on 22 February 2012
Eliot's early work with Christopher Ricks' concordance-like editorial commentary and analysis exposes more of the writer's direction before The Waste Land, from the age of 21 until he decided to stop studying philosophy and concentrate on poetry.
The younger voice of Eliot - including examples of work he himself made no effort to see published - is recognisably composing the hymn-sheet from which he would sing throughout his career. The editor avoids speculating about the personality of Eliot as a man; more of that will be revealed perhaps when future volumes of Eliot's letters are eventually published.
The inclusion of 'bawdy' verses will doubtless fuel some discussion concerning Eliot's 'image' as a dry, po-faced and repressed guardian of Christian moral rectitude, and show the accessibility otherwise popularly thought only to be found in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Considered 'difficult', even 'irrelevant', Eliot seems to be falling from grace in the study of literary tradition, and is denigrated as antisemitic, misogynistic and deliberately intellectually and religiously elitist and obscure. If minds have been closing towards Eliot as an author on the spurious basis of judging him, incorrectly, to be a deeply flawed human being, then it is good to see the release of this book as an opportunity to reopen minds and broaden discussion, based on his work rather than speculation about his personality through extrapolations of misinterpretation that of his poetry and essays previously available.