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Eliot on putting one’s house in order

August 2, 2012

Arnold was not occupied so much in establishing a criticism as in attacking the uncritical. The difference is that while in constructive work something can be done, destructive work must incessantly be repeated; and furthermore Arnold, in his destruction, went for game outside of the literary preserve altogether, much of it political game untouched and inviolable by ideas. This activity of Arnold’s we must regret; it might perhaps be carried on as effectively, if not quite as neatly, by some disciple (had there been one) in an editorial board on a newspaper. Arnold is not to be blamed: he wasted his strength, as men of superior abilities sometimes do, because he saw something to be done and no one else to do it. The temptation, to any man who is interested in ideas and primarily in literature, to put literature into the corner until he cleaned up the whole country first, is almost irresistible. Some persons, like Mr. Wells and Mr. Chesterton, have succeeded so well in the latter profession of setting the house in order, and have attracted so much more attention than Arnold, that we must conclude that it is indeed their proper role, and that they have done well for themselves in laying literature aside.

–T.S. Eliot, introduction to The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism.

So this is what Eliot thought of Chesterton. Fairly insightful, I’d say.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 3, 2012 9:04 am

    Phenomenal qoute!

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