Of all the English-language writers of the twentieth century, only William Faulkner (if the MLA Bibliography can be trusted) regularly commands more scholarly attention these days than Thomas Stearns Eliot. Every four days or so, on average, a scholar somewhere in the world adds a new monograph, dissertation, or essay on Eliot to his curriculum vitae. All the more peculiar, then, that it has taken twenty years (Eliot died on January 4, 1965) for someone to come out with an honest-to-goodness biography of the century’s most celebrated poet and critic. There have, to be sure, been three widely admired (or at least widely read) pseudo-biographies of the man from St. Louis, the titles of which suggest an odd humility—or cautiousness?—on the part of their authors. Herbert Howarth’s book is called Notes on Some Figures Behind T. S. Eliot (1965); T....


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