T.S. Eliot, Anti-Semite

It must be time to drop the idea that there is a genuine "debate", or an "ambiguity" about whether T.S. Eliot was a hater of Jews - a tedious tricksy attempt to deflect any responsibility for such unpleasant, wrong thinking, in and out of the poems.  Great American poet he is.  But he was as Anti-Semitic as they come.  This has been amply demonstrated by the letters of his now published (see review in the New York Times from which I quote):

'Eliot’s anti-Semitism is luridly on display. He refers to a “Jew merchant” and allows himself pronouncements like “I am sick of doing business with Jew publishers.” It’s damning that such remarks are made only to those who safely share his prejudice. Yet Eliot relied on his friends Leonard Woolf and Sydney Schiff, and as appalling as his anti-Semitism was, it never matched that of his wife (“horrible Jews in plush coats by the million”) and his mother (“I have an instinctive antipathy to Jews, just as I have to certain animals”).'


Poetry Pleases! said…
Dear Todd

Unfortunately, poets are seldom shining examples of humanity. You only have to look at Larkin with his racism, sexism and general misanthropy. It didn't prevent him from being a fine poet. Ditto Eliot.

Best wishes from Simon
bright star said…
Fine poets can of course have nasty prejudices and still be worth reading but this sort of ranting does make me question the work of said writers.I am uncomfortable with it!
Tom Phillips said…
Or perhaps this has something to do with the cultural structures which filter through people like Eliot as shining exemplars. We have at least come to the point where if TSE had read 'Gerontion' in front of an audience today, he might well have been boo'd off. But then, if he had, would that simply be disguising something about the time he was writing and the audience which allowed that to happen?

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