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Eliot

TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES

Sir.—

The traditional use of the word [aristocracy] implies, I believe, an emphasis upon inheritance: not merely the inheritance of property, however important that may seem to some, but the inheritance, partly through biological trans­mission and partly through environment, of, other less tangible values. In other words, the unit of aristocracy, in the sense in which the word has been used in the past, is not the individual but the family. In the new sense of the word (and the phrase “the new aristo­cracy” is acquiring currency) inheritance is ignored, and the family implicitly depreciated. We are to have an aristocracy, not of families, but of individuals; and those individuals will have been turned into aristocrats, not by their parents, but by their schoolmasters, employing some system of selection to be elaborated. I suggest that this may be a more violent mutation of meaning than any word ought to be required to undergo. It will not do to appeal, behind the back of tradition, to the etymological sense of the word: for govern­ment by the best men is surely the aspiration of every society, whatever its social organiza­tion. I am, Sir, your obedient servant.

–T. S. Eliot, Shamley Green, Surrey, April 14.

We hope you will join us in The Imaginative Conservative community. The Imaginative Conservative is an on-line journal for those who seek the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, M.E. Bradford, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism (Visit our Bookstore to find books by/about these men).

We address a wide variety of major issues including: What is the essence of conservatism? What was the role of faith in the American Founding? Is liberal learning still possible in the modern academy? Should conservatives and libertarians be allies? What is the proper role for the American Republic in spreading ordered liberty to other cultures/nations?

We have a great appreciation for the thought of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Irving Babbitt and Christopher Dawson, among other imaginative conservatives. However, some of us look at the state of Western culture and the American Republic and see a huge dark cloud which seems ready to unleash a storm that may well wash away what we most treasure of our inherited ways. Others focus on the silver lining which may be found in the next generation of traditional conservatives who have been inspired by Dr. Kirk and his like. We hope that The Imaginative Conservative answers T.S. Eliot’s call to “redeem the time, redeem the dream.”

[Source: T.S. Eliot, “Aristocracy,” London Times (April 17, 1944), pg. 5.]

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Published: Jan 27, 2012
Author
T.S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888–1965) was an essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic, and "one of the twentieth century's major poets." Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States, he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927.
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