Trade in your item
Get a £6.00
Gift Card.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

The Composition of Four Quartets Hardcover – 23 Jan 1979

See all 4 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"

Trade In this Item for up to £6.00
Trade in The Composition of Four Quartets for an Amazon Gift Card of up to £6.00, which you can then spend on millions of items across the site. Trade-in values may vary (terms apply). Learn more

Product details

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Customer Reviews

There are no customer reviews yet on
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Helen Gardner is an Authority 29 Jan 2001
By Nessander - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Four Quartets is unarguably Eliot's masterpiece, one of the last things he wrote. It is a notoriously difficult work to read, but Helen Gardner is the authority on the matter.
Although I don't find her writing style to be as accessible as Reibetanz's book on the Four Quartets, she will help anyone to a deeper understanding of these beautiful, philosophical poems. Unfortunately such books tend to be out of print, but if you can find a copy somewhere and you want to come to a better understanding of Eliot's poems, grab it! Otherwise check your library.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
From Burnt Norton to Little Gidding, and from "Kensington Quartets" to "Four Quartets" 10 July 2011
By R. M. Peterson - Published on
Format: Paperback
Of all of T.S. Eliot's poems (which, in retrospect, are relatively few, at least in view of his stature as a poet), "Four Quartets" is my favorite. If you, too, profoundly appreciate it, I strongly recommend THE COMPOSITION OF FOUR QUARTETS by Dame Helen Gardner.

As a poet, Eliot - not surprisingly - was a painstaking craftsman, producing numerous drafts and then subjecting them to meticulous word-by-word scrutiny and revision. He also liked to solicit feedback from a few close friends. As a result of these practices, and the fact that so many of the drafts and associated correspondence were saved, there is an abundance of documentary materials relating to the composition of "Four Quartets". Gardner drew on these, as well as her independent Eliot scholarship and her connections (including what had been a friendship with Eliot himself and then a closer one with his widow), to produce a fascinating and very instructive account of the creation of what many regard to be Eliot's finest work. (Eliot, too, thought the Quartets his "best work".)

The book is divided into two Parts. The first Part, comprising about one third of the volume, is superb. In it Gardner discusses generally the composition of the four poems (from 1935 through 1942), Eliot's methods and practices in writing them, and - of especial interest - many of his sources and inspirations. Along the way, she provides many insights into interpretation of the poems.

Among other things, Gardner discusses Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages, and Little Gidding as geographical places, as well as their personal significance for Eliot. We learn that the opening of "Burnt Norton" consisted of, with minor revision, a passage that had been excised from an early version of "Murder in the Cathedral". Regarding the memorable opening lines of "The Dry Salvages" ("I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river / Is a strong brown god * * *"), Gardner refers us to the Mississippi River and a preface Eliot later wrote for an edition of "Huckleberry Finn", in which he asserted that for Mark Twain "the River God is his God", and further, that "without some kind of God, Man is not even very interesting" (a fertile thought, that).

Gardner also discusses how the poems were not originally conceived of as a group, and it was only in the final stages of writing the second, "East Coker", that Eliot resolved or realized that there would be a set of four. And, indeed, the four poems initially were published separately, as each was completed. When Eliot decided to issue them together, as a set, his first impulse was to call it "Kensington Quartets". His good friend and, for a decade, flat-mate James Hayward talked him out of it. Eliot also considered as an epigraph for the collected "Four Quartets" the observation, from "The Pickwick Papers", of Mr. Roker of the Fleet prison: "What a rum thing time is, ain't it, Neddy?" (I for one wish that he had followed through with that notion.)

Part II of the book consists of a scrupulously detailed presentation of the revisions made to the poems in the course of their composition, together with (frequently) commentary on the thinking behind those revisions, which usually is gleaned from correspondence between Eliot and his sounding boards. The presentation is more accessible and graceful than I would have expected, but the fact remains that this Part contains much arcane minutia that is of interest primarily to the Eliot scholar.

As a physical artifact, THE COMPOSITION OF FOUR QUARTETS is a model of book production. As conceived, it required -- and it received -- very careful typesetting (done manually). All in all, it is an exceedingly handsome book, with the sort of gratifying heft that signifies gravitas. Unfortunately, it is now out of print and not readily available on the secondary market. (The prices charged by resellers through Amazon as of the date of this review are unconscionable; the book can be obtained elsewhere on the Internet for considerably less money, though still what a fine bottle of wine might cost you.) Then again, there always are libraries.
You can tell this book by its cover 16 Nov 2012
By J. C. Woods - Published on
Format: Paperback
Please allow me a moment to vent my frustration: Why is this book, the best book on Eliot's Four Quartets I have read, the book all the commentators reference, the book based on actual interviews with the poet and his editor and their correspondence during the writing of the poem, why is this book OUT OF PRINT!? Ok, I'm better now. If this is not a polished commentary, the title says exactly what it is: a description of Eliot's process of composition based on first hand sources: its not meant to be edifying, but nuts and bolts. If that's what you want, this is the only game in town. If not, I can understand how someone would give it only four stars (though its not Gardner's fault: this is a book you can tell by its cover).
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know

Look for similar items by category