Eliot and the traditions o f criticism
In these days o f the professional academic critic, writing for tenure in the university, it is well to remind ourselves that many of the most incisive critics o f literature have been or are poets or novelists themselves. Within the English tradition Dryden, Samuel Johnson, Coleridge and M atthew Arnold immediately suggest themselves. And we can add to those, from varied traditions, Henry Jam es, Ezra Pound and W. B. Yeats. There are others like W. H. Auden who are more quirky but always interesting. In any such list Eliot will be centrally important. There is a sweep and concern about his critical writings, viewed as a whole, which assures them of a major status, not just in literary but social questions too. And taken as individual items there is scarcely an essay of his that does not make the reader think.