T.S. Eliot And C.S. Lewis: Discord And Concord

Ron Dart

But there are remnants left around me….very strange remnants…in this case the Anglican church which has in it some of the ancient truth and therefore I will live within it.

– George Grant (CBC interview between George Grant-Adrienne Clarkson: June 1966)

I began an MA in English Literature at University of British Columbia in the spring of 1979. The course was on ‘Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and the Tradition of Impressionism and Stream of Consiousness’. I was taken, in the course, by a letter Virginia Woolf wrote to a friend on February 11 1928.

I have had a most shameful and distressing interview with dear Tom Eliot, who may be called dead to us all from this day forward. He has become an Anglo-Catholic believer in God and immortality, and goes to church. I was shocked. A corpse would seem to me more credible than he is. I mean, there’s something obscene in a living person sitting by the fire and believing in God.

I realized, after reading this letter, and other rather ungracious (to say the least) comments from Virginia Woolf and tribe the level of opposition and antagonism those like T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis faced when they dared to become public and act on their new found faith journey.

It is virtually impossible to live in the 20th century Western Tradition without being exposed to T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) and C.S. Lewis (1898-1963). Both men, for different reasons, were main actors and intellectuals on the stage of the early decades of the 20th century. Eliot and Lewis rise, like towering Alpine peaks, far above the lesser mountains that surround them. Books abound aplenty about them, and libraries are packed with their literary contributions and many publications. Read more.

Published in Clarion: Journal of Spirituality and Justice, 21 December 2008.