‘A new occasion, a new term of relation’: Samuel Beckett and T. S. Eliot

  • William Davies
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature book series (PMEL)


This essay examines the understudied relationship between T. S. Eliot and Samuel Beckett. In the first part of this essay, previous critical treatments of this relationship are considered and factual corrections are made where error has been introduced regarding remarks by Beckett on Eliot. This essay then explores Beckett’s treatment of what he identifies as two distinct versions of Eliot: the early twentieth-century experimental writer of such poems as The Waste Land; and the critic-publisher of The Criterion, Faber & Faber, and the producer of what Beckett labelled a ‘professorial’ approach to poetry. In doing so, this essay considers how the conflicts between Beckett’s rejection of Eliot as a critic and his more ambivalent treatment of Eliot as a poet allow for an exploration of the tensions that are central to modernism, and how this impacts the configuration of both Eliot and Beckett within what has come to be thought of as ‘Late Modernism’.


  1. Ackerley, C.J., and S.E. Gontarski. 2006. The Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett: A Reader’s Guide to His Works, Life, and Thought. London: Faber & Faber.Google Scholar
  2. Ardis, Ann. 2009. T. S. Eliot and Something Called Modernism. In A Companion to T. S. Eliot, ed. David E. Chinitz. Chichester: Wiley & Blackwell.Google Scholar
  3. Bair, Deirdre. 1978. Samuel Beckett: A Biography. London: Jonathan Cape.Google Scholar
  4. Brooker, Jewel Spears. 1979. F. H. Bradley’s Doctrine of Experience in T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and “Four Quartets”. Modern Philology 77 (2): 146–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cronin, Anthony. 1996. Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist. London: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  6. de Villiers, Rick. 2012. “Of the Same Species”: T. S. Eliot’s Sweeney Agonistes and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. English Studies in Africa 55 (2): 18–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eliot, T.S. 1933. Catholicism and International Order. Christendom: A Journal of Christian Sociology 3 (11): 171–184.Google Scholar
  8. ———.1939. The Idea of a Christian Society. London: Faber & Faber.Google Scholar
  9. ———. 1953. Selected Prose. Ed. John Haywood. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 2015. The Poems of T. S. Eliot. Volume I: Collected & Uncollected Poems. Ed. Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue. London: Faber & Faber.Google Scholar
  11. Gibson, Andrew. 2010. Samuel Beckett. London: Reaktion Books.Google Scholar
  12. Kennedy, Seán. 2005. Beckett Reviewing MacGreevy: A Reconsideration. In Irish University Review 35 (2): 273–287.Google Scholar
  13. Knowlson, James. 1996a. Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  14. Levenson, Michael, ed. 2011. The Cambridge Companion to Modernism. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Longenbach, James. 1994. “Mature Poets Steal”: Eliot’s Allusive Practice. In The Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot, ed. A. David Moody, 176–188. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. MacGreevy, Thomas. 1931. Thomas Sterns Eliot: A Study. London: Chatto & Windus.Google Scholar
  17. Nixon, Mark. 2011. Samuel Beckett’s German Diaries 1936–1937. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  18. Pilling, John. 2011. Samuel Beckett’s ‘More Pricks Than Kicks’: In a Strait of Two Wills. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  19. Riquelme, John Paul. 2014. Staging the Modernist Monologue as Capable Negativity: Beckett’s “A Piece of Monologue” Between and Beyond Eliot and Joyce. In The Edinburgh Companion to Samuel Beckett and the Arts, ed. S.E. Gontarski, 397–408. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Sheehan, Paul. 2013. Modernism: Dublin/Paris/London. In Samuel Beckett in Context, ed. Anthony Uhlmann, 139–149. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Van Hulle, Dirk, and Mark Nixon. 2013. Samuel Beckett’s Library. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Weller, Shane. 2015. Beckett and Late Modernism. In The New Cambridge Companion to Samuel Beckett, ed. Dirk Van Hulle, 89–102. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. ———. 2015a. Beckett and Late Modernism. In The New Cambridge Companion to Samuel Beckett, ed. Dirk Van Hulle, 89–102. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Williams, James. 2012. Beckett Between the Words: Punctuation and the Body in the English Prose. Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui 24: 249–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Davies
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ReadingReadingUK

Personalised recommendations