Evelyn Underhill.
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Evelyn Underhill


Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941): spiritual director and writer on mysticism and the spiritual life. Compelled by deep study and the counsel of Baron Friedrich von Hügel, she became an Anglican in 1919 and dedicated her life to religious writing and guidance, notably as a retreat director. She wrote or edited 39 books and over 350 articles and reviews; among her other activities, she was theological editor for The Spectator and wrote too for Time and Tide. Her major works include Mysticism: A Study of the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (1911), which TSE read as an undergraduate at Harvard: ‘He took copious notes [from Mysticism], particularly from the chapter “Voices and Visions”’ (Helen Gardner, Composition of Four Quartets, 69, fn 82). In 1907 she married Hubert Stuart Moore (1869–1951), a barrister.

TSE to Sister Mary Xavier, SSJ, 1 Aug. 1962:

I … wish that I could tell you more about the late Mrs Moore, otherwise Evelyn Underhill. I did not know her intimately and knew [her] I think in the first place through her cousin, Francis Underhill, who was my spiritual director and later Bishop of Bath and Wells. I remember her, however, with affection and regret. I do not know whether you would call her a mystic though she was certainly an authority on mysticism. She was a very cosy person to meet and have tea with in her home in [no. 50] Campden Hill Square and was also very fond of her cats. I should not call her a mystic whether qualified by the adjective Anglican or not, but I should call her an authority on mysticism and indeed would accept your phrase for her ‘deep spirituality’. She was, I am sure, an admirable spiritual director herself and I am pretty sure was a great help to many young women … I remember her not at all as an intimate friend, but as a very highly valued and regretted acquaintance.

See further Donald J. Childs, ‘T. S. Eliot and Evelyn Underhill: An Early Mystical Influence’, Durham University Journal 80 (Dec. 1987), 83–98. Robyn Wrigley-Carr, The Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill (2020).