T. S. Eliot’s Notes on the Way [II]. To the Editor of Time and Tide
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[ 205 T. S. Eliot’s Notes on the Way [II] To the Editor of Time and Tide Time and Tide, 16 (2 Feb 1935) 154-55 Sir, – I have to thank you yet a third time for giving Miss Rebecca West the hospitality of your columns.1 But this time I am not so thankful to Miss West, since she has said something to which I must reply. She says that my phrases“seektosuggest”thatshehasnotreadtheworksofFatherThurston. I never dreamt of such a thing: I only sought to suggest that perhaps Miss West had read them without quite understanding them. I am inclined to believe that my suspicions have some foundation. Miss West says that I remark in dispraise of Mr. Huxley’s interest in psychical phenomena that it would be of no importance whether psychical phenomena were established or not, and she says that Fr. Thurston is evidently not of the same opinion. Well; the effect of Fr. Thurston’s writings on my mind is to persuade me that psychical phenomena are not important; and I should have thought that that was what he intended. But I do not know Fr. Thurston, and Miss West has interviewed him.2 I have it from a mutual friend that Fr. Thurston has never attended a séance; perhaps Fr. Thurston did not have time to tell Miss West that.3 One’s imagination runs riot (to use the kind of phrase that flows from Miss West’s pen under inspiration and circumstances of unusual difficulty)4 in wondering what was said at that interview. Did Miss West, I wonder, tell Fr. Thurston that he was a “most charming and contented ornament of the Church”?5 As for my own honesty, which Miss West does not seem to think highly of, I leave that for others to judge. In her first epistle, Miss West suggested that, after saying that “It is better to suspend decision than to surrender oneself to a belief merely for the sake of believing something,” I ought to dissociate myself from the doctrine of Charles Maurras and all the Action Française group, who “blatantly recommend that France should practise Catholicism whether she believed it or not, for the sake of the unifying power of a religion.”6 Miss West did not pause to point out that to surrender oneself to a belief for the sake of believing something, is not the same thing as practising a religion without believing it; nor did she entertain the possibility that I supported Maurras and the Action Française group for Essays, Reviews, Commentaries, and Public Letters: 1935 206 ] some other reasons than what she calls their “blatant recommendation.” But perhaps I am asking too much of human honesty, especially in the warmth of controversy. If Miss West would come up and see me some time, I should enjoy talking these matters over quietly.7 I should like to dissociate myself from the “Eliot legend” which Miss West (still writing, I suppose, under circumstances of unusual difficulty) accuses me of “gratuitously” trying to “bolster up.”8 As for the “powerful flood of suggestion that has been turned on us in England during the last twenty years,”9 I admire Miss West as a sort of Mount Ararat, the first to rear her majestic head from the subsiding waters.10 But perhaps Miss West was never submerged at all; in which case I admire her still more as “that most charming and contented ornament” of the Ark, Mrs. Noah. I am, etc.,  T. S. Eliot 24 Russell Square, W. C. 1 P. S.– I again call your attention to the misprint voleuntade for volontate, repeated in Miss West’s quotation which I mentioned in the footnote, which you did not print, to my last letter. Notes 1. The opening echoes that of Rebecca West’s letters printed in the issues of 19 Jan, “Sir, – I have to thank you yet again for having asked Mr. T. S. Eliot to contribute ‘Notes on the Way’ during the past week” (94) and of 26 Jan, to which this is a rejoinder: “Sir, – I have to thank you yet a third time for having asked Mr. T. S. Eliot to contribute ‘Notes on the Way’ during the present month” (123). 2. When protesting her knowledge of Father Thurston’s works, West stated: “I have met Father Thurston for the purpose of discussing their contents” (123). 3. The mutual friend is likely to be Hope Mirrlees, as TSE...