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This review is taken from PN Review 97, Volume 20 Number 5, May - June 1994.

RADICAL POSSUM T.S. ELIOT: The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry, edited and introduced by Ronald Schuchard (Faber & Faber) £25.

As one who acquired his copy of For Lancelot Andrewes(1928) as an undergraduate more than sixty years ago, I have long been haunted by the three ' small volumes' which Eliot claimed, in the preface, then to have 'in preparation': The School of Donne, The Outline of Royalism, and The Principles of Modern Heresy. The thrust of The Sacred Wood (1920) had been to assert that 'when we are considering poetry we must consider it primarily as poetry and not as another thing', and in For Lancelot Andrewes the author was indicating 'certain lines of development', and dissociating himself from 'certain conclusions'drawn by those who had, he thought, not understood his drift. The three 'small volumes' were clearly intended to make that drift clearer, and although they have never appeared, as advertise din the preface Of 1928, one can hardly be mistaken in seeing the shadow of The Principles of Modern Heresy in After Strange Gods (1934), a book in which Eliot certainly did not claim that he had said all there was to be said about 'such a serious subject'. The volume in fact contained three lectures he had given in 1933 at the University of Virginia. What wehave in The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry, just published' is the Clark Lectures he gave at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1926, and the Turnbull Lectures he gave at Johns Hopkins University, in 1933, the latter being based on the former: together they give the substance intended to have been enshrined ...


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