Very Well

The appearance of T. S. Eliot's obscure Four Quartets was welcomed with some uncertainty by critics. Louis Untermeyer once asked Eliot about a rumor that he had heard: The poet, in the course of a lecture at a midwestern university, had allegedly been offered an intricate analysis of a passage from his "East Coker" by a certain student. Eliot was said to have listened patiently until the young man finally asked, "Isn't that what it means?" -- whereupon Eliot allegedly replied, "It may very well mean that."

Eliot listened patiently until Untermeyer had finished speaking. "I may," he then remarked with a wry smile, "very well have said that."

[In 1935 Eliot's play, Murder in the Cathedral, depicting Thomas a Becket's martyrdom in Canterbury Cathedral, premiered. The venue? Canterbury Cathedral.]

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