By Eliot, Thomas Stearns; Atkins, George Douglas; Eliot, Thomas Stearns
How Eliot's prose and poetry are rather exemplars of the essay.
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Additional resources for T.S. Eliot and the essay : from The sacred wood to Four quartets
Who knows what sort of life would result if we had attained to purity? . Yet the spirit can for the time pervade and control every member and function of the body, and transmute what in form is the grossest sensuality into purity and devotion. The generative energy, which, when we are loose, dissipates and makes us unclean, when we are continent invigorates and inspires us. Chastity is the flowering of man; and what are called Genius, Heroism, Holiness, and the like, are but various fruits which succeed it.
They are but one appetite, and we only need to see a person do any one of these things to know how great a sensualist he is. The impure can neither stand nor sit with purity. ” (467). indd 22 3/2/10 9:40 AM Against (Pure) Transcendence 23 This obsession with purity accounts, at least partly as I have suggested, for Thoreau’s relationship with his readers—or, rather, his lack of a relationship. He stands separate from us, presuming to be not only apart from us and uncontaminated but also above us.
To get at Pascal, Eliot takes on Montaigne, Pascal’s “great adversary” (409), whom Eliot terms “one of the least destructible” authors (410–11)—the procedure is characteristically comparative and indirect. indd 31 2/11/10 11:28 AM 32 T. S. Eliot and the Essay himself ” (410–11). As it happens, Eliot follows this succinct and brilliant representation with trenchant comments on Montaigne’s skepticism, which I must give entire. Note the labored, convoluted third sentence here, which would surely try an editor’s blue pencil, perhaps an expression of such “fog” as he has attributed to the great essayist: Montaigne’s is no limited Pyrrhonism.