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In "East Coker', T. S. Eliot describes the ongoing struggle "to recover what has been lost / And found and lost again" an action no w taking place "under conditions / That seem unpropitious." (1) Such words could certainly describe the historical moment of the poem's publication: the Easter (21st March) 1940 number of the New English Weekly, when the poem appeared amidst ever-worsening news from the European theatre of war. As the German armies continued to march westwards through Europe, and as the fate of Britain looked increasingly uncertain, the poem's title spoke of continuity in the midst of change as it was the name of the village in Somerset from which Eliot's distant ancestor, Andrew Eliot, had ventured to the New World in 1669. Eliot had visited East Coker in August 1937, and in 1965 its parish church of St Michael was later to provide the resting-place for his ashes, behind a plaque that quotes the opening and closing lines of his poem. "East Coker" was an enormous critical success, and was swiftly re-issued in pamphlet form, selling over twelve thousand copies. Virginia Woolf read the poem, but did not review it officially. Having met Eliot's friend Bonamy Dobree on Saturday 6th April 1940, she records that they discussed Eliot's 'didactic' last poem, though whether this is Woolf's opinion or that of her companion is unclear. (Diary 278) (2) Writing to Eliot on 15th May, Woolf told him that she "did, by heroic efforts, buy the copy of the paper with your poem in it, and liked it." (Letters 398) (3) A later letter, however, offers a more restrained view. Upon receipt of the pamphlet edition of Eliot's work, Woolf writes to thank him and adds "according to our compact, I say nothing of the printed matter." (Letters 441)This reserved response to 'East Coker' may be attributed to Woolf's having recognised many echoes of it in the novel she was writing at the time, a novel in which, as Gillian Beer notes, she "works urgently on the problem of the artist's position in society and in England's history." (4) A diary entry for 29th December 1940 finds her admitting to feeling "jealous" when she hears Eliot's poem praised, combating this by going for lengthy walks "saying, I am I; & must follow that furrow, not copy another." (Diary 347)

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