From the Revd Alexander Faludy
Sir, - Dr Martyn Halsall's article on T. S. Eliot (Features, 27 February) is
unfortunate not so much for what it says as for what it does not.
Eliot indeed "crossed frontiers", one of them being into an
anti-Semitism that disfigures the spirituality of his work.
Instances include the lines in "Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein
with a Cigar" (1920):
The rats are underneath the
The Jew is underneath the lot.
Money in furs.
While the theme did not persist in his poetry (presumably he
early exhausted its rather limited creative possibilities), it did
long continue in his prose, as witnessed by After Strange Gods:
A primer of modern heresy (1934): "What is still more
important [than cultural homogeneity] is unity of religious
background, and reasons of race and religion combine to make any
large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable."
Moreover, unlike Malcolm Muggeridge's sexual peccadilloes
(Letters, same issue), these sentiments were not later publicly
recanted and repented of, even after they ceased to be
Acknowledging this side of Eliot does not debar one from
appreciating (even commemorating) him as a poet, any more than it
does memorialising St John Chrysostom or Martin Luther as
theologians. It does, however, need to be. The issue seems obscured
beneath Dr Halsall's emollient words about Eliot's "faith being
illuminated from many directions - not least his appreciation of
other world faiths".
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