The hero as individual talent: Thomas Carlyle, T.S. Eliot and the prophecy of modernism

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This article argues for the influence of Thomas Carlyle's essay 'The Hero as Poet' (1840) on T.S. Eliot's first book of criticism, The Sacred Wood (1920), and in particular the essay 'Tradition and the Individual Talent'. Eliot's affinities with Carlyle as a post-Romantic critic are illuminated by the vicissitudes of his quarrel with Matthew Arnold over the relationship between poetry and criticism. A close comparison of the two essays reveals Eliot's reimagining of Carlyle's poet-prophet as a Modernist hero, whose 'method' and 'vision' is adumbrated in The Sacred Wood's final essays by extension of the argument of George Santayana's Three Philosophical Poets (1910).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-491
Number of pages17
JournalReview of English Studies
Issue number265
Early online date27 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2013


  • modernism
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Thomas Carlyle
  • poetry
  • literary criticism
  • Matthew Arnold

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