Abstract

In 1950, the year he wrote his introduction to an edition of Huckleberry Finn, T. S. Eliot, visiting the United States, seemed “more human than in England,” more boyishly “American”: a glimpse of his own “happy and lost” childhood, refracted perhaps through the prism of Huck. Defending the novel's final chapters, Eliot found it artistically “right that the mood at the end … should bring us back to that of the beginning,” even back to “the mood of Tom Sawyer.” But the ouroboric rondure that seemed artistically right to Eliot, a modernist poet wedded to what he called “style and order,” may rationalize a flaw. It seems regrettable that Eliot, with his immense authority circa 1950, should have put his imprimatur on an error—validating Mark Twain's original sin against his own (or Huck's) book, in order (to quote one of Eliot's favorite poets) to have the novel “end where it begunne.”

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