Was T.S. Eliot a great letter writer? Not on the evidence gathered in a recently emerged folio of letters penned during his tenure as the chief editor of Criterion, a once popular literary publication. Although we are offered a vivid picture of the single-handed daily management of a high-minded literary magazine, few of the Criterion letters are riveting or revelatory, and they are couched in a scrupulously courteous register that becomes wearisome when read in quantity. But the dazzling roster of correspondents makes even the most humdrum exchanges of interest. The big names – Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, Virginia Woolf and W B Yeats – are well represented, along with an illustrious cast of literary worthies from Auden (his first appearance in the letters being a courteous rejection note) to Gertrude Stein (another rejection, rather less courteous), Robert Graves (a quarrel) and Thomas McGreevy, Criterion contributor and close friend of Samuel Beckett, whose recently published letters vie with Eliot's as essential purchases for anyone with an interest in modern writing.