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An accidental pilgrimage

I touched down from America hoping only for a few good dinners. But I found hints everywhere of British Catholicism’s surprising vitality

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great War by Joseph Loconte, Nelson Books, £16.99 It cannot have been easy to shock Virginia Woolf, the Bloomsbury queen. Bohemian to the core, she presided over a circle of literary hedonists whose escapades the BBC deemed racy enough to turn into a television series earlier this year. And yet, Mrs Woolf confessed to being thoroughly shocked when “Tom Eliot” (TS Eliot) revealed that he’d converted to the Church of England. “Dear Tom Eliot may be called dead to us all from this day forward,” she wrote to a friend in 1927. “He has become an Anglo-Catholic believer in God and immortality and goes to church. I was shocked. A corpse would seem to me to be more credible than he is. I mean, there’s something obscene to me in a living person sitting by the fire and believing in God.” These sentiments were perfectly in tune with the times. The Great War was a painful memory, tormenting survivors who had fought and those who had welcomed them home. Confusion, despair and cynicism had replaced the patriotic idealism that had sent millions to their deaths in the trenches. As Joseph Loconte shows in this […]

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