"MATURITY OF LANGUAGE MAY NATURALLY BE EXPECTED TO ACCOMPANY MATURITY OF MIND AND MATTERS": INSCRIBED IN THE YEAR OF PUBLICATION BY T.S. ELIOT TO HIS FIRST SPIRITUAL COUNSELOR, FATHER ERIC CHEETHAM, THE VICAR AT KENSINGTON'S ST. STEPHEN'S, WHERE ELIOT WORSHIPPED AND SERVED AS CHURCHWARDEN FOR THE FINAL THREE DECADES OF HIS LIFE
ELIOT, T.S. What Is a Classic? An Address delivered before the Virgil Society on the 16th of October 1944. London: Faber & Faber, (1945). Slim octavo, original light blue cloth, supplied dust jacket. $5200.
First edition, ordinary issue, presentation copy, of this presidential address delivered to the Virgil Society in 1944, inscribed in the year of publication to Eliot's beloved first spiritual counselor, a longtime Anglican vicar who served at St. Stephen's in Kensington, where the deeply religious Eliot worshipped and served as churchwarden during the final decades of his life: "To Fr. Eric Cheetham from T.S. Eliot. Ash Wednesday 1945."
"In his 1944 Presidential Address to the Virgil Society, Eliot placed the Latin poet 'at the center of European civilization'" (Yeats Eliot Review). Eliot argued—perhaps inspired by British classicist and scholar Jackson Knight—that Virgil was a sort of proto-Christian, embodying what Eliot saw as Christian values (e.g. a sense of duty to family, community, and God). The dust jacket has been supplied from another first edition copy. Gallup A45b. Preceded by the Virgil Society issue published in wrappers earlier the same year. This copy was inscribed on Ash Wednesday to Fr. Eric Cheetham, vicar of St. Stephen's in Kensington, London. Eliot had a deep Anglo-Catholic faith, which he discovered shortly after gaining British citizenship. Eliot lived in South Kensington for much of his life and joined St. Stephen's after he formally separated from his first wife, Vivienne. Between 1933 and 1940, Eliot sought spiritual refuge while living in the vicarage at St. Stephen's, where he came to know the vicar, Fr. Eric Cheetham. Cheetham was something of a friendly eccentric, known for his outgoing personality and his idiosyncratic church newsletter which eschewed standard punctuation in favor of a chatty, stream-of-consciousness style. Attempting to describe him, Eliot wrote: "He was a wonderfully jolly priest, the kind I always supposed G. K. Chesterton would have loved… He had a miniature motor-bike to make his rounds, and used to say wistfully that he only wished he might have ridden it up the aisle, only the church would frown on him dispensing blessings from a Corgi." Leaning on Cheetham and St. Stephen's, Eliot found solace in the rites and rituals of the Anglican Church, regularly going to Confession and attending Mass. At his core, Eliot was a seeker and leaned toward historical religious tradition. In fact, he frequently attended silent retreats at Anglican monasteries attempting to grow closer to God. Nevertheless, Eliot committed himself to the more modern worship at St. Stephen's and even became a senior layman (churchwarden), helping to guide the congregation as he had been guided. In the end, Eliot spent over three decades at St. Stephen's.
Book with interior quite nice, faint soiling to cloth, and a bit of toning to extremities. Dust jacket with a few tiny water spots and only light wear and toning to extremities. A handsome, extremely good copy with outstanding provenance.