“He [C.E.M. Joad] also worshipped at Stedham church : and the image of Joad and T.S. Eliot, often the only communicants, is not the least curious of church history’s vignettes” (‘Cyril Joad’ by Geoffrey Thomas. Birkbeck 1992 – Page 27)
And so begins a pilgrimage of words from TS Eliot/CEM Joad in Stedham Church to TS Eliot/Bishop Bell in Chichester Cathedral -spanning over 65 years.
What different paths were Joad and Eliot treading which brought them together ‘under one roof’ at St James Church, Stedham?
From 1950/51 (until his death in 1953) Joad lived at Stedham, having bought a farm – “Meadow Hills”.
In 1950, TS Eliot worked at Faber & Faber and attended editorial board meetings with his boss – Sir Geoffrey Faber – at his country home in Minsted, a ‘stone’s throw’ from Stedham in West Sussex.
Both had become Anglican Christians. Joad was writing what proved to be his last work : “Recovery of Belief – A Restatement of Christian Philosophy” (Faber & Faber 1952). Eliot was working on his poetry (eg “Poetry and Drama” 1951) and plays (eg “The Confidential Clerk” 1953).
In 1935, TS Eliot accepted a commission to write a play – “Murder in the Cathedral” – for the Canterbury Festival, at the request of George Bell who was Bishop at Chichester Cathedral, West Sussex.
81 years later, in 2016, Peter Hitchens was to write about Bishop George Bell of Chichester – “‘Murder in the Cathedral’ – The Casual Wrecking of a Great Name”.