Jacek Niecko wrote:
> I suspect that Mr Villepin would have felt very comfortable as foreign
> minister of the "government" at Vichy.
Bringing the Vichy post around to Eliot, I submit the following
paragraphs by George Watson who wrote about meeting Jean Verdenal's
Facing the Pyrenees from the French side, Pau was much favored by the
English in the last century, as it is by Frenchmen today, as a place
of retirement; and before France fell in 1940 it boasted several
English churches, all since vanished. My host in 1972 was M. Pierre
Verdenal, the surviving brother, by then nearly eighty years old. He
was a lawyer, although his father, brother, and son were all doctors;
and he had been a prisoner of war in Germany during the first world
war, and mayor of Pau during the German occupation in the second; and
he still lived in the large old stone house near the center of town
where he and Jean, and their father before them, had been brought
up. The home and its inhabitants breathed an air of conservative grace
and a sense of heredity. Though originally from the north, the family
were humorously proud of the local heritage of the region of Béarn,
staunchly antiradical and anti-Gaullist, and touched with some of the
convictions that early in the century would have been called
anti-Dreyfusard. It was a memorable visit.
. . .
The evidence, on reflection, began to fit. Eliot's reading of Massis
in the Paris of 1910; his lifelong admiration, qualified as it was,
for Charles Maurras and his Action Française; the anti-Gaullism of the
Verdenal family and their lack of bitterness over the Vichy era. Add
to these a sentence in Dr. Schlemmer's letter of 1973 that suddenly
looked like a key. Jean Verdenal, he had written to me, in an English
all his own, "took a small interest, literary and political, in
Charles Maurras and his Action Française. He may have been inclined to
be monarchist theor[et]ically, but not to take part in this extremist
movement." But that, after all, sounded much like Eliot's view--an
ardently theoretical monarchist, or rather royalist, but with too many
scrupulous hesitations to adhere to a movement-even assuming that the
England he inhabited by choice for the last half-century of his life
had offered him a royalist movement to join. In a British context
Eliot's views on this subject were always marked by an extreme
oddity. He rejoiced to his friends, for instance, that the Order of
Merit had been conferred on him by the palace and not by the
politicians. It is not a distinction a native Briton would be likely
to care about, or even to notice.
George Watson, "Quest for a Frenchman,"
The Sewanee Review
Volume LXXXIV, Number 3
Summer 1976 (July-September 1976)
P.S. - Eliot translated "Anabase" (1924) by Saint-John Perse.
He lived in Pau when Jean Verdenal did.
Saint-John Perse (1887-1975)
Pseudonym for Marie-René-Auguste-Aléxis Saint-Léger
Anabasis. A Poem By St.-J. Perse
with a Translation into English by T.S. Eliot.
Faber & Faber Ltd, London, 1930.