Mark Ford at The London Review of Books:
Certainly Eliot’s mind was a vast, labyrinthine echo chamber, and perhaps more than any other canonical poet of the English language, with the possible exception of his great antagonist John Milton, he was conscious of the previous uses by other writers of the words he deployed in his poems. But what exactly is the difference, one can’t help wondering while reading such notes, between an interesting allusion or echo and a mere verbal coincidence? And where should limits be set for the recording of these echoes or coincidences in the age of the internet, when it’s possible to pursue any phrase ad infinitum? Should notes in a scholarly edition aspire to the condition of an entry in the OED? Anyone with an interest in Eliot will be grateful for, and marvel at, the truly extraordinary knowledge of all things Eliotic that underpins these volumes, but – to get my quibble out of the way early, so that I can praise the numerous virtues of this edition with a clear conscience – it is not always easy to discern the value of the links the editors posit between Eliot’s words and the analogous phrases, drawn from a bewildering array of writers, presented for comparison in the commentary.
Those first ten lines of ‘Prufrock’, for instance, elicit, as well as the citations I’ve already mentioned, quotations from Jules Laforgue, W.E. Henley, Théophile Gautier, Russell S. Fowler (author of The Operating Room and the Patient, a 1906 book which includes a reference to ‘anaesthetic tables’), William James, James Thomson, William Acton, Charles-Louis Philippe, W.R. Burnett (a crime novelist in whose High Sierra – published in 1940 – the phrase ‘She was … a one-night-stand type’ occurs), Edward Winslow Martin (author of The Secrets of the Great City, 1868, which mentions ‘cheap hotels’), the London Baedeker, Cooper’s The Prairie and Hamlet’s ‘overwhelming question’ – ‘“To be, or not to be, that is the question.”