T S Eliot has been having a rotten time of it here lately. Intellectuals and scholars are once again flogging the dead horse of his anti-semitism, in reaction to Christopher Ricks’s new study, T S Eliot and Prejudice, and an eminent Yale academic has just published a book villainising him for betraying this country’s native Emersonian literary tradition. But of recent assaults on what is left of Eliot’s reputation, the one receiving the most attention came from Cynthia Ozick. That is due both to Miss Ozick’s prominence as a novelist and to the fact that her strictures on Eliot were published in a forum with a mass audience, the New Yorker (the magazine’s editor, Robert Gottlieb later cited the Ozick essay as proof that the New Yorker has not been transformed into yet another ‘life-style’ glossy under its new owners, the Newhouses).
Little of what Miss Ozick had to say about Eliot was unfamiliar. After charting with some glee the precipitous decline his literary reputation has undergone over the last three decades, she supplied a potted life of the poet (drawn from recent biographies) which left no doubt that he was a