Volume l is divided into three sections: Juvenilia and Undergraduate Writings; Graduate Essays and Ph. His first collection of them, (1920), has been disassembled, the individual items put in the order they appeared. How alive for the contemporary student of philosophy are the concerns they deal with—post-Hegelian idealism, questions of immediate experience, the nature of relations, objects, and truth—I can’t say but would imagine not very alive except historically.
Each volume has thirty pages or so of introduction that provide a capsule version of Eliot’s life and writings during the period. As a once hopeful student of philosophy, I was unable to call up enough resources to find them of much interest, and I think that even an academic philosopher would need to have very specialized inclinations to follow the pages devoted to the arguments and concerns of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century thinkers such as Bergson, Josiah Royce, Bernard Bosanquet, Bertrand Russell, and above all F. Bradley, Eliot’s favorite philosopher-writer and the subject of his Ph. In an address Eliot gave to the Harvard Philosophical Club in 1914, “The Relationship Between Politics and Metaphysics,” he affects some humorous detachment from such issues, as he observes “Mr. the prophet who has put off his shoes and talks with the Absolute in a burning bush,” or “Professor Royce [to whom] we owe the resuscitation of Christianity by the method of last aid to the dead.” The first and most useful attempt to connect Eliot the philosopher with his behavior as critic and poet, was made decades ago by Hugh Kenner in the chapter “Bradley” in  Some letters of Eliot’s, written after his four-year immersion in philosophy and not available to Kenner, suggest that he had had enough of it.
The general editor is Ronald Schuchard, and anyone familiar with his edition of Eliot’s Clark lectures of 1926 (, 1993) will be unsurprised at the extraordinary fullness with which these two large volumes are annotated. The general editorial introduction to the volumes tells us that the notes are intended to “enhance and clarify” Eliot’s “highly referential prose.” The magnitude of this editorial task was enormous, since at the beginning of the present century more than 700 pieces of the prose were uncollected, nor were there any critical editions of works published in his lifetime, the Clark lectures being the exception.
In response to anyone who might question the need for such a comprehensive project, the editors quote Eliot himself on the importance of reading everything a major author has written: “To understand Baudelaire you must read the whole of Baudelaire.” On the safe assumption that 100 years after “Prufrock” appeared, Eliot qualifies as a major author, we may profitably address ourselves to these early volumes of prose. Volume II, an especially rich trove, consists of essays and reviews from Eliot’s great period of journalism (1919–1926).
I would add to Eliot’s words that every city, every family, every individual has his or her own tradition. [Accessed 7 September 2019]; Available from: https://
Habits, ideas, though process – these are all part of this “turn of mind” that Eliot speaks of in his essay.
Over the past two months, I have been undergoing one of the more significant reading experiences of my life, the perusal of T. Eliot’s complete prose from the first twenty-one years of his writing career.
Eliot died in 1965, so these pages constitute a major recognition, after fifty years, of his contribution.
Eliot’s essays actually map a highly personal set of preoccupations, responses and ideas about specific authors and works of art, as well as formulate more general theories on the connections between poetry, culture and society.
Perhaps his best-known essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” was first published in 1919 and soon after included in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1920).