T. S. Eliot
The Contemporary Reviews
Edited by Jewel Spears Brooker
American Critical Archives (No. 14)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2004
Online Publication Date:March 2010
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511485466.009
Subjects: American Literature
Cambridge Review 49
(30 November 1928), 176.
Mr. Eliot asserts himself. He is no longer the intelligent layman; there are moments when he is near becoming the intolerant cleric. This religious preoccupation is as irritating as that of M. Maurras, and as irrelevant. Dogma is an integral part of classicism; but it is a part only; and when Mr. Eliot underlines it so insistently, he endangers the whole perspective of his attitude. The essay on the humanism of Prof. Babbitt shows to what falsification this must lead, and cannot be passed over without challenge.
Mr. Eliot, in attacking American humanism, suggests that humanism is ancillary to religion; and develops a picture of Christianity as continuous in contrast to a sporadic humanism. This is patently false. If there has always been a remnant of religious tradition in the High Church—and such passages as Tractarian humanism make even this doubtful—there has certainly been no such tradition in the English Church proper. Neither have the European races an “actual tradition of Christianity” but, as T. E. Hulme showed, European culture since the Renaissance has been almost continuously humanist. The confessions of Rousseau, the tabletalk of Queen Victoria, or the sermons of Archbishop Fénelon, are ample illustration. The humanist attitude is in fact quite tenable in an age sufficiently self-satisfied; and it is only Prof. Babbitt's classical contacts which make him uncertain.