London: The Tablet, 1975. First edition. Octavo, sewn in card under plain original wrapper printed in black. Slight toning to wrappers, else Fine. Item #1349
"NOW HE IS WITH GOD; THAT IS THE MOST SERIOUS THING YOU SAY ABOUT ANY HUMAN BEING. WE MUST PRAY FOR HIM AND WE MUST PRAY FOR OURSELVES"
First printed edition of the English Jesuit's sermon—delivered at the Solemn Requiem at Westminster Cathedral for the poet and painter David Jones in December 1974. This copy was later inscribed by Peter Levi after he had departed from the Society of Jesus, left the priesthood, and married the widow of Cyril Connelly.
Proceeding from the Latin epitaph (Exodus 12:5) on the title page, Father Levi refers to the horrors of the Great War: David Jones's "experience in the 1914 war was terrible and it was deep. He understood and needed what is offered at the stone of this altar and what is shared at the table of this altar and what is said and what is sung in the petrified forest of this church." Levi remembers Jones as "so patient that his face became saint-like and David smiling transfigures every memory of him. Now he is with God; that is the most serious thing you can say about any human being. We must pray for him and we must pray for for ourselves."
Peter Levi was described in his own obituary as a "restless impulsive man who played many parts." The son of a Jewish father who had converted, "Catholicism was at the centre of Levi's life until 1977. He was educated by the Christian Brothers and ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1964. His education was interrupted by polio while at school and a serious car crash while at Oxford. He said that the two long periods of recuperation encouraged his magpie reading habits: 'dilettantism was thrust upon me'. After graduation he taught at Campion Hall, Oxford, and undertook pastoral work. In 1977 he married Cyril Connolly's widow, Deirdre and left the Jesuits. Levi had been in love with Deirdre for many years and had wrestled with his destiny before making the break with the priesthood" (Peter Forbes). Levi was later Oxford professor of poetry from 1984-89.
Illustrated with a frontispiece portrait of David Jones, passages of poetry and prose, and an additional illustration. Father Levi's remarks were printed for The Tablet, the Catholic weekly edited at the time by Tom Burns (of Burns and Oates). David Jones and Tom Burns had been friends since the days of Ditchling Commons and Burns later printed his own memories of Jones: "The Church, which you always loved like an occasionally tiresome mother, offered a great funeral Mass in Westminster Cathedral. For the last time I was with the concourse of your friends." Peter Forbes. The Guardian (February 2000); Tom Burns. The Use of Memory: Publishing and Further Pursuits.