Careers

T.E. Hulme

T.E. Hulme was born in North Staffordshire in 1883; he died fighting in the First World War (1914—1918) in 1917. His reputation rests on a small number of poems, essays, lectures and unfinished manuscripts of notes, which have been collected and published in various forms since his death. Although individual writers and critics, including Eliot, have consistently attested to his importance, the initially partial and unchronological publication of his writings in the collections Speculations (1924) and Further Speculations (1955) suggested a somewhat inconsistent thinker. In 1994, however, Karen Csengeri published her rigorous Collected Writings of T.E. Hulme, which gives a far fuller and more logical account of Hulme's thought.

Hulme excelled in mathematics, science and English at school, and in 1902 he won an exhibition scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge to read mathematics. In 1904, however, he was sent down for disruptive behaviour. After a short period at University College London, he travelled to Canada where he began the collection of philosophical notes and observations he called 'Cinders'. He returned briefly to England in 1907, before leaving to work as an English language teacher in Brussels. This experience, not surprisingly, appears to have encouraged him to connect the theories set out in 'Cinders' to questions of language: the resulting 'Notes on Language and Style', like 'Cinders', were published posthumously.

Hulme later said that his trip to Canada had made him feel 'the inevitableness of verse', and on his return to London in 1908, he joined the Poets' Club, with whom he published his first poetry, and to whom he delivered his 'A Lecture on Modern Poetry' in November 1908. This lecture is one of Hulme's few pieces of literary criticism, and it is important because it is a very early statement of the poetic principles associated with modernism. It advocated writing in free verse and juxtaposing distinct images on separate lines to convey the new emotions conjured up by the modern world, an argument that was an extension of his exploration of the complex relationship between reality, consciousness and language in 'Cinders' and 'Notes on Language and Style', but was also influenced by his reading of the free verse poems of the French symbolists. In 1909 Hulme left the Poets' Club and began an equivalent group of his own: Ezra Pound, recently arrived in London, attended the group for the first time in April. This group focussed its discussion and writing on the poetic image, and Hulme's theorizing of this approach to poetry is one of his most important claims to posterity, because it formed one of the bases for the influential imagist movement founded by Pound in 1912.

But Hulme's other claim to posterity is as an interpreter of continental philosophy. Over the next few years, he would become compelled successively by the thought of the French philosopher Henri Bergson, the French royalist and classicist group of writers known as the Action Française (led by Charles Maurras and Pierre Lasserre), the French syndicalist Georges Sorel and the German aesthetician Wilhelm Worringer. Hulme probably first read Bergson in 1907; between 1909 and 1913 most of his writing concerned Bergson's philosophy, and his translation of Bergson's 'Introduction à la métaphysique' ('An Introduction to Metaphysics') appeared in 1912. However, in 1911 he was persuaded by Pierre Lasserre that Bergson's philosophy was incompatible with his conservative politics, and the later of his articles on Bergson show him moving away from Bergson's so-called 'romantic' philosophy, towards the 'classicism' of the Action Française group. His polemic essay 'Romanticism and Classicism', which identifies the best of modern art and literature with the 'new classical spirit', dates from this period, as do a number of articles on Tory politics. In 1913 Hulme extended this argument to art and culture after encountering Worringer's work on geometric and naturalist art. In a lecture later published as 'Modern Art and Its Philosophy', Hulme identified naturalist art with the romantic spirit and geometric art with the classical spirit, which he saw realized in the sculpture of Jacob Epstein and the painting of Wyndham Lewis. Hulme thus became a champion of avant-garde art, and planned a book on Epstein's work.

Hulme enlisted in the British army when the First World War began in August 1914. Wounded in 1915, he wrote a series of 'War Notes' arguing against pacifism, and particularly against Bertrand Russell's defence of the pacifist position, which he regarded as proceeding from a mistakenly romantic conception of man as inherently good. During this time, he also wrote an introduction to his translation of Georges Sorel's Réflexions sur la violence (Reflections on Violence), which had first been published in 1914. In this Hulme continued his assault on romanticism in philosophy and politics, and argued that human beings needed discipline rather than freedom to achieve anything of value. This was to be his final philosophical position: his 'War Notes', his introduction to Sorel, and a collection of articles summarizing his ideas published at the same time as 'A Notebook', all reject the romantic or, as he was now calling it, 'humanist' attitude, in favour of the classical or 'religious' attitude. It was in these final works that Hulme influenced T.S. Eliot.

Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho, in 1885, but his family moved to Philadelphia in 1889; he died in Venice in 1972. Pound's oeuvre is considerably larger than Hulme's. In addition to his many short poems and his vast, unfinished poem, The Cantos, Pound wrote critical works on literature, culture and economics, was a prolific writer of articles on a wide variety of subjects, an accomplished translator, a musical composer and a very profuse letter-writer. His Literary Essays (edited by Eliot), his Selected Prose and Selected Letters gather the best-known prose writings, and his most significant poetry is collected in Personae and The Cantos, available in selected and complete editions. The importance of Pound's highly innovative poetry is undisputed, but his personal reputation has periodically threatened its position in the literary canon. From 1924, Pound became a supporter of Mussolini's fascist regime in Italy, and he was arrested for treason in 1944. He was found medically unfit to stand trial and committed to St Elizabeth's Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Washington, DC, where he stayed until released in 1958.

Pound entered the University of Pennsylvania at the precocious age of fifteen, but after two years of poor grades transferred to Hamilton College, in Clinton, New York. After graduating in 1905, he returned to the University of Pennsylvania to study Romance languages, and received his MA the following year. He began doctoral work, envisioning a dissertation on the seventeenth-century Spanish playwright Lope de Vega, but left in 1907, expressing a disillusionment with university education that would become a lifelong concern. He briefly taught at Wabash College, Indiana, before leaving for Europe in 1908. Pound's first book of poetry, A Lume Spento, was published at his own expense that summer, and in August he arrived in London. His second book of poetry, A Quinzaine for this Yule, was published that winter. This early work was influenced both by Pound's medieval studies, especially of Provençal troubadour poetry, and his reading of late nineteenth-century poets such as William Morris and Algernon Swinburne. Over the next few years, Pound concentrated on refining the form of the dramatic lyric, as reflected in the titles of his volumes of verse, Personae (1909), Exultations (1909), Canzoni (1911) and Ripostes (1912).

Pound began to develop his reputation as a critic simultaneously. Drawing on his university studies, he gave six lectures at the London

Polytechnic in 1909, rewritten as his first prose work, The Spirit of Romance (1910), and in 1911 he published a series of articles, 'I Gather the Limbs of Osiris' in the periodical The New Age, to which he contributed extensively over the next decade. In these works, Pound aimed to establish a 'New Method in Scholarship' (1973: 21), inspired in part by conversations with Hulme about Bergson and the revelatory power of the visual image. This 'method of Luminous Detail', as Pound called it in 1911, would later be renamed 'the ideogrammic method', in reference to Pound's erroneous belief that the Chinese ideogram literally pictures its meaning, thus enabling a direct correspondence between word and meaning. He took this view from the eminent American historian of Chinese and Japanese art, Ernest Fenollosa, whose manuscripts Pound would begin editing in 1913, resulting not only in his famous translations of Chinese poetry, Cathay (1915), and Japanese Noh plays, Certain Noble Plays of Japan (1916), but also in a lifelong interest in China, the Chinese language, and Confucianism.

By 1912 Pound had started to build a reputation for his idiosyncratic and deliberately archaic verse, published and reviewed in England and the United States. In this year, however, he changed direction substantially. Avowedly influenced by Hulme's delineations of the poetic image, Pound founded the imagist group of poets, initially consisting of himself, the American poet Hilda Doolittle ('H.D.'), and the British poet Richard Aldington. Imagism was launched in the United States by a small Chicago-based magazine, Poetry, for which Pound was foreign editor; in England it was launched by The New Freewoman, subsequently re-named The Egoist, whose individualist philosophy was an important influence on Pound at this time. Individualism was also a keynote of the vorticist movement, the fine art movement founded by Wyndham Lewis in 1914, to which Pound welded his imagist project. Following Hulme's lead, Pound wrote a series of articles in The New Age promoting the vorticists, especially Lewis, Epstein, and a young French sculptor called Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, as the embodiment of a new artistic Renaissance. Gaudier-Brzeska's death in battle in 1915 was a profound shock to Pound, and the impact of the First World War was to shift his critical essays and his poetry away from narrowly literary or artistic concerns: for the rest of his life he would insistently question the relationship between culture, politics and economics, the latter fuelled by his encounter with the Social Credit monetary reform theories of the economist C.H. Douglas in 1918. Pound's poem 'Hugh Selwyn

Mauberley' (1920) documents his resolution to abandon the primarily aesthetic project of imagism, in order to write poetry that would critically engage with the crises facing the post-war generation.

That engaged poetry turned out to be The Cantos, the massive poetic project that aimed to account for modern civilization and occupied Pound for the rest of his life. Instalments were published in magazines from 1917, and in 1925 the first sixteen were published in book form. The poem adopts the 'ideogrammic method' that had its origin in Pound's 'method of Luminous Detail', juxtaposing historical narratives and anecdotes, quotations and contemporary comment to examine patterns of historical events, and draw out exemplary civilizations and figures. From Paris, to which he moved in 1921, and Italy, to which he moved in 1924, Pound continued to contribute extensively to journals and, in various editorial capacities, further the careers of young writers he encountered. During this time, Pound's writings took on an increasing coherence: his essays, letters and poetry converged on similar terrain as he worked to bring his beliefs about culture, politics and economics to bear on each other, and on the ideas underpinning Mussolini's fascist government. Pound was attracted by Mussolini's proposed economic reforms, which he compared to those of Thomas Jefferson and mistakenly believed would establish a non-capitalist society. In 1933 he obtained an audience with Mussolini, and in 1935 published his strident advertisement for his politics, Jefferson and/or Mussolini.

By the time the Second World War broke out, most of the elements of Pound's mature philosophy were in place: it had become an unlikely synthesis of Italian fascism, Social Credit economics, and Confucian social values, described most completely in his 1938 Guide to Kulchur. Although he supported fascist Italy, Pound also saw himself as an American patriot, and between 1941 and 1943 he broadcasted his interpretation of the political situation to the United States and its troops, criticizing the United States' role. Indicted in his absence on thirteen counts of treason in 1943, he was arrested in 1944, following Italy's surrender, and confined in an army training camp in Pisa, where he suffered a breakdown. Yet here, faced with the ruin of the civilization he had envisioned under Mussolini's regime, Pound wrote some of the most beautiful poetry of his career. Amid great controversy, The Pisan Cantos was awarded the Bollingen Prize for the best volume of verse by an American poet published in 1948, unleashing debates about the relationship between politics and art across the international media.

By this time, Pound had been flown to the United States, and committed to St Elizabeth's Hospital.

Pound continued to research and write in St Elizabeth's, and despite the controversy his case aroused, or rather partly because of it, this period saw a consolidation of his literary status, as young writers and critics influenced by his work brought out collections of his writing. Among these admirers were James Laughlin, who founded the New Directions press, still Pound's American publisher, and Hugh Kenner, one of the most influential modernist critics, who wrote the first full-length book on Pound, The Poetry of Ezra Pound (1951), and in The Pound Era (1972) conceptualized modernism itself in terms of Pound's career. In 1958 Pound was finally released from St Elizabeth's and he returned to Italy. He continued to publish further cantos, but his failing health and debilitating depression caused him to gradually fall into literary and physical silence.

T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot was born in 1888 in St Louis, Missouri; he died in London in 1965. During his lifetime, his literary status was unparalleled: his critical works have been as influential as his poetry, taken up by a generation of mid-century critics, including I.A. Richards, F.R. Leavis and the American New Critics, who placed Eliot centrally, not only in the canon of twentieth-century poetry, but in the study of English literature and culture more generally. His Complete Poems and Plays and Selected Essays collect his major works, and the first volume of his letters was published in 1988. Since his death his reputation has suffered some vicissitudes: his political conservatism and Anglo-Catholicism have proved unappealing, and charges of anti-Semitism have been vigorously debated. Nevertheless, his influence on twentieth-century poetry and aspects of his cultural diagnoses are enduringly pervasive.

Eliot entered Harvard University in 1906, graduating with a BA in 1909 and an MA in English literature in 1910. In 1908 he read Arthur Symons's The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899), his introduction to the free verse poetry of the French symbolists. In the work of the symbolist Jules Laforgue he found a parallel with the Elizabethan and Jacobean verse to which he was also attracted, and it was these sources that he credited with transforming his poetic style from the rather conventional experiments in aestheticism that also characterized much of Pound's early verse, to the development of the typically Eliotian ironic, self-conscious and urban personae of 'Conversation Galante', 'Preludes', 'Portrait of a Lady' and 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock', all composed between 1909 and 1911 and included in his first book of verse, published in 1917. Also in 1909, Eliot took Irving Babbitt's course 'Literary Criticism in France', in which Babbitt, drawing like Hulme on the work of Pierre Lasserre, advanced the claims of classicism over romanticism and deplored the relativism of modern society.

After completing his MA, Eliot lived in Paris for a year, studying French literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne, and attending Bergson's lectures at the Collège de France. Eliot also encountered a more profound and long-lasting influence during this period in the classicist, anti-democratic thinking of Charles Maurras and the Action Française, which consolidated Babbitt's teaching. In 1911, he returned to Harvard to begin doctoral work in philosophy. He took classes in Sanskrit, Eastern philosophy and comparative methodology, in which he explored the anthropological interests that would be so important to The Waste Land, and would later inform his belief in the cultural importance of Christianity. He decided that his doctoral dissertation would be an examination of the British philosopher, F.H. Bradley, whose thinking would substantially shape his own. In 1914, he returned to Europe to continue his studies in Oxford.

Eliot completed and submitted his dissertation in 1916, but since he did not return to Harvard for the oral examination, the degree was not conferred. By then, his career as a poet had begun: in 1914 he had met Pound, who was impressed by 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' and had it published in Poetry magazine, the first of several poems that would appear there. By 1916 Eliot was publishing literary reviews and essays, alongside specialist philosophical articles drawing on his doctoral work. In 1917 he joined the Colonial and Foreign Department of Lloyds Bank, became assistant editor of The Egoist, and published his first volume of verse, Prufrock and Other Observations. His second volume, Poems, appeared only two years later, published by Virginia and Leonard Woolf at their Hogarth Press, and his third, Ara vos Prec (consisting mainly of poems included in the previous two volumes), was published by the modernist writer John Rodker in 1920. The same year, Eliot's first American collection appeared, as did his first volume of criticism, The Sacred Wood. Although Eliot appeared on the literary scene slightly later than Hulme and Pound, then, his impact was swiftly and deeply felt: by 1920 he had already built a substantial international reputation. This is not to say that his work was universally accepted: conservative critics found his poetry obscure and somewhat trivial in its registering of minute impressions, as they had found Hulme's and Pound's, too.

The poem that sealed Eliot's reputation was The Waste Land, published in 1922. It was far more allusive and more difficult than his previous work, and indeed that difficulty was emphasized by Eliot's notorious notes to the poem. The Sacred Wood was of more use to readers and reviewers: the famous essay 'Tradition and the Individual Talent', in particular, introduced Eliot's belief (following Babbitt) that modern poetry should eschew the emotional excesses of romantic poetry and be 'impersonal', an expression of a collective literary tradition, rather than of a poet's individuality. The Sacred Wood also highlighted Eliot's interest in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, the influence of which was immediately evident in The Waste Land. Finally, The Waste Land became legible in the context of literary modernism itself: Joyce's Ulysses was also published in 1922 and Pound's Cantos had been appearing in periodicals over the past few years. The extensive literary allusions, multiple narrative voices, and structural importance of myth in all three works suggested the emergence of a post-war style, an approach that was distinctively of its time, rather than the production of a single idiosyncratic mind.

The 1920s and 1930s represented the consolidation of Eliot's literary status. He was by now far more integrated into the English literary establishment than Hulme had been or Pound ever would be: he reviewed for the Athenaeum and The Times Literary Supplement and in 1922 he began his own quarterly journal, The Criterion, whose classicist perspective was advanced by the publication of writing by Sorel, Maurras, Hulme and Babbitt. In 1925 Eliot left Lloyds Bank to join the board of directors of Faber and Gwyer: his editorial presence there would influence the course of twentieth-century poetry. Important studies of Eliot's work began to appear in the late 1920s, including commentaries by the Cambridge-based academics I.A. Richards, F.R. Leavis and William Empson, all powerful figures in the establishment of new forms of literary criticism, and of English itself as a subject of study. Eliot's American reputation was also growing in this period: in 1932 further collections of his poetry and essays were published, he undertook a lecture tour in 1933 that generated The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933) and After Strange Gods (1934), and books by influential critics such as F.O. Matthiessen and Cleanth Brooks placed Eliot at the centre of modern developments in poetry.

But by this point, Eliot was no longer simply a poetic innovator or literary critic. After writing The Waste Land, Eliot had begun to write drama, and his first plays were published in this period: Sweeney Agonistes (1932), the collaborative venture of The Rock (1934), Murder in the Cathedral (1935) and The Family Reunion (1939) — to be followed in later years by The Cocktail Party (1949), The Confidential Clerk (1953) and The Elder Statesman (1958). More significantly for this book, though, this was also the period in which Eliot, like Pound, was increasingly turning his attention to larger issues of cultural crisis. Although this concern is evident to an extent in his earliest essays, it moved into a new phase after 1927, when Eliot was baptized and received into the Church of England. 'Literary criticism', he now said, 'should be completed by criticism from a definite ethical and theological standpoint' (1980: 388), and in his Criterion essays, his lectures, his poetry, and his plays, Eliot developed his long-standing classicist arguments for order and authority into more explicit prescriptions for a moral society founded on a strong church and monarchy. His most important statements on this subject were made in The Idea of a Christian Society

(1939), and Notes towards the Definition of Culture (1948), both of which grew out of his service on a church discussion forum. But it has been said that Eliot's 'true political testament' was Four Quartets, his last great work of poetry, consisting of 'Burnt Norton' (1936), 'East Coker'

(1940), 'The Dry Salvages' (1941) and 'Little Gidding' (1942), in which he re-examines the philosophical issues with which he began his career: the workings of time, memory, ritual and the relation of experience to verbal expression (Moody 1994: 71). In his final years, awards, prizes and degrees were liberally conferred upon Eliot, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. He was the emblematic cultural figure of his time: during the week of his death, the cover of the New Statesman read: 'The Age of Eliot'.

Study Aid

Study Aid

This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To Getting A Scholarship And Financial Support For Your Studies.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment