chapter  2
21 Pages

The religious quest

Eliot and religion In 1927 Eliot adopted the established religion o f England, the country in which he had lived since 1914, but his childhood had been nurtured by rather different religious forces. His seventeenthcentury English ancestor, Andrew Eliot, became a member of the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony, and Eliot’s historical back­ ground was Puritan. In 1834 his grandfather had left M assachu­ setts for St Louis, Missouri, as a missionary for the Unitarian Church, and Eliot him self was brought up as a Unitarian. The colours o f this background, remotely Puritan and proximately Unitarian, never left him. They dictated the way in which he would be an Anglican, if not the fact that he would be. For both elements of his religious heritage indicate points of view - dispo­ sitions - that survive his conversion into the ampler communion of the Church o f England. Religious questions preoccupied Eliot during most o f his life. This section will examine the most important shaping influences on his views and some o f the effects that they produced both in his poetry and his criticism.