Society to honour Eliot starts at Little Gidding

A CAMBRIDGESHIRE hamlet which inspired the great poet TS Eliot played host to his admirers on Saturday at the launch of an English society named in his honour. Sixty people gathered in Little Gidding, which has a population of just 28, for the launch of t

A CAMBRIDGESHIRE hamlet which inspired the great poet TS Eliot played host to his admirers on Saturday at the launch of an English society named in his honour.

Sixty people gathered in Little Gidding, which has a population of just 28, for the launch of the TS Eliot Society of England.

The event was attended by Eliot's widow Valerie Eliot, acclaimed poet Karen Armstrong and chair of the Poetry Society of Great Britain, Ruth Padel.

Mrs Eliot told The Hunts Post: "I'm so glad to be here in Little Gidding as it is a lovely place that holds some very special memories for me and Thomas. He was very moved by his visit to this place."

The American poet visited Little Gidding on May 25, 1936, and it had such an impact on him that he used its name as the title for the fourth and final section of his Four Quartets, his last piece of published poetry before he died in 1965.

Robert Miller, whose idea it was to launch the TS Eliot Society of England, said: "TS Eliot's Four Quartets with the last one entitled Little Gidding is the most famous of his poems. With the launch today of a society in his name I would like to see Little Gidding as a place for TS Eliot scholars and people who have been touched by his poems to gather their thoughts and reflect."

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Despite visiting the hamlet in 1936, TS Eliot did not write Little Gidding until he was serving as an air raid warden in London.

Miss Padel said: "The smoke, fire and panic of London during the air raids provided TS Eliot with such a contrast to his memories of Little Gidding, it must have worked as a reminder to him that there was still a place that had a sense of truth.

"It must have provided such a stark contrast to what he describes in Little Gidding as 'the roadsides lined with the flowering heads of Queen Anne's Lace and the hedgerows white with May blossom.'"

The weekend of events also featured the judging of a children's poetry competition by Miss Padel and an evening candlelit service in the Church of St John where the Rev Malcolm Guite, chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge, read TS Eliot's Little Gidding.

Rev Malcolm Guite said: "TS Eliot rightly predicted that everyone who visits Little Gidding will gain an insight into their being. Somehow he knew, here it all came together and made sense. Little Gidding has gone on to become a sacred place."

Karen Armstrong added: "This is my first visit to Little Gidding but when Eliot puts forward the idea of it being a holy place he is saying any place can be holy but some like Little Gidding make you more aware of their holiness."

INFORMATION: To find out more about the society or to become a member write to Ferrar House, Little Gidding, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE28 5RJ.

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