T.S.Eliot's wasted wit

October 20, 1995

Roy Harris must try to be less flat-footed about T. S. Eliot (THES, October 13). The lines about St Mary Woolnoth keeping the hours "With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine" offer a wry comment on the rigours of office hours in the city of London.

Eliot's footnote "A phenomenon which I have often noticed" is thus far from being "portentously unexciting". The bleak irony of its glance at personal experience attempts, suddenly and savagely, to probe a particular dimension of the poem's sense of "waste".

We used to call this sort of thing "wit".

Terence Hawkes Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory University of Wales College of Cardiff

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