Thursday, June 28, 2012

T.S. Eliot's Faith

The New Statesman's Adam Kirsch reviews a volume that spans the poet's "increasing involvement with Anglicanism that would lead to the major biographical events of these years: his confirmation in the Church of England, followed by his naturalisation as a British citizen" — The Letters of T S Eliot Volume III: 1926-27 - review. Some insights:
    Just at the time Eliot is about to enter the Church, we find him apparently saying that he does not believe Christ existed and in any case that he doesn’t “like” Him....

    Eliot, a product of the Harvard of William James, suggests that he is drawn to Christianity as a pragmatist – that is, because it “works” for him, not because he is convinced of its truth as a proposition.

    Elsewhere, he writes: “The Christian scheme seemed the only possible scheme which found a place for values which I must maintain or perish . . . the belief, for instance, in holy living and holy dying, in sanctity, chastity, humility, austerity.” This well describes the austere spirit of Eliot’s life and work in the years covered by this volume and will only become more apt in the years to come, as his marriage descends into further horror and his public image becomes even more formidable.

    It is good, therefore, to have in the letters at least one example of the way Eliot’s Christianity could console as well as discipline.

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