Mr. Eliot’s Virginian Lectures. To the Editor of The New English Weekly
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[ 63 Mr. Eliot’s Virginian Lectures To the Editor of The New English Weekly The New English Weekly, 4 (15 Mar 1934) 528 Sir, – I have read with keen interest Mr. Pound’s kindly note upon my Virginian lectures, in your columns; and I find myself in cordial agreement with the major part of what I am able to understand of it.1 What I do not understand include statements which, to me, have no meaning. I agree with paragraphs 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, and 13, though not necessarily with every inference that might be drawn from them.2 Though I fail to see their relevance to the subject of Mr. Pound’s note, the truths contained are so important that no opportunity should be missed for repeating them. I find that paragraph 4 has no meaning for me. That has sometimes been one’s experience with statements beginning with the words the fact is that. I am also a little surprised to find Mr. Pound, who does not, in his literary criticism, show any great deference towards that spectre, the “average man,” citing him as an authority in this context.3 Paragraph 11 puzzles me a little. Many of us would admit that there has been and is great ethical weakness within organised Christianity. I do not know whom he means by the “(often subsidised) ecclesiastical bureaucrat.”4 As for the second sentence of paragraph 14,5 your readers may find some of these lacunae, and some of the statements which say either too much or too little, pointed out in an admirable review of this book by Mr. Edwin Muir in The Spectator of March 9.6 If Mr. Pound would rewrite paragraph 9 in Basic English, avoiding phrases like “when religion was real,” and “vital phenomena,” it might possibly turn out to be a statement which I could accept.7 I do not understand paragraph 15, but I believe that it contains something which might be put in a form in which it would have some meaning for me.8 T. S. Eliot Notes 1. “Mr. Eliot’s Mare’s Nest,” NEW, 4 (8 Mar 1934), 500. Essays, Reviews, Commentaries, and Public Letters: 1934 64 ] 2. 5: “In the ‘Ages of Faith,’ meaning the Ages of Christian faith, religion in the person of the Church concerned itself with ethics. It concerned itself specifically with economic discrimination.” 6: “It concerned itself with a root dissociation of two ideas which the last filthy centuries have, to their damnation, lost.” 7: “In Dante’s intellectual world certain financial activities are ‘against nature’; they are damned with sodomy. The Church was not abrogating her claim to judge between good and evil along one of the most vital and intimate lines of social relation.” 8: “Creative investment, productive exchange, sharing the profits of shared risk, were considered good. Destructive parasitism was forbidden. I am not arguing, I am stating historic fact. I am not saying that the detailed regulations of mediaeval business can to advantage be resurrected in the identical forms. I am not making a plea for a return to the past.” [11: “The sacerdos has been superseded by the (often subsidized) ecclesiastical bureaucrat.”] 12: “This decline was not unexpected and the Middle Ages are full of propaganda and warning against this particular danger.” 13: “The battle was won by greed. The language of religion became imprecise, just as the language of all forms of modern flim flam, including popular and philological lectures , has become imprecise.” 3. “The fact is that ‘religion’ long since resigned. Religion in the person of its greatest organized European institution resigned. The average man now thinks of religion either as a left-over or an irrelevance.” 4. “The weakness he [Mr. Eliot] is gunning for is NOT a religious weakness in something else, but an ethical weakness in organized Christianity. The sacerdos has been superseded by the (often subsidized) ecclesiastical bureaucrat.” 5. “He [Mr. Eliot] was asked to lecture, and then apparently found he was expected to publish what he said verbatim, or at least he so construed his contract, and as a result the pages of this book probably say both more or less than he means, and in any case are full of lacunae.” 6. See Edwin Muir, “Mr. Eliot on Evil,” Spectator, 152 (9 Mar 1934), 378-79. 7. “I am asserting a known and established fact: when religion was real the church concerned itself with vital phenomena in ECONOMICS.” 8.“Itishighlyconfusingtofindhalfwaythroughthebookthatwhathemeansby...


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