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Wyndham Lewis and T.S. Eliot: A Friendship

ISSUE:  Summer 1980

A impressive concentration of subtle minds took place vhen Wyndham Lewis first met T.S.Eliot, who became a lifelong friend, in Ezra Pound’s little triangular sitting room at 6 Holland Park Chambers in Kensington, early in 1915. Eliot had made the acquaintance of Pound only a few days before, when Pound had proudly shown him Lewis’ Timon of Athens drawings. The tall sibylline figure, “his features of clerical cut,” greeted Lewis, the first artist he had ever encountered, with his characteristically prim manner and fastidious speech. The bombastic Pound, disappointed by the studied reserve of Eliot, who was less confident than his new friends, adopted his hillbilly dialect (perhaps to amuse Lewis and soften Eliot, for all three men had spent their childhood in America) and intimated to Lewis: “Yor ole uncle Ezz is wise to wot youse thinkin. Waaal Wynd damn I’se telling yew, he’s a lot better’n he looks!”

Lewis, a vital and versatile painter, novelist, critic, poet, philosopher, traveler, and editor of Blast, had founded the Vorticist movement and was completing his first novel, Tarr. Eliot soon discovered that Lewis was a brilliantly amusing talker with a powerful critical intelligence and an astonishing visual imagination. In his 1918 review of Tarr in the Egoist, he called Lewis, in a phrase that has become famous: “The most fascinating personality of our time. . . . In the work of Mr. Lewis we recognize the thought of the modern and the energy of the cave-man.” In One-Way Song (1933) Lewis portrayed Eliot’s stern features, pessimistic poetic voice, and lugubrious religious inclinations with affectionate irony:

I seem to note a Roman profile bland,
I hear the drone from out of the cactus-land:
That must be the poet of the Hollow Men:
The lips seem bursting with a deep Amen.

“Appearing at one’s front door, or arriving at a dinner rendezvous,” Lewis recalled in his memoir of Eliot, “his face would be haggard, he would seem at his last gasp. (Did he know?) To ask him to lie down for a short while at once was what I always felt I ought to do. However, when he had taken his place at a table, given his face a dry wash with his hands, and having had a little refreshment, Mr. Eliot would rapidly shed all resemblance to the harassed and exhausted refugee, in flight from some Scourge of God.”

Lewis published in the second (and final) Blast of July 1915 Eliot’s “Preludes” and “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” which were his first poems to appear in England and contained the suggestive lines that Lewis especially admired:

I am moved by fancies that are curled,
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle,
Infinitely suffering thing.

But after the censorship of Pound’s poem in Blast 1, Lewis refused Eliot’s “Bullshit” and “The Ballad for Big Louise.” He called them “excellent bits of scholarly ribaldry” but stuck to his “naif determination to have no “words ending in -Uck, -Unt, and -Ugger. ” “

After World War I, Lewis replaced the friendship of the exuberant Pound with that of the cautious and circumspect Eliot, with whom he had more intellectual and less temperamental affinities. Eliot, whom Ottoline Morrell called “The Undertaker,” would say at tea; “I daren’t take cake, and jam’s too much trouble,” and he showed a Puritan distaste for the sensual pleasures which Lewis so eagerly enjoyed. He resented being patronized by Lewis, who had greater vigor and vitality, and in a letter to John Quinn remarked on the temperamental difference between his friends, Pound and Lewis, and himself: “I consider that Pound and Lewis are the only writers in London whose work is worth publishing. . . . I know that Pound’s lack of tact has done him great harm.” Tactlessness was also one of Lewis’ failings.

Just after he met Lewis, in June 1915, Eliot, in “the awful daring of a moment’s surrender,” began his disastrous marriage with Vivien Haigh-Hood, the daughter of a portrait painter who suffered from poor health and “nerves”—and eventually went mad. After two unhappy years as a schoolmaster, he became a bank clerk at Lloyd’s in the City and remained there from 1917 until 1925, when he joined Faber & Gwyer and soon became a prosperous publisher. Eliot found the exuberant, if volatile Lewis, a welcome relief from his domestic and commercial enslavement. Lewis’ wife, Froanna, who liked Eliot best of all their friends, said Lewis took Eliot to music halls and boxing matches.

Lewis frequently went to Paris to keep up with the latest developments in modern art and to see the work of Picasso, Braque, and Matisse. In the summer of 1920 Lewis, who wanted to get away from his pregnant mistress, and Eliot, who wished to escape from his wife, went on holiday together to Paris (where they had an introduction from Pound to Joyce), to Saumur on the Loire, and then down the river through Angers and Nantes, and north to Quiberon and the Golfe de Vannes in Brittany, which Lewis had visited with his mother in 1908. Outside Saumur, Lewis, speeding along at a great pace, had a nasty bicycle accident: his handlebars snapped off, and he was thrown violently on the road and badly injured his knee. He returned to the town furious at the proprietor, who brazenly tried to recover money for damage to the defective machine. The travelers also visited a monastery in Saumur, which Eliot attempted to sketch under the critical eye of Lewis: “The porter told us the hours, and suggested that we fill in the time by visiting the church, a short way up the street. “Ah you should see that!” he boomed. “It is very fine. —It is very old—c’est très ancien!” Then detecting, as he thought, an expression of disappointment in our faces, he added hurriedly—C’est très moderne!” At the end of each day, when they drank their armagnac in the cafe, Eliot maintained the habits of a bank clerk and scrupulously entered the day’s expenses in a small notebook.

Lewis and Eliot’s first meeting with Joyce, which was engineered by Pound, was brilliantly described in Lewis’ autobiography. Though Joyce’s work had been praised by Pound, Lewis had read only a few pages of A Portrait of the Artist when it appeared in the Egoist and found that it was too mannered, too literary, and too sentimental-Irish for his austere taste. But Joyce (also primed by Pound) was familiar with Tarr and Lewis’ other works and gave a flattering start of recognition when Eliot introduced them. Both men seemed to be aware of the momentous occasion. Lewis found Joyce an oddity in patent-leather shoes and large powerful spectacles; and in his four drawings of Joyce he captured the extraordinary face, “hollowed out, with a jutting brow and jaw, like some of the Pacific masks.” Joyce played the Irishman in an amusing fashion and Lewis “took a great fancy to him for his wit, for the agreeable humanity of which he possessed such stores, for his unaffected love of alcohol, and all good things to eat and drink.” He later called Joyce “a pleasing, delightful fellow, with all his scholarly egotism and Irish nonsense.”

The ostensible object of the visit was to deliver a large brown parcel which Pound had entrusted to Eliot. When Joyce received their message and came to their hotel room with his tall son Giorgio: “Eliot rose to his feet. He approached the table, and with one eyebrow drawn up, and a finger pointing, announced to James Joyce that this was that parcel to which he had referred in his wire, and which had been given into his care, and he formally delivered it, thus acquitting himself of his commission. . . . James Joyce was by now attempting to untie the crafty housewifely knots of the cunning old Ezra. . . . At last the strings were cut. A little gingerly Joyce unrolled the slovenly swaddlings of damp British brown paper in which the good-hearted American had packed up what he had put inside. Thereupon, along with some nondescript garments for the trunk—there were no trousers I believe—a fairly presentable pair of old brown shoes stood revealed, in the centre of the bourgeois French table.”

The shoes and jacket were undoubtedly Pound’s response to Joyce’s letter of June 5, 1920: “I wear my son’s boots (which are two sizes too large) and his castoff suit which is too narrow in the shoulders.” Pound meant well by sending the cumbersome gift; but because of the unexpected arrival of a check (which may have paid for his patent-leather shoes), Joyce’s circumstances had significantly improved before the literary messengers arrived with the footgear. Pound’s unintentional revelation of his penury before (two equally impoverished) confrères aroused Joyce’s Irish pride. Though he accepted their invitation to dinner, he insisted on paying for several days of lavish drinks, meals, taxis, and tips.

Eliot suffered a nervous breakdown at the end of 1921 and spent some time in a sanatorium in Lausanne. During the next three years (also an extremely difficult period for Lewis) he was sick, miserable, and acutely depressed: fearful of poverty and overcome by self-pity. In a 1923 letter Eliot wrote Lewis: “I am ill, harassed, impoverished, and am going to have 5 teeth out. I have managed to avoid seeing anyone for a very long time. I have several enemies.”


In 1922 Lewis was present at the first reading of The Waste Land in London, when a friend of Mrs. Eliot, with splotches on his face, proudly identified himself as the “young man carbuncular.” Eliot published the poem in October 1922 in the first number of the Criterion, when he was editing that magazine and encouraging Lewis to contribute to every issue. Despite—or perhaps because of—Eliot’s good will and practical assistance, Lewis quarreled with him in January 1925, when Eliot advertised but did not print a long part of The Dithyrambic Spectator. The ever-suspicious Lewis had been publishing two Zagreus sections of The Apes of God in the Criterion (for which he received 43 pounds) and he warned Eliot, who was then friendly with Virginia Woolf and other members of the Bloomsbury set: “Should any of these fragments find their way into other hands than yours before they appear in bookform I shall regard it as treachery.” Eliot explained that Lewis’ 20,000 word essay was too long to print and that illness had prevented him from writing an explanation, and answered Lewis in a calm and disinterested manner: “Please do not think that I am pressing upon you. . .a reminder of supposed services. I consider that anything I do is equalised by any support you give to The Criterion. Furthermore I am not an individual but an instrument, and anything I do is in the interest of art and literature and civilisation, and it is not a matter for personal compensation. But in the circumstances I cannot help feeling that your letter expressed an unjustified suspiciousness.” But when Lewis continued his attacks in March—”Since before Christmas you have been guilty where I am concerned of a series of actions each of which, had I done the same to you, would have made you very indignant”—Eliot showed some exasperation and appealed to Lewis’ faith in his integrity and their friendship: “I cannot work with you so long as you consider me either the tool or the operator of machinations against you. . . . Until you are convinced by your own senses or by the testimony of others that I am neither conducting nor supporting (either deliberately or blindly) any intrigue against you, I do not see that we can get any further.”

But Eliot, because of his sobriety and apparent equanimity, was a difficult man to quarrel with, and remained Lewis’ loyal friend and staunch defender. He believed that Roger Fry and other critics had deliberately hurt Lewis’ career, and placed him above Joyce as a prose stylist: “Lewis was independent, outspoken and difficult. Temperament and circumstances combined to make him a great satirist. . . . His work was persistently ignored or depreciated, throughout his life, by persons of influence in the world of art and letters who did not find him congenial. . . .[But he was] one of the few men of letters in my generation whom I should call, without qualification, men of genius. . . . Mr. Lewis is the greatest prose master of style of my generation—perhaps the only one to have invented a new style.”

It was highly ironic that the eminently respectable Eliot became involved in a stormy public controversy when Lewis painted his portrait in 1938, for the poet had changed a great deal since the “Waste Land” days of 1920. Eliot’s association with Faber, beginning in 1925, rescued him from economic hardship and led to prosperity; his reception into the Church of England and acquisition of British citizenship in 1927 provided new strength and security; and his separation from his wife in 1933 finally freed him from the tragic bondage of her mental illness. Eliot had firmly established his literary reputation; he was widely admired as the successor to Yeats and acclaimed as the leading poet of his generation.

Eliot’s respectability, religion, success, wealth, and fame impeded his friendship with Lewis—who had none of these acquisitions. Lewis emphasized the difference between Eliot and himself when he told Geoffrey Grigson that he once went to visit the poet and found Ottoline Morrell on her knees beseeching him: “Teach me how to pray!” Lewis may have felt residual resentment about his dispute with Eliot concerning the publication of his work in the Criterion, but both men remained fond of each other. Lewis spoke teasingly about Eliot, treated him with ironic affection, and (mistakenly) thought he had a better understanding of the world. He believed he had a superior intellect and never quite understood why he could not make the same artistic impression that Eliot did.

Lewis, who strongly projected his character in his own works and damaged his reputation with his vehement political tracts, criticized his friend’s theory of impersonality (which enhanced Eliot’s magisterial image) in a chapter of Men Without Art. He felt Eliot had made a virtue of becoming an “incarnate echo” and ought to express rather than repress his personality: “If there is to be an “insincerity, ” I prefer it should occur in the opposite sense—namely that “the man, the personality” should exaggerate, a little artificially perhaps, his beliefs—rather than leave a meaningless shell behind him, and go to hide in a volatilized hypostatization of his personal feelings.” When Eliot first saw a review copy of Lewis’ book he said: “Oh, I’m very interested in this,” borrowed the volume, and seemed to accept the validity of Lewis’ criticism. Eliot found Lewis rather difficult, for he disliked quarreling as much as Lewis enjoyed it. But he thought Lewis was the liveliest and most original of his contemporaries and always had the highest respect for his genius. Lewis was usually cautious and discreet about Eliot with mutual friends, quietly agreed when the poet was praised, and tempered his criticism with admiration in writing about Eliot.

There was a great deal of conversation and laughter when Lewis was working on Eliot’s portraits, for his remarks amused and entertained the poet. Lewis expressed his favorable first impression of the handsome Eliot both verbally and visually. He described Eliot as: “A sleek, tall, attractive transatlantic apparition—with a sort of Gioconda smile. . .a Prufrock to whom the tower maids would decidedly have sung, one would have said, at the tops of their voices . . . . For this was a very attractive young Prufrock indeed, with an alert and dancing eye—. . .bashfully ironic, blushfully taquinerie. . . . Though not feminine—besides being physically large his personality visibly moved within the male pale— there were dimples in the warm dark skin; undoubtedly he used his eyes a little like a Leonardo.”

Lewis actually did two portraits of Eliot in 1938. The first (now in Eliot House, Harvard) is a study for the second and depicts the poet’s head and torso against a blank background. The second and much greater painting portrays Eliot, in waistcoat and lounge suit, slouched in an armchair, with crossed hands. He stares slightly downwards and to the left with great intensity, and the planes of his face are more contrasted, his bold features more precisely delineated than in the study, A shadow from his head appears on the pale green panel behind the deeply etched parting of his sleek hair. The abstract designs on both sides of the panel suggest the power of his imagination, while his solemn composure and fixed concentration convincingly convey the strength of his intellect. Eliot greatly admired this portrait, which captured the essence of his mind and art, and told Lewis he was quite willing for posterity to know him by that image (a photograph of 1954, reproduced in Lewis’ Letters, shows Eliot pointing to the portrait with smiling admiration).

Lewis submitted the portrait to the judges of the Royal Academy exhibition in the spring of 1938. But Blast never got inside Burlington House, and the painting was rejected on April 21. The refusal of the portrait caused a furor in the British press, enabled Lewis to strike back at the citadel of artistic orthodoxy, gain some useful publicity, and—ironically—attract the attention of a wider public. The refusal of the Eliot portrait came at the end of a long series of rejections suffered by Lewis in the 1930’s. But the controversy aroused interest in the painting (which was refused by the Trustees of the Tate) and in 1939 T. J. Honeyman of the Lefevre Gallery sold it for £250 to the Municipal Art Gallery in Durban, South Africa. This money enabled Lewis to escape from England and travel to North America.


During the late forties, the final phase of his artistic career, Lewis’ painting seriously deteriorated because of his defective vision. The most important work of his late period was his second portrait of Eliot, who in 1948 had won the $40,000 Nobel Prize for Literature. Lewis dined frequently with Eliot, in Scott’s on Mount Street or the Hyde Park Hotel Grill, where he ate oysters and dessert—and skipped the main course. Eliot used to send Lewis cases of champagne (he could drink nothing else at the end of his life), and Lewis meticulously noticed that it was not vintage. Still ignored and impoverished, he was inevitably jealous of Eliot’s enormous success and resentful about the poet in his letters. He told Pound, who had been charged with treason, declared insane, and confined to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington: “You might almost have contrived this climax to your respective careers: yours so Villonesque and Eliot’s super-Tennyson.” And he wrote to his American friend, Felix Giovanelli: “Eliot is a solid mass of inherited slyness. . . . Eliot is no great favourite of mine in later years. Lesser poet than Pound, though not such an exasperating fool of a man. He has I agree kicked up a nasty stink around himself of cult.”

When Lewis painted his second, much more bland and conventional portrait (which lacks the sharp incisive planes of the earlier work) of Eliot, in March and April 1949, he was obliged to scrutinize him very closely. As he wrote in “The Sea-Mists of the Winter”: “When I started my second portrait of T. S. Eliot, which now hangs in Magdalene College, Cambridge, in the early summer of 1949, I had to draw up very close to the sitter to see exactly how the hair sprouted out of the forehead, and how the curl of the nostril wound up into the dark interior of the nose. There was no question of my not succeeding, my sight was still adequate. But I had to move too close to the forms I was studying. Some months later, when I started a portrait of Stella Newton, I had to draw still closer and even then I could not quite see. This was the turning-point, the date, December 1949.” Another minor problem, as Lewis told a St. Louis friend, was that Eliot (whom he had described as “wriggling his lean bottom” in The Apes of God) became drowsy and his bottom “went to sleep” when he was immobilized in one position.

The portrait was completed in time for Lewis’ exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in May, when both artist and subject were interviewed by Time magazine. Lewis’ description recalled his earliest impression of the poet, haggard and apparently at his last gasp: “You will see in his mask, drained of too hearty blood, a gazing strain, a patient contraction: the body is slightly tilted. . . in resigned anticipation of the worst.” Eliot suggested that Lewis’ intensity made him feel somewhat uneasy: “Wearing a look of slightly quizzical inscrutability behind which one suspects his mental muscles may be contracting for some unexpected pounce, he makes one feel that it would be undesirable, though not actually dangerous, to fall asleep in one’s chair.” When this portrait, like the earlier one of Eliot, was refused by the Tate, Lewis blamed the malign influence of Kenneth Clark. But it was eventually acquired by Magdalene College for £300, and hung on the narrow staircase of the dining hall, poorly lighted and difficult to see.

Lewis’ last polemical book, The Demon of Progress in the Arts (1954), concluded his argument against abstract art and unleashed his final onslaught against Eliot’s “melancholy exlieutenant,” Herbert Read. If, for Lewis, Fry and Kenneth Clark were art dictators, Read was an ineffectual impresario and aesthetic buffoon, who led the dashing but dull rear guard of abstractionists, was besotted with theorizing, neglected the evidence of the eye, and never really looked at a picture in his life. In Wyndham Lewis the Artist, (1939), he charged Read with willingness to provide any art movement with instant respectability and exposed his weaknesses with deadly accuracy: “Mr. Herbert Read has an unenviable knack of providing, at a week’s notice, almost any movement, or sub-movement, in the visual arts, with a neatly-cut party suit— with which it can appear, appropriately caparisoned, at the cocktail party thrown by the capitalist who has made its birth possible, in celebration of the happy event. No poet laureate, with his ode for every court occasion, could enjoy a more unfailing inspiration with Mr. Read; prefaces and inaugural addresses follow each other in bewildering succession, and with a robust disregard for the slight inconsistencies attendant upon such invariable readiness to oblige.”

The intensely independent Lewis (who had an integrated vision in art and literature and was consistent in his aesthetic theory and practice) stated the essential problem was that Read’s rather tame and conventional literary work was exactly the opposite of what he daringly professed in the visual arts. Stephen Spender, who said that Read hated Lewis and thought he was evil, has explained that Read’s conflicting duality was caused by the extinction of his imaginative powers: “The creative side of his talent has gradually been submerged, and the more this has happened the more depressed he feels about the arts in general. He has a line which is to support nearly everything that is experimental and he therefore gives his readers the impression of being in the vanguard, and someone in the vanguard is supposed of course to have burning faith and vitality: qualities which, in reality, H. R. lacks.”

In The Demon of Progress in the Arts, which drew the reluctant Eliot into the controversy, Lewis repeated his accusations of 1939 and sardonically observed that Read’s willingness to trim his sails to the prevailing aesthetic winds had finally earned him a knighthood in 1953: “In Sir Herbert Read we have a man who has been very recently knighted for being so “contemporary”; for having been for years ready to plug to the hilt, to trumpet, to expound, any movement in painting or sculpture—sometimes of the most contradictory kind—which was obviously hurrying along a path as opposite as possible from what had appealed to civilized man through the ages.”

Lewis’ book finally stimulated Read’s counterattack, which alluded to the title of Lewis’ work and appeared in the Sewanee Review in 1955 as “The Lost Leader, or the Psycho-pathology of Reaction in the Arts.” Read relegated Lewis to the ranks of the aesthetic rear guard and argued: “Reactionaryism is a negative doctrine. It vigorously denounces an existing trend—the historical present—and seeks to establish a contrary trend. It is revolution in reverse.” And in a note on the first page of his essay, Read mentioned that Lewis had provoked his response and made the unconvincing assertion that his own essay was impersonal: “It may be no accident that these thoughts came to me after reading The Demon of Progress in the Arts, an attack on the contemporary movement in art by Wyndham Lewis. It should be obvious, however, for reasons given in the course of my essay, that my observations have no application to Mr. Lewis himself.”

When Eliot saw this article, he defended Lewis and criticized Read’s “psychological” mode of argument. Read, embarrassed at Eliot’s censure, became apologetic, maintained that he had always admired Lewis, and claimed that Lewis’ treacherous attack came as a complete surprise—though Lewis had been condemning Read, with considerable consistency, for 30 years: “The footnote in the Sewanee was inserted at the request of the editor, who felt that his American readers would not otherwise see the relevance of my article. . . .I find it difficult to explain why a man for whom I have always had friendly and loyal feelings should turn on me with such bitterness and resentment. . . . Lewis attacked me in a direct and extremely vituperative manner. I was surprised, and I could not reply in kind because I did not feel that way about Lewis—I had hitherto regarded him as a friend. . . .I now regret that I added the footnote—I remember that I added it with reluctance. . . . The harm is that I have shocked you, and there is no one in the world for whose good opinion I have more respect.”

Though Read was chagrined by Eliot’s displeasure, he continued to attack Lewis after his death in an abusive obituary, a negative review of the Letters which appeared under the appalling homiletic title: “A Good Artist But A Bad Friend,” and in his 1966 memoir of Eliot. In the memoir Read asserted: “On one of the last occasions that I lunched with [Eliot] alone at the Garrick Club he confessed that in his life there had been few people whom he had found it impossible to like, but Lewis was one of them.” It is significant that Read admitted there were no witnesses and did not publish his malicious story until after Eliot’s death, for his account contradicted the entire tenor of the poet’s 40-year relationship with Lewis. Lewis’ April 1955 remark provided a convincing refutation of Read and a fitting conclusion to their longstanding controversy: “Not long ago Tom expressed to me his misgiving for having, in effect, given Herbert Read his start, encouraging him to contribute to The Criterion and publishing some of his books, saying that there was no one whose ideas he considered more pernicious, and I agree with Tom.”


Just as Pound had helped Lewis at the beginning of his career, so Eliot sustained him at the end. Though grateful for the assistance, Lewis maintained his ironic attitude as the ecclesiastical Eliot hardened into a national monument: “Tom’s always been timid, and afraid of what “people” will say, “people” these days for him being “bishops”. . . . Oh, never mind him. [Tom’s] like that with everybody. But he doesn’t come in here disguised as Westminister Abbey.” Lewis also continued his rivalry with Eliot. P. H. Newby, who discussed with Lewis the fee for a proposed BBC broadcast, has recorded: “”I expect you give Tom Eliot much more than me, ” Lewis said. “No, ” I replied. “You would get the same. There are standard fees. ” He was not disposed to believe that he would get the same fee as Eliot; I got the impression it was not the amount that mattered but the status it implied. . . . People were alarmed by him—but, in my experience, without justification.”

Eliot lent Lewis £ 200 (which he repaid from his BBC commission) to go to Stockholm for x-ray diagnosis and therapy in June 1950. After Lewis became blind the following year, several friends (including Eliot and Naomi Mitchison) helped him get a Civil List Pension. Eliot encouraged Henry Regnery to publish American editions of Lewis’ books in the early fifties and in 1964 offered to write a preface to the paperback edition of Self Condemned, which he called “the best of Lewis’s novels” and “a book of almost unbearable spiritual agony.” Eliot read the typescript and proofs of Monstre Gai and Malign Fiesta (the last two parts of The Human Age), made suggestions about revising the novels, introduced the radio adaptations, and published an essay on Monstre Gai in the 1955 issue of Hudson Review, which also contained a chapter of the novel. Eliot read the proofs of Lewis’ last book, The Red Priest, and wrote a warm obituary in the Sunday Times: “The output was astounding. The views expressed were independent. . . . There is, in everything he wrote, style. I would even affirm that Wyndham Lewis was the only one among my contemporaries to create a new, an original, prose style. Most prose of my time, indeed, seems to me, when compared with that of Lewis, lifeless. A great intellect is gone, a great modern writer is dead.”

The friendship of Lewis and Eliot was based on intellectual sympathy and mutual esteem. Lewis, who was six years older than Eliot and had a more forceful personality, tended to dominate. He used his failure and Eliot’s success to his own moral advantage, for both men felt that Lewis had received much less recognition that he deserved. Eliot, somewhat embarrassed by his own fame, freely expressed his admiration for Lewis in a do/en books and essays published between 1918 and 1960. Once he was blind, Lewis became even more dependent on Eliot’s friendship; and after his death in 1957, Eliot continued to praise his genius. Lewis sustained his long friendship with Eliot, as he did with Augustus John and Ezra Pound, because his respect for Eliot’s artistic and intellectual powers restrained his caustic tongue and combative temperament. Lewis and Eliot, like Pound and Joyce, the other modernistic “Men of 1914,” were all outsiders—three being American and one Irish—whose artistic ideals and imaginative innovations transformed, during the early decades of the century, the cultural life of England.


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