Chapter One

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A letter from Eliot to Eudo C. Mason, 21 Feb. 1936, (see Eliot 1996: xv)) contains the following information: ‘J. Alfred Prufrock was written in 1911, but parts of it date from the preceding year. Most of it was written in the summer of 1911 when I was in Munich. The text of 1917, which remains unchanged, does not differ from the original version in any way. I did at one time write a good bit more of it, but these additions I destroyed without their ever being printed.’


In Eliot’s Dark Angel, Schuchard reproduces (for the first time in print), Eliot’s syllabi for the Modern English Literature course he gave in 1916, under the auspices of the University of London Joint Committee for the Promotion of the Higher Education of the Working People. In the case of Hardy, Eliot’s focus was only on the novels, particularly their fatalism as well as their absence of humour’ (43-44).


Originally, Eliot used Arnaut Daniel’s ‘Sovegna vos’ from Purgatorio xxvi: see Eliot 1996: 39-41. The later epigraph was, of course, more appropriate to the psychology and narrative of ‘Prufock’: Guido da Montelfeltro, placed inside a flame in the eighth ring of the eighth circle of hell for his role as evil counselor, delivers an anxiety-ridden self-canceling monologue. Harrison (1050-52) argues that Guido’s account of his past is made in bad faith, the character constantly trying to justify himself in his own eyes as well as Virgil and Dante’s.

In her 1999 biography, Lyndall Gordon dismisses the very possibility that Eliot and Verdenal were more than friends, given that Eliot ‘denied . . . absolutely’ the existence of such a relationship (52-54).


According to Ricks’s tabulation, in late 1912 he wrote the discarded “Prufrock’s Pervigilium,” only the first three lines of which made its way into “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (see Eliot 1996: 43-44); in 1913, he wrote “The Burnt Dancer,” “The Love Song of St. Sebastian,” and “Morning at the Window.” He was now working on his philosophy degree.


Purgatorio XXI, lines 133-36. My translation. Christopher Ricks notes that this epigraph appears in the Notebook (reprinted in Inventions of the March Hare), suggesting an early date, but argues that this dedication and epigraph must have been a later addition, since it first appears in print in Poems 1909-25. The Notebook adds the previous line, ‘Tu se’ ombra e ombra vedi’, in which Dante warns Statius not to embrace Virgil because he is only a shadow (Eliot 1996: 3-4).


See, for example, Smith 74-77. Olney (9-11) relates the Hyacinth Girl to her earlier incarnation as ‘La Figlia che Piange’, ‘Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers’, and argues that she reappears as the ‘Eyes that last I saw in tears’ in Burnt Norton. But I see more difference than similarity between the Hyacinth episode and the disembodied ‘moment’ in the Quartets.


More accurately, The Waste Land was simultaneously published in two journals, the Criterion in England, and the Dial in the U.S., and in December 1922 in book form by Boni & Liveright, which included, for the first time, Eliot’s explanatory notes. See Rainey 78.

Chapter 1: Avant-Garde Eliot

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