From the Revd Alexander Faludy
Sir, - Dr Martyn Halsall is right (Letters, 27 March) that
"context is vital" to an understanding of T. S. Eliot's
anti-Semitism. One of his worst statements on the dangers of Jewish
influence in society (in After Strange Gods, 1934) was
made against the background of the progressive implementation of
discriminatory race laws in Germany from 1933 onwards. These
remarks also postdated (by several years) the conversion to
Christianity which Dr Halsall sees as key to accurately dating
Eliot's turn away from these sentiments.
The citation of Peter Ackroyd's 1982 biography in support of Dr
Halsall's case is not persuasive. Ackroyd's work was severely
hampered because the Eliot estate famously denied him access to its
own archive deposit (containing by far the largest tranche of the
writer's private papers).
Those letters are still in the very slow process of being made
publicly accessible (Books, 27 February). The academic community
has yet to digest and assess those from 1933 onwards.
There remains much about Eliot to be both discovered and
discussed, regretted and admired.
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