“The question of anti-Semitism in Eliot is important,” Christopher Ricks says in his much-discussed new book, “exactly because it cannot be isolated for discussion; it entails the larger, though admittedly not more intense, question of prejudice in general.” We may feel the question of anti-Semitism in Eliot would be important even if it could be isolated for discussion, particularly if we have some of Eliot’s more prejudicial images, of the kind literary scholars often prefer to forget, hanging in our minds. Like the following, from “Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar”:

The rats are underneath the piles. The jew is underneath the lot.

But Ricks is right to insist on the complex context, and on the tangled nature of the question. It may help if we approach the subject rather stealthily, through an example of our own. How much prejudice lurks in these lines from Eliot’s early “Portrait of a Lady”? Is prejudice the right word for what we find here?

We have been, let us say, to hear the latest Pole
Transmit the Preludes, through his hair and fingertibs…

Certainly “the latest Pole” and “transmit” seem to suggest a derogatory view of a concert fashion, a long series of Polish pianists all billed as possessing a special, perhaps even racial, intimacy with the works of Chopin. There may be a casual implication about Poles in general too: would “the latest Frenchman” have quite the same sniffy effect?

But who is speaking? Someone who scoffs at the fashion (“through his hair and fingertips” is openly sarcastic) but goes along with it—more, someone for whom such dabbling in dubious culture seems to be a habit, since the Polish concert is a mere instance (“let us say”). And his companion goes on to make even more spurious claims on Chopin’s acquaintance:

“So intimate, this Chopin, that I think his soul
Should be resurrected only among friends
Some two or three, who will not touch the bloom
That is rubbed and questioned in the concert room.”

“Soul,” we note, rhymes comically with “Pole,” and suggests that all those sensitive folks are much the same, in spite of their affected bids for difference. The speaker at least is skeptical about all of them, but his skepticism may itself be a prejudice, the mask of a fear rather than the sign of an independent mind at work. The poem, which appears just before Eliot’s own “Preludes” in Prufrock and Other Observations (1917), ends with the thought that the affected companion could discreetly die “some afternoon,” like a consumptive ingénue out of Laforgue, and thereby make the speaker’s skepticism seem a weakness rather than a protection, a failure of feeling far worse than affectation. He would then be left,

   sitting pen in hand
With the smoke coming down above the housetops;
Doubtful, for a while
Not knowing what to feel or if I understand
Or whether wise or foolish, tardy or too soon…
Would she not have the advantage, after all?

“Have the advantage” manages to be both petty and scared. “After all” echoes Prufrock’s repeated worries (“And would it have been worth it, after all”) about women, bare-armed, scented, alluring, indifferent, daunting—although his women-friends are not going to die, merely ignore him, or tell him he has got things wrong:

Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say: “That is not it at all, That is not what I mean at all.”

If these men and women had been Laforgue’s, they would have felt younger, and they would have been afraid of getting hurt. They would also be grieving for their missed chances. Eliot’s characters of both sexes seem prematurely aged, are mainly afraid of being tricked or trapped—they don’t mind being foolish on purpose, but they are desperately afraid of being deceived—and they don’t know what they have missed, or even if they have missed anything. It is a world of guesswork and suspicion, littered with ifs and conditional clauses, a world where almost nothing is known.

We often forget what a brilliant satirist Eliot was, and the objects of satire in these early poems are almost always postures or suppositions. “Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript“: every word rustles with assumptions. “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” the old man Gerontion asks in Poems 1920, but there is a bitter irony here. We may have the terrible knowledge of the coming of “Christ the tiger,” but the rest of what we think we know seems mere prejudice, a collection of jerky images and disorderly propositions: “Tenants of the house, / Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.”

I keep speaking of prejudice, but is that the name for what is going on here? It is in its older, broader sense, the sense defended by Hans Gadamer in Truth and Method: the preliminary or tentative judgment one makes, rather than the rigged verdict. We regularly make judgments before all the facts are in; often have to, and sometimes the very idea of “all the facts” is utopian. This doesn’t mean we can’t change our minds when we have further facts. But the modern sense of the word “prejudice,” at least in English, is harsher and more violent than this, and means a judgment arrived at in complete indifference to the facts.


There is a case, I think, for sticking to this sense of the word, and using notions like preconception, assumption, inclination, bias, set of associations, etc., for the other sense. When Gadamer suggests that the business of understanding involves distinguishing “the true prejudices…from the false ones,” we can accept the implication that not everything we value is rational, or discussable, or susceptible to scientific proof, but true prejudices still seems very strange. Wouldn’t a prejudice that was true cease to be a prejudice, even in the broadest sense, and become something else, like a good guess, or generous belief?

Against this we might argue, as Christopher Ricks does in his remarkable book, that the senses of the word, even now and in English, are not completely separate, and that it is easy to slip from one to the other. Ricks recognizes the difference clearly enough by having a chapter called “Prejudice” and another called “Anti-Semitism.” The implication is that prejudice is not always a horror; and that anti-Semitism is a horror, and not merely a variety of prejudice or the only horror there is.

But Rick’s overall argument invites us to keep the different senses of prejudice well within sight of each other, if only because of the complacency skulking in the promise of a pure separation—the complacency of thinking. We have benign assumptions, traditions, principles, convictions; they have gruesome prejudices of the sort only entertained by bigots. The point is not just that rational thought plays a very small part in either of these ways of seeing things, but that both sets submit the supposedly free mind to large historical forces.

Ricks is oddly silent about these forces, about the conditions in which prejudices (in either sense) thrive or dwindle or change. What’s in a name? Prufrock, for example. “The tax returns of J. Alfred Prufrock, fine, but a love song does not harmonize with the rotund name,” which is “not only formal but unspeakable: no one, not even the most pompous self-regarder, could ever introduce himself as, or be addressed as, J. Alfred Prufrock.” No one? Well, only people like J. Edgar Hoover.

“I’m in love.” “Who’s the lucky man?” “J. Alfred Prufrock.” Inconceivable.

Ricks’s commentary is wonderfully funny here and very alert to what Eliot is up to. We have just seen how unlucky the lucky man thought he was. But what kind of community is implied in these certainties about a silly name? Genteel Boston in 1910 (or 1989)? Some sort of early- to mid-century mandarin axis between the American East Coast and the English Home Counties? I’m laughing along with Eliot and Ricks, and I don’t mean to get solemn about poor old Prufrock—he is fictional after all, as a character in Woody Allen might say. But there is an interesting historical question about when and where such laughter is or isn’t forthcoming—as of course there is about all implementations of consensus. Still, a critic can’t do everything, and perhaps Ricks needs to suspend the general question in order to catch, as he so brilliantly does, the soft, subtle shuffle of particular prejudices at work.

Ricks is a critic who is always at his best when he makes things difficult for himself; he tends to get a little fussy when the going is easier. He is good at finding difficulties, though, as when he offered to demonstrate (in Milton’s Grand Style, 1963) a great writer’s subtlety when everyone else was talking about his ungainly power; or to show (in Keats and Embarrassment, 1974) that even awkwardness may be a form of grace. But he has never before made things quite so tough for himself and for us as he does now, in T.S. Eliot and Prejudice. The result is a book that is literally haunting. You can’t stop thinking about it, even when you feel it’s wrong; even (especially) when you don’t know why you feel it’s wrong.

The book falls off a little in its second half. Ricks has generous and intelligent things to say about the middle and later Eliot, particularly about the wonderful “Marina,” Eliot’s “most loving poem,” Ricks says, a place where even the Deadly Sins “are dissolved; they are not denied but they become without substance in the graced air of the poem.” But on the whole the Eliot who escapes from prejudice also escapes from Ricks, who is so persuasive about the relation between animosity and animation.


Ricks suggests that “categorizing and prejudice in Eliot’s poetry” may be “issues that are as responsible for his greatness as for his rare lapses from greatness.” “As responsible for his greatness” is a very large claim indeed, but Ricks’s later suggestion that “the terms of prejudice…constitute one aspect under which Eliot’s poetry may be seen” seems a little mild, from what Ricks writes:

Once you think about prejudice you are taken into a great deal of and about Eliot—into the nature and boundaries of his imagination. Reciprocally, once you think about Eliot, you are taken into a great deal of and about prejudice, including how inadequately so momentous a matter has been thought about and argued about.

Ricks is certainly right about Eliot’s early poems, which are curiously expert on the subject of prejudice in the broader sense, and often uncomfortably close to it in the harsher sense. Right too about the course of Eliot’s poetic career in this respect. Of “The Hollow Men” (1925), for example, Ricks says,

it is not that a vacuum has been filled, rather that a hollowness has been admitted. If there are no incitements to prejudice, it is because there are no incitements to anything except the pallidly appalled.

And Four Quarters (1935–1942), moves toward an abandonment of the very prejudices the early poems were so expert in, forming as it does a kind of atonement, or at least an apology. There are few accusations in literature more harrowing than the one the ghost in Little Gidding addresses to Eliot and to us. It is the promise of a genuine foretaste of hell:

the rending pain of re-enactment
Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
Of motives late revealed, and the awareness
Of things ill done and done to Others’ harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.

One of the first things we learn from Ricks is that reading itself often rests on prejudice, even in its narrower sense. More precisely, all reading engages presuppositions and expectations, which are frequently (almost always?) busier and more loaded than we think. It is poetry’s business, Ricks suggests, to “give pause” (“Those who believe that poetry makes nothing happen must concede that giving pause is not nothing”), and one of the ways poetry does this is by holding out our prejudices and letting us stumble over them. There is always a question, of course, about whether poetry makes this stumbling too easy or too hard; whether readers are going to accept the pause that’s been given. But it is no doubt enough—it is a lot—for a critic to show the spectral and not so spectral prejudices swarming in and around a poem.

We have seen the presumptions surrounding the name Prufrock, but what about a simple couplet from the same poem, like:

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo

John Crowe Ransom was quite certain that “contempt” was to be heard in these lines. The women were “trivial” for Hugh Kenner; spoke “no doubt tediously and ignorantly” for Grover Smith. For Helen Gardner they had “high-pitched feminine voices” (and not, for example, as Ricks mischievously remarks, the gruff voice “of the stereotyped woman don”).

Ricks, listing these cases, doesn’t want to say none of this is “there” in the poem, only to point out how precarious the invitations to such readings are, and how littered the responses are with prejudice. The women come and go without adjectives or adverbs; they talk without tone. The rest is what we put there. Ricks speaks of Eliot’s offering “incitements” to our prejudices, but Eliot is not inciting very hard here. “Given a poem,” Ricks says of Eliot’s critics, “write a novel about it.” Specifically “the recriminatory novel” that Eliot has carefully not written.

Seamus Heaney notes in a recent article (Boston Review, October 1989) that Eliot’s verse provokes a shiver which is “more pertinent and more acutely pleasurable” than warmth. Heaney is not thinking of prejudice, but his sense of Eliot’s astringency is just right. I would want to add that the poems also have startling energies which Eliot himself (at least in his criticism) seemed to want to deny and which academic appreciation has often smothered. The surprises these poems continue to yield make Eliot considerably more than the dusty monument and glum sufferer rather mournfully inspected by Cynthia Ozick in a recent New Yorker piece. We might think, for example, of the wonderful drop in “Sweeney Among the Nightingales” from the cosmic night to the comic brothel—

Gloomy Orion and the Dog
Are veiled; and hushed the shrunken seas;
The person in the Spanish cape
Tries to sit on Sweeney’s Knees

—or the sudden swoop in the same poem, like the raking movement of a camera on a crane, from the brothel’s respectable neighborhood to the disreputable scene of Agamemnon’s death:

The nightingales are singing near
The Convent of the Sacred Heart,

And sang within the bloody wood
When Agamemnon cried aloud,
And let their liquid siftings fall
To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.

“Among the nightingales” means among the women but also caught up in mythological company. Sweeney is both luckier and more careful than his Greek precursor; and may be not in all that much danger anyway, which makes the comparison both ludicrous and weirdly sympathetic to Agamemnon.

Eliot’s poems and plays, with few exceptions, do not promote Eliot’s or anyone’s prejudices, but they often employ them.

I knew a man once did a girl in
Any man might do a girl in
Any man has to, needs to, wants to
Once in a lifetime, do a girl in.
Well he kept her there in a bath
With a gallon of lysol in a bath…
What did he do! what did he do?
That dont apply.
Talk to live men about what they do.
—“Sweeney Agonistes”

Any man claims our prejudiced assent, but doesn’t really expect it except on some strange wavelength where we (the men among us, and the women willing to transpose the genders) may remember extreme fits of anger or despair. Even then it’s a long way from wants to to has to; and the murderer himself has entered a form of death in life, where our ordinary presumptions “don’t apply.” What is funny and frightening about this passage is the way it parades prejudices, about women, violence, action, death, without seeming to notice them. We ourselves are laughing nervously because we think we may have spotted the prejudices—this is a raw, stagy life we are looking at, a dark vaudeville—but are not at all sure what to do about them. And of course a poem can triumph over prejudice precisely by remembering it and placing it, as in the equanimity of a promised death and transformation in a famous passage (the example is Ricks’s) in The Waste Land:

   Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

So let’s not rush to see “Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians” (in “Gerontion”) as a bit of easy anti-Oriental prejudice on Eliot’s part—at least not without wondering about the ease of our own assumption that Eliot is prejudiced, or without seeing that Hakagawa isn’t “bowing before his Titians,” as Ransom rephrases it, or without remembering with Ricks (a lovely bit of detective work) that the phrase “among the Titians” comes from Henry James and describes Milly Theale in the National Gallery in London.

Let’s not be as sure as Stephen Spender is that “Fräulein von Kulp” (in the same poem) is automatically meant to evoke a horrible night in an Austrian hotel. Ricks wants us to see a “dual impulse” at work in Eliot’s poems, a “ministering to prejudice” that also alerts us to prejudice; a use of prejudicial attitudes that converts rhetoric into art and saves irony from its own complacency. It is the “double enterprise of inciting both shrewd suspicion and a suspicion of such shrewd suspicions.” It resists both easy relativism and hardened certainty.

Eliot’s strategy can catch us out in really uncomfortable (and then liberating) ways, and Ricks himself has developed a critical equivalent for it. I thought I knew where I was, for example, when I saw Ricks confronting, quite early in his book, the notorious anti-Semitic snatches in Eliot’s poems: the squatting Jew in “Gerontion,” Rachel née Rabinovitch in “Sweeney Among the Nightingales,” the sagging Bleistein in “Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar.”

Ricks shows that the lines in “Gerontion” belong to the cracked and angry speaker, not to the poet—they are among the “thoughts of a dry brain” I glanced at earlier—and that Rachel’s name is given to us in very strange form, which doesn’t tell us she has changed it to something elegantly gentile (like Winthrop or Lowell or Eliot, Ricks suggests). This, I thought, was beginning to look like academic whitewash: it wasn’t the poet, guv, it was the people and the language in the poems. Beautifully done, and more than half-right, but whitewash all the same. But then this supposed perception of mine turned out to be mere prejudice, judgment leaping ahead of the text, since Ricks’s discussion of the third instance, the Bleistein poem quoted earlier, offers no quarter and no defense:

A lustreless protrusive eye Stares from the protozoic slime
At a perspective of Canaletto…

The rats are underneath the piles. The jew is underneath the lot.

This is not a miming of prejudice, it is the thing itself, the voice of a culture enjoying its bigotry, delighting in dumping the familiar blame. Bleistein eyeing the Canaletto cityscape is squalid and nasty where Hakagawa among the Titians is merely funny and exotic. Of course, the poem is hideously clever. Ricks says it is “irresponsibly cunning,” the instance “quite differently objectionable” from the way the other two are. They are objectionable as well, of course; there was no whitewash. Ricks is not out to justify Eliot but to read him as closely and as fairly as can be done. And if this activity cannot purge reading of prejudice, it can help us to face whatever prejudices arise, from whatever direction. It is because we can’t read things absolutely right that we must read them carefully; it is because prejudice won’t just vanish that we need to hold what prejudices we can to the light.

Eliot’s poems are troubling in this perspective. Certainly the early works are out to trouble us—more precisely, to make us waver between panic and edgy superiority—but do they perhaps take us further into prejudice than we need or want to go? Are they vigilant enough about their employment of prejudice, and is vigilance entirely what is needed? Their only truly irredeemable patch, I think, is Bleistein—that and a revolting passage again involving Bleistein that Eliot wrote for The Waste Land and then deleted.

Full fathom five your Bleistein lies
Under the flatfish and the squids.
Graves’ Disease in a dead jew’s eyes! When the crabs have eat the lids. Lower than the wharf rats dive Though he suffer a sea-change Still expensive rich and strange

This is the “ugliest touch of anti-Semitism in Eliot’s poetry,” Ricks says; but reminds us that Eliot himself didn’t publish it. Yet of course what we make of that fact is still a question—was he embarrassed, repentant, or merely cautious?—and it can’t be enough to say that the ugly patches, of whatever kind, are just patches. The tiniest patch is bad enough; the size “don’t apply,” as Sweeney might say.

We are not, I take it, trying to decide whether to pardon Eliot or not—we arrive a little late for that and we are not his judges anyway—but wondering how we now feel about the poems. The prose is easier to handle because it is more vulnerable and we can argue with it. It has all the strengths and weaknesses of Eliot’s fine but cramped intelligence, and carries the historical freight that goes with any polemical writing. Eliot’s remark (in After Strange Gods, 1934) that “reasons of race and religion combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable” is alarming but not quite as reprehensible as it looks. In a projected. Christian society a large number of free-thinkers (i.e., atheists) would obviously be undesirable, and Eliot made clear in a letter that he thought of irreligious Jews as only a special case of atheism, more uprooted than most, little better than Unitarians (the religious group in which Eliot himself was brought up). This is not the voice of liberalism and democracy, but it is not mere bigotry. The trouble is that Eliot speaks of race as well as religion, and follows the quoted remark with the assertion that “a spirit of excessive tolerance is to be deprecated.” Excessive tolerance, at least in matters of race, was not the most immediate of dangers in 1934. Ricks sees self-deception as well as animus in Eliot’s language here—Eliot sincerely thought he had avoided the anti-Semitism in which he remained entangled—and Ricks’s scrupulous discussion has an interesting parallel in Denis Donoghue’s consideration (in a recent Yale Review, an Eliot issue) of Eliot’s social and religious thought. Donoghue finds this same passage “objectionable because it is badly written, and, being badly written, the feelings from which it issues are disordered.” It is, they are; but would we perhaps rather say that Eliot seems to have had disorderly feelings about Jews and free-thinkers, and that his prose precisely reflects disorder?

The poems are different, because they make more complicated and less logical demands on us, and are backed by the resources of a considerable art. I find I can’t really separate prejudice and anti-Semitism in this context, that only the harsher meaning of prejudice will stay in my head. But then I also find that the horror I feel at moments when I read these poems has very little to do with my response to the wit and dry splendor of the rest; and that I can’t use one response to trash the other, either way. “It is unimaginable,” Ricks remarks, thinking of anti-Semitism generally, “that anyone could ever judge these matters exactly right, or speak of them without a single failure of tone.” Well, that is almost exactly right. We would want, I think, to go beyond the old polite line on Eliot (Orwell: “Who didn’t say such things at that time?” Leonard Woolf: “Eliot was slightly anti-semitic in the sort of vague way which is not uncommon”) without falling into bigotry ourselves, without turning Eliot’s prejudices into all there is to say about him. Ricks suggests that

in so far as Eliot’s poems are tinged with anti-Semitism, this—though lamentable—is not easily or neatly to be severed from things for which the poetry is not to be deplored or forgiven but actively praised.

“Tinged” seems light and “lamentable” seems soft; but how much tougher do we want to be? We need to see that there are dangers in perfect evenhandedness, and Ricks himself speaks of the threat of “vulture complacencies.” He never gives the vultures any kind of break, but much of what he says could quite easily be turned to their comfort. “Just as there is no opportunity which cannot be abused,” Ricks writes in an essay on cliches (in The Force of Poetry, 1984), “so there is no abuse which cannot be an opportunity.” No abuse? Ricks means linguistic abuse, but you see the risks of symmetry.

“It is crucial,” Ricks says here, “that resistance to an injustice perpetrated by Eliot should not issue in an injustice to Eliot.” What if we were to say the injustices (against the Jews, against the well-regarded dead poet T.S. Eliot) are just not comparable, let alone evenly balanced? Of course Ricks doesn’t think they are, but he is a touch too unprejudiced here, and the vultures are very close. We catch the same note when Ricks says of a horribly shuffling Eliot passage on the Spanish Civil War (“so long as we are not compelled in our interest to take sides, I do not see why we should do so on insufficient knowledge”) that “this deserves respect even from those who believe that Eliot misjudged the Spanish Civil War.” Ricks’s decency makes him see a projected “balance of mind” in Eliot’s obfuscation: sufficient knowledge of fascism was everywhere by 1937 if you wanted it, and “our interest” very soon “compelled” us where our sympathy had sadly failed.

It is of course important to see how prejudiced the enemies of prejudice are; how Pound, for example, confessing to the “stupid, suburban prejudice of anti-Semitism,” still clung to his stupid prejudice against the suburbs; how the philosopher Michael Dummett, to borrow another of Ricks’s examples, when he complains about prejudice among English policemen, reveals a dispiriting prejudice about “the kind of personality that is attracted to the police force.” But it is also important to see that the suburbs have not suffered from prejudice as the Jews have; and that while a policeman’s life is dangerous, it is not delivered over to prejudice as the mere fact of having a black skin in Brixton is. Ricks himself keeps making something like this point, but then doesn’t always seem to remember it.

Dr. Johnson thought prejudice was the opposite of reason. Hazlitt (quoted by Ricks in an epigraph) thought the same, but added that the two things were very close, and we were wrong to see “a great gulph between them.” Ricks sees prejudice, when he leans to the malign sense of it, as “characterized…by plausible processes of corrupted reasoning,” a very subtle definition, worth pondering. Later he speaks of “the premature prefix and the ill-judged judging.” The judging and the reasoning happen, but happen badly. It is because they happen that we can’t speak of prejudice as groundless; because they happen badly that we can’t trust them.

This is the clue to one of the most fraught and difficult passages in Ricks’s book, where he argues against Leon Wieseltier’s sense of prejudice as “precisely a feeling that is not based upon, and so cannot be revised by, evidence.” This is close enough to the OED’s view, cited later, that prejudice is “a feeling, favourable or unfavourable, towards any person or thing, prior to or not based on actual experience.” “Favourable or unfavourable” is interesting, since we have virtually lost the first sense; but it is easy to see the OED’s empiricist bias. Its definition ignores the fact that we have all kinds of feelings prior to or not based on experience that we would be very reluctant to call prejudices.

The crux is the question of evidence. Ricks wishes to say not only that prejudice may have what it wants to call evidence for its verdict, but that it sometimes may have what we should have to call evidence. This is a monstrous thought in many situations, as Ricks knows, and needs care:

If prejudice were never able to point to anything which could plausibly be called evidence, had simply and indubitably nothing out there which it could muster, then prejudice would not be so powerful, ubiquitous, and disconcertingly obdurate as it is.

The burdened words are “plausibly,” “called,” “out there,” and “muster.” Who “calls” and “musters,” where is “out there,” who decides on “plausibility”?

Certainly prejudice often thinks it has evidence, and finds it entirely plausible. Prejudice always has a history, a place in social and political time that allows it to confirm its favorite findings again and again. Jews have been known to behave just as anti-Semites think Jews behave; we have all lived up to our stereotypes at some time or another.

Ricks says we can’t begin to understand or reduce prejudice if we throw away the idea of evidence, if prejudice becomes “entirely dissociated from any antecedent causes, provocation or evidence.” I think Ricks is right about the causes and about the need not to separate prejudice from reason; I would accept the notion of apparent (and even occasionally real) provocation, and add that of the particular setting in which prejudices and its consequences occur.

But I still hesitate about the word “evidence.” Evidence is not proof, of course, yet even “evidence” seems to go further than historical understanding requires of us. Can prejudice have real evidence and still be prejudice? The point may seem narrowly linguistic, even trivial, but entails, I suspect, an urgent moral and tactical question. The crops have failed, let’s say, the village suffers horribly, there is a strange old woman who lives at the edge of the wood. These are facts, no doubt about it; but they are not evidence of witchcraft, not even flimsy or circumstantial or refutable evidence. To call them evidence is to grant far too much to the witchhunters, to court not only complacency, as Ricks suggests, but complicity in a hideous myth. Prejudices have their grounds, but it is possible that we shall understand those grounds less rather than more if we call them evidence.

This Issue

February 15, 1990