Thomas Stearns Eliot

Early Life

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born on 26th September in 1888 in St. Louis Missouri, U.S. He is mostly addressed as T. S. Eliot. Thomas Stearns Eliot was a brilliant son of Henry Ware Eliot, a prosperous businessman and president of Hydraulic-Press Brick Company in St. Louis. His mother, Charlotte Champe Stearns was a poet and social worker. Since Eliot was born to a Boston Brahmin family, he spent his early years following the family traditions of service to education, community, and religion. Unfortunately, his father died in 1919, while his mother departed the world in 1929.

Education

Since he belonged to a highly influential and literate family, he had had a chance to approach the best education available at his time. Starting privately from Milton Academy in Massachusetts and Smith Academy in St. Louis, he studied French, German, Latin and Ancient Greek. He soon starting writing poetry and produced his first poem at the age of fourteen under the influence of the book, “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” in 1905. He became a published poet in the same year when his first poem published in the Smith Academy Record.

Later, he went to Harvard College where he studied Comparative literature and completed his graduation in three years instead of four in 1909 following his masters in philosophy in the same year. During his graduation, he was highly inspired by George Santayana, the philosopher, and poet at Harvard.  In 1914, he won the Harvard scholarship and went to Germany for higher studies. During his stay in Germany, World War I broke out and he fled to Merton College, Oxford. There he met Ezra Pound, a renowned American poet and two became lifelong friends.

Marriage and Tragedy

While studying at Oxford, he met Vivienne Haigh Wood Eliot and the couple got married in 1915. They were never compatible: Eliot chose an English bride to seek a pretext to live in England. However, his wife had been suffering from serious health problems and was insecure about her social class. This marriage added more to her sufferings. This catastrophic marriage ended in divorce in 1933 and Vivienne died of cardiac arrest in a hospice. T. S. Eliot then remarried his secretory, Esme Valerie Fletcher. Later, his doomed and tortured first marriage and its bitter experiences shaped his subsequent life and inspired him to write his forever green masterpiece, “The Waste Land.”

Death

  1. S Eliot, a great poet, and critic died of emphysema on 4 January 1965 in his house in London.
  2. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium.
  3. According to his wish, his ashes were taken to his ancestor’s village,  East Coker where they were preserved in St Michael and All Angels’ Church.

Some Important Facts of His Life

  1. His literary services earned him a lot of success that he won awards in different fields including drama, music, academics, and literature.
  2. For his deep influence in poetry, drama, and criticism, he won the Nobel Prize of literature in 1948.
  3. He was an outstanding poet, a great critic, and a skilled editor.

Writing Career

T.S. Eliot successfully pursued four careers during his life: poetry, teaching, criticism, and editing. He became a published poet at the age of fourteen. In 1905, his first masterpiece, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was published followed by other publications. In 1916, he started teaching at High Gate Junior School and Royal Grammar School in London and worked as a clerk at Lloyd Banns. He also started writing economic reviews in the monthly magazine of the same bank. He had had a unique literary taste and great poetic skills, his meetings with great literary figures and experiences of life helped him shape his mature thoughts.

In 1919, he published Poems using techniques like an interior monologue in blank verse, while in 1920 he came up with more publications in Ara Vos Prec. However, the publication of “The Waste Land” in 1922 added more to his fame. He successfully presented disillusionment, disenchantment and the horrific period after World War I in this piece.

His Style

Despite facing challenges in life, T.S. Eliot added variety to the world of literature with his mature and intellectual ideas. His works were published and acknowledged internationally in his lifetime. Marked by heavy use of imagery, the complexity of thought, contradictory illusions and free verse, his poetry won global acclaim. Since he is considered the most important modernist poet, his pieces fail to follow the paradigms set by the Victorian and Romantic poets. He used the stream of consciousness techniques in his literary pieces to show the disintegration of life and the mental instability of the people who suffered the disastrous war. The recurring themes in most of his poems are loss, death, the interconnectedness of humanity, separation, and modernism.

T.S. Eliot’s Works

  • Best Poems: He was an outstanding poet, some of his best poems include: “The Waste Land”, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, “Before Morning”, “On a Portrait”, “Humoresque” and “Spleen.”
  • Other Works: Besides poetry, he wrote prose, plays and non-fiction pieces. Some of them include The Rock, Murder in the Cathedral, The Birds of Prey, The Tale of Whale, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” and “The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism.”

T.S. Eliot’s Impacts on Future Literature

T. S. Eliot is a well-known modernist writer and critic who became popular during his life. His highly intellectual pieces were applauded by the audience and contemporary poets. His literary qualities and unique way of expression helped shape the opinion of the poets how society faced fragmentation and alienated after World War I. He successfully painted the trauma and horrors of wars, its aftermaths and the psychological state of the masses in the modern world. His indifferent writing style and way of expression influenced many post-modernist and fellow poets. He successfully presented his ideas in his writings that even today writers try to imitate his unique style, considering him a beacon for writing prose and poetry.

T.S Eliot’s Famous Quotes

  1. “I journeyed to London, to the time kept City,
    Where the River flows, with foreign flotation.
    There I was told: we have too many churches,
    And too few chop-houses.” (The Rock)
  1. “The lawn
    Is pressed by unseen feet, and ghosts return
    Gently at twilight, gently go at dawn,
    The sad intangible who grieve and yearn.” (To Walter de la Mare)
  1. “Unreal City,
    Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
    A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
    I had not thought death had undone so many.
    Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
    And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
    Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
    To where St Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
    With a dead sound on the final stock of nine.” (The Waste Land)

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