restricted access This England! To the Editor of The Church Times
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[ 261 This England! To the Editor of The Church Times The Church Times, 114 (30 Aug 1935) 206 Sir, – Canon Iddings Bell, in his article in your last issue, made several mistakes of approach.1 He made two generalizations not really necessary to his main point, and therefore distracting. There is as little use in saying that the Englisharecomplacentasthereisintheequallycommonremarkthatthe French have bad manners.2 If you live long enough in France, you cease to consider French manners bad; and if you live long enough in England, the assertion that the English are complacent ceases to have any meaning. Different nations have different manners and different complacencies. Second, the assertion that the English people is becoming “devitalized” is open to question and to interpretation. Visitors to France now get a similar impression of that country; and it is open to question whether the devitalization of England and France is not preferable to the galvanization of Germany.3 I think, however, that Canon Iddings Bell had a serious point to make, which deserved serious consideration; and I regret that your leading article chose for comment what was unimportant in his essay – and adopted, if I may say so, a manner which was almost calculated to substantiate his charge of complacency.4 Canon Bell expressed his doubts as to whether Catholicism was gaining ground in this country; he is a regular visitor who makes a special study of religious conditions here; and I submit that his apprehensions deserve better than to be ignored. To me, at least, his warning seems salutary and by no means over-stated. You suggest that he does not understand the English. Very likely, but that does not disqualify him when he criticizes the condition of the Church in England. Ne nous félicitons pas.5 I could not say more without claiming several columns. T. S. Eliot Notes 1. Bernard Iddings Bell, “Is Anglo-Catholicism Conquering?,” The Church Times, 114 (23 Aug 1935), 192. At this time, TSE was writing letters to help Bell, an American Episcopal clergyman, find a Church position in England. Essays, Reviews, Commentaries, and Public Letters: 1935 262 ] 2. Among the “five reasons” for Iddings Bell’s assertion that “the promotion of the Catholic Church in England is possibly more difficult than in any other part of the modern Western world,” one was that “the English are still a complacent people, perhaps the only complacent people left in a world of violent upheaval in respect of statecraft, economics and morality. . . . That complacency constitutes a difficulty . . . because for the most part, in the past couple of centuries, the estimates of man and society on which England has built its life have not been Catholic, but Protestant.” 3. Another consideration behind the difficulty of promoting the Catholic Church in England, Iddings Bell wrote, is “the general apathy of the English common people. . . . [T]o any outside observer the deterioration since the war is sure to seem startling and ominous. . . . The deadly industrialism of a century has devitalized them.” 4. In an editorial of 23 Aug, titled “We Can’t Be As Bad As All That,” editor Sidney Dark asserted: Dr. Iddings Bell loves England, but England has, to an extent, fooled him. . . . History justifies the English in expecting to muddle through. . . . But complacency is certainly not his mood today. . . . Everywhere there is an increasing determination that something shall be done. . . . England is puzzled, not complacent. But, though puzzled, she keeps her head. She will not run after the strange gods of the Fascist and the Communist. Again we entirely disagree with Dr. Bell that there has been a serious deterioration in the national character since the war. . . . But the odd thing is how often the Englishman remains the captain of his soul. It is because of what the English are and not because of what they are not that they so badly need the guidance and the consolation of the Christian religion. And we entirely agree with Dr. Bell that an immense responsibility rests with Anglo-Catholics never to rest or sheath their swords until the life of this England be sweetened and quickened by the faith once delivered to the saints. (189) 5. Trans: Let us not be pleased with ourselves. ...


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