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Selected Essays, 1917-1932 is a collection of prose and literary criticism by T. S. Eliot. Eliot's work fundamentally changed literary thinking and Selected Essays provides both an overview and an in-depth examination of his theory.[1] It was published in 1932 by his employers, Faber & Faber, costing 12/6 (2009: £32).[2]

In addition to his poetry, by 1932, Eliot was already accepted as one of English Literature's most important critics. In this position he was instrumental in the reviving interest in the long‐neglected Jacobean playwrights.[3]A Dialogue on Dramatic Poetry was originally an addendum to Eliot's preface to Dryden's Essay of Dramatick Poesie (1928 reprint).[4] Further essays include The Metaphysical Poets (1921) in which Eliot argued that a "dissociation of sensibility" set in... due to the influence of ... Milton and Dryden.[5] Furthermore the modern poet ‘must be difficult’... ‘to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning’.[6]Philip Massinger (1920) contains his aphorism "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal".[5]

Eliot converted to the Church of England and some of the essays expressed the form and discipline he felt necessary for fulfillment in his own life.[7]For Lancelot Andrewes (1926), examines Andrewes, a 17th-century Anglican bishop whose Eliot considers an important figure in history of the church, distinguished for the quality of his thoughts and prose.[8] In The Humanism of Irving Babbitt (1927), Eliot posits that Babbitt's faith in civilization must have a discipline derived from dogmatic religious authority.[8]


Selected Essays was placed fourth in the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's Fifty Best Books of the Century and sixth in Modern Library's Best 20th-Century Nonfiction.[9]








  • Lancelot Andrewes (1926)
  • John Bramhall (1927)
  • Thoughts after Lambeth (1931)



  1. ^BookRags: Selected Essays of T. S. Eliot, 1917-1932 Study Guide
  2. ^The Times, 16 September 1932; Some New Books
  3. ^Eliot, T[homas] S[tearns]" The Oxford Companion to American Theatre, 3rd edn., Gerald Bordman and Thomas S. Hischak, eds., Oxford University Press 2004.
  4. ^Richard Badenhausen T.S. Eliot and the art of collaborationCambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-521-84123-2
  5. ^ ab"T. S. Eliot" Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. by Elizabeth Knowles. Oxford University Press Inc. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.
  6. ^"Eliot, T. S." The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Edited by Dinah Birch. Oxford University Press Inc.
  7. ^Eliot, T[homas] S[tearns]" The Oxford Companion to American Literature. James D. Hart, ed., rev. Phillip W. Leininger. Oxford University Press 1995
  8. ^ ab"For Lancelot Andrewes" The Oxford Companion to American Literature. James D. Hart, ed., rev. Phillip W. Leininger. Oxford University Press 1995
  9. ^100 Best Nonfiction —Modern Library

Of the four "appreciations of individual authors" in which the central argument is the failure of equilibration between some structure of doctrinal thought and the feelings and emotions it once successfully conveyed, perhaps the most graphic—and famous—illustration is "Arnold and Pater." Matthew Arnold, in his extensive writings on the unraveling of ties between Christianity and Culture, was engaged in waging, according to Eliot, a "religious campaign," and the upshot of this succession of field operations was to "affirm that the emotions of Christianity can and must be preserved without the belief," an affirmation whose inevitable consequence was the "divorce" of that special sensibility possessed by "religion," with its heights and depths of feeling and emotion, from its superstructure of doctrinal "thought." One outcome of this resulting imbalance—indeed severence—between emotions and belief where dogma no longer can function adequately to...

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