, a repressed homosexual, a dry-stick underneath a four-piece suit, a peerlessly dazzling poet – continues to confound his pursuers. Some pursuers have resorted to inventing their Eliots, it seems, out of pure frustration. Is Eliot Prufrock in ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’? This chapter reassesses the situation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to Literary Biography
Place of PublicationWiley/Blackwell
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-118-89628-0
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Nov 2018


  • Eliot, biography


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