From Hints to Guesses: Eliot “B.C.” and After Conversion

  • G. Douglas Atkins


The preceding chapters in this book raised new questions concerning Eliot’s conversion in 1927 to “anglocatholicism.” Hints appear, and the reader is likely as a result to guess, that Eliot not only knew much about Incarnational Christianity as early as 1920 but also showed a tendency then toward its embrace. This chapter considers Eliot’s only “sermon” while emphasizing his commitment to “Catholic Christianity,” his focus on “the dogma of the Incarnation,” and his notion of a “sequence” that leads “inexorably” to the understanding that begins in (often negative and satirical) observation of the world.


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  1. 1.
    T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1943).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lyndall Gordon, T.S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life (New York: Norton, 1999), 87.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    T.S. Eliot, preface, For Lancelot Andrewes: Essays on Style and Order (London: Faber and Gwyer, 1928), ix.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Sheila Kaye-Smith, Anglo-Catholicism (London: Chapman Hall, 1925).Google Scholar
  5. Geoffrey Faber, Oxford Apostles: A Character Study of the Oxford Movement (London: Faber and Faber, 1933).Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Barry Spurr, “Anglo-Catholic in Religion”: T.S. Eliot and Christianity (Cambridge: Lutterworth, 2010).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    T.S. Eliot, “The ‘Pénsees’ of Pascal,” Selected Essays, 3rd edn (London: Faber and Faber, 1951), 408.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    William Turner Levy and Victor Scherle, Affectionately T.S. Eliot: The Story of a Friendship, 1947–1965 (Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, 1968); also Rev. Levy’s essay “The Idea of the Church in T.S. Eliot,” a lecture delivered at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in 1957, which I acquired from Bertram Rota in London (friends of Rev. Levy) in signed original typescript (it was published in The Christian Scholar). According to Rev. Levy in his book, Eliot told him “it was the best thing that had ever been written about his religious beliefs, and urged me to expand it into a book. Prior to your work, all I received was abusive criticism. There was no attempt to understand and define my position. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that this is now available” (100).Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    T.S. Eliot, A Sermon (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1948), 7.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    On the “layman’s faith,” see my The Faith of John Dryden: Change and Continuity (Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1980).Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    T.S. Eliot, The Cultivation of Christmas Trees (London: Faber and Faber, 1954).Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    Qtd. in Levy, “The Idea of the Church in T.S. Eliot,” 21–22.Google Scholar

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© G. Douglas Atkins 2013

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  • G. Douglas Atkins

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