restricted access Mr. T. S. Eliot’s Quandaries. To the Editor of The New English Weekly
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84 ] Mr. T. S. Eliot’s Quandaries To the Editor of The New English Weekly The New English Weekly, 4 (12 Apr 1934) 622-23 Sir, – Wishing to engross as little of your space as may be, I shall try to comment upon Mr. Pound’s observations (558) and your own notes (576) briefly in one letter.1 First, I suggest to Mr. Pound that the review mentioned in the Observer is definitely below the level of “average London intelligence.” I do not know how to prove this.2 Mr. Pound does not make clear to me what is the peculiar malady of my logic. I should like to know. Naturally, if my diagnosis is wrong, my remedy is likely to be an irrelevance.3 I had no intention of distracting my readers from the vital problem of economics; and Mr. Pound’s objection seems to depend upon the assumption that this is the only vital problem.4 I still do not know whether Mr. Pound means, by “ecclesiastical bureaucrats ,” the whole of the Anglican and Roman hierarchies, or not. Is the Pope, for instance, a bureaucrat according to Mr. Pound’s definition?5 Mr. Pound has now re-written the paragraph which stands as the last but one on page 559, in such a way that I cannot only understand it but agree with what it asserts. I thought that this was what he meant; but only goodwill could supply the interpretation.6 Now, Sir, as to your notes.7 Our difficulties seem to turn primarily upon the use of words in different senses. As for (1) I apologise for having overlooked your previous comment upon the Archbishop of York’s letter. (2) I find that you mean by native something like what I mean by eternal. I find it hard to dissociate the meaning of the adjective native from the process of birth. A “Whitstable native” is surely an oyster which was born at or in the vicinity of Whitstable, even though of American parentage.8 (3) As for the Atonement, Sir, you might consult, among others, the essay on the subject by Dr. Kirk in Essays Catholic and Critical.9 (4) However admirable may be “a classless but functional society distinguished only by objective merits,” it seems to me only a means to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, not that Kingdom itself. (5) Again, we differ as to the possible meanings of the word [ 85 Mr. T. S. Eliot’s Quandaries mission. A mission is an errand. The extension of the meaning to cover what is actually accomplished should be made clear in its context. (6) I suspect that by “saving souls” you mean “creating a divine society of Man on Earth” (whatever you may mean by divine). In other words, where you put complementary, you mean identical? T. S. Eliot Notes 1. “Mr. Eliot’s Quandaries,” NEW, 4 (29 Mar 1934), 558-59; the editor’s responses to TSE’s letter of 29 Mar are reproduced in note 7 below. 2. “The danger of Mr. Eliot’s reprint is amply illustrated by the efflux in the ‘Observer’ which can be taken, I suppose, as gauge of ‘average’ London intelligence?” (558). Basil de Selincourt’s review of After Strange Gods, “A New Cure for the Times: Mr. Eliot and Orthodoxy,” appeared in the Observer of 4 Mar 1934, 5. 3. “His being surprised [at Pound’s mention of the “average man”] is, however, useful, as it sheds light on a peculiar malady of his logic. . . . Mr. Eliot is not treating a specific literary problem; he is treating the modern world. . . . He is in fact treating the sickness of the age. His diagnosis is wrong. His remedy is an irrelevance” (559). 4. “Mr. Eliot’s book is pernicious in that it distracts the reader from a vital problem (economic justice)” (559). 5. “A bureaucrat (ecclesiastical or any other god damn’d variety) is a man in a safe or safeish job whose mental attitude is coloured by his wish to retain that job, often to such a degree that thetruthbecomesofsecondaryortertiaryimportancetohim,andthetranslatingoftheconcept of justice into action seems to him impractical, or infinitely deferable” (559). 6. In Pound’s review of ASG, he had written: “I am asserting a known and established fact:whenreligionwasrealthechurchconcerneditselfwithvitalphenomenainECONOMICS” (“Mr. Eliot’s Mare’s Nest,” NEW, 4 [8 Mar 1934], 500). Of this passage, TSE had complained: “If Mr. Pound would rewrite paragraph 9 in Basic English, avoiding phrases like ‘when religion was real...