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T. S. Eliot and the charge of anti-Semitism in his writings

24 April 2015


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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