(Boston Globe) William Pritchard reviews "The Letters of T.S. Eliot: Volume 4"

Eliot joined the Anglican church in 1927, and these letters from the next two years express relatively little speculation about personal, spiritual matters. There is instead much correspondence dealing with the relation, if any, of religion to Humanism, as sponsored by the Americans Paul Elmer More and Eliot’s old teacher Irving Babbitt. But this matter, which even in its day was of less than earth-shaking concern to most intellectuals, seems extremely dated now. By contrast there is an exceptional moment in a letter to More when Eliot wonders about people whose religious instinct is absent: “They may be very good, or very happy; they simply seem to miss nothing, to be unconscious of any void ”” the void that I find in the middle of all human happiness and all human relations, and which there is only one thing to fill.” And he declares himself one to “whom this sense of void tends to drive towards asceticism or sensuality, and only Christianity helps to reconcile me to life, which is otherwise disgusting.” The force of that final adjective is unsettling, and makes us aware that Eliot was playing for keeps. One is reminded, in a lighter way, of his contemporary Evelyn Waugh who, after he became a Roman Catholic noted that religion made him a less horrible person than he had been without it.

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