In his essay on the function of the critical quarterly, Allen Tate was moved to remark, “The great magazines have been edited by autocrats.” Among so many editors and their fiefdoms—Harriet Shaw Weaver’s The Egoist, Ford Madox Ford’s Transatlantic Review, Harriet Monroe’s Poetry, Margaret Anderson’s The Little Review, Marianne Moore’s The Dial, John Crowe Ransom’s The Fugitive, Lincoln Kirstein’s Hound and Horn, Eugene Jolas’s Transition—the greatest autocrat was unquestionably T. S. Eliot. Allen Tate spoke for the majority of his contemporaries when he averred that Eliot’s Criterion “has been the best quarterly of our time.”

The story of The Criterion begins with the death of The Egoist in 1919. Eliot had served as its assistant editor for two years; now he wanted...


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