Skip to Content
ublogo print

University Libraries

UB Libraries News Archive

All the articles here are archived. Please check the Libraries News Center for the latest information on the Libraries.

T.S. Eliot in Buffalo, NY – 1933

Last update on: |

Thomas Stearns Eliot

On January 26, 1933, T.S. Eliot, poet and critic, was in Buffalo, N.Y. to appear before an audience for a Fenton Foundation lecture held under the auspices of the University of Buffalo in the Twentieth Century Club at 595 Delaware Avenue. (see “Meaningful, Sonic Poetry Termed Best” Buffalo Courier-Express, 27 January 1933)

Between 1932 and 1933, T.S. Eliot wrote and presented a series of lectures while touring U.S. universities. His topic while in Buffalo was Edward Lear and Modern Poetry.

Apparently Eliot was not happy with the Lear lecture. T.S. Eliot was once asked why it was absent in his “Collected Essays.” He replied, “I am flattered that you should retain any interest in the lecture I gave on Edward Lear, and am therefore sorry to say that I destroyed the script of this and of a number of occasional lectures which I delivered in the United States in 1932-33.”

For more information on poetry, visit the Poetry Collection, a part of the University at Buffalo Libraries Special Collections.


1-26-1933MEANINGFUL,
SONIC POETRY
TERMED BEST

T. S. Eliot, poet and critic,
contrasts style of various
writers

There are two types of poetry, one in which the words are used simply to give meaning, the other in which the words are used for their sonic effect, but in great poetry the words do both. T. S. Eliot, English poet and critic, told an audience last night in his Fenton Foundation lecture held under auspices of the University of Buffalo at the Twentieth Century Club.

Mr. Eliot’s subject was Edward Lear and Modern Poetry, and one of his themes was that modern “unintelligible” poetry derives from Lear as one of its sources. Lear, a contemporary of Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, was a writer of light verse, in which there was more nonsense than sense, and in which the words were chosen not to convey ideas, but emotional effects—the emotion being of the whimsical sort.

Compares Carroll, Lear

Mr. Eliot drew this contrast between Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear: Carroll’s whimsy, with its detective story elements, its logical procedure, appeals to the adult element in children, whereas Lear’s poetry, which is more “poetic” and less, logical, appeals to the childish side of adults.

Quoting Walter Pater’s essay which makes the point that all the other arts only approach music which stands above them, Mr. Eliot made a defense for this sonic, musical, somewhat unintelligible poetry, which makes no pretense at sense, but pleases the ear, or creates an emotional effect.

Swinburne, another contemporary of Lear, also was held up for comparison to this effect: that Swinburne was an adolescent who pretended to be writing poetry with much meaning, though it was really meaningless, whereas Lehr didn’t even pretend to be making sense.

Following the lecture, Mr. Eliot, author of The Sacred Wood, and The Waste Land, read from his own poems.

Buffalo Courier-Express, January 27, 1933

Comments are closed.