New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1940. First American edition. Octavo, original blue cloth, gilt spine, original dust jacket. Early owner signature, dated 1940, to blank flyleaf, very faint tanning to endpapers, gentle wear and spine toning to dust jacket. A near-fine copy. Item #898
"A CHRISTIAN SOCIETY ONY BECOMES ACCEPTABLE AFTER YOU HAVE FAIRLY EXAMINED THE ALTERNATIVES"
First American edition collecting T.S. Eliot's lectures on the relationship between the Church and an increasingly secular world. First published by Faber and Faber in October 1939. This American edition, designed by Robert Josephy, followed in January 1940.
Eliot became an Anglican in 1927 and famously described himself as "classical in literature, royalist in politics, Anglo-Catholic in religion." He became known for his increasingly overt religious views after the publication of Ash Wednesday in 1930. By 1939, with the storm clouds of another World War gathering, people began to question the future of liberal democracy. Eliot argued that the West's embrace of a secular humanist toleration of all ideas had negated the Christian conscience that had animated the West for centuries, leading to an erosion of the very values that liberalism sought to enshrine.
The three lectures were delivered in March 1939 at Cambridge University. The text of the book edition is divided into four sections, concluding with a note (dated, "September 6th, 1939") observing that the beginning of the Second World War "should bring more clearly to our consciousness the alternative of Christianity or paganism." The dust jacket for this American edition asserts: "In this short book, unimpeded by any decoration or display, the full movement of one of the best modern minds is brought to bear on our most urgent and ultimate problem. It is a book as small and large and integral as Pascal's Pensées." Eliot supplemented the text of the lectures with extensive Notes at the rear of the text. A brief Postscript (relating a critical note from a "distinguished theologian") is placed in front of an Appendix reprinting a February 1937 radio broadcast from a series called "Church, Community and State." Gallup. T.S. Eliot: A Bibliography, A35.