Books: The Confidential Clerk

T.S. ELIOT: A LIFE by Peter Ackroyd; Simon & Schuster; 400 pages; $24.95

Since plowing through lists of strange names can be dull business, the only people likely to read the acknowledgments in most books are either insomniacs or the ones who are mentioned and thanked by the author for their help. Occasionally, though, these dutiful expressions of gratitude can yield useful information about the works they precede. This first full-length biography of T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) is a case in point. After acknowledging away for nearly two pages, Peter Ackroyd, an English critic and poet, concludes with a terse paragraph: "I...

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