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Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965)
T. S. Eliot was born on September 26, 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri in Midwestern America. His nickname was Tom. But at the age of 25 he moved to Britain and attained British citizenship in 1927.
His father’s name was Henry Ware Eliot. He was a successful businessman. He was a Boston Brahmin rooted in England, but T. S. Eliot’s grandfather had moved to St. Louis, Missouri, America.
His mother’s name was Charlotte Champe Stearns. She was a poet and social worker. She had 6 children and T. S. Eliot was the last child.
He attended Smith Academy for early education and studied Latin, Ancient Greek, French and German, after that studied at Harvard from 1906-1909 and graduated in Philosophy. He earned Master of Arts in English Literature.
From 1911 to 1914 he was studying Indian philosophy and Sanskrit.
At Harvard, he met Emily Hale and fall in love with her. They exchanged letters during 1914-1915 but they did not meet again until 1927. Later, when he was of 26, he met Vivinenne Haigh Wood, she was Cambridge governess. He married with her at Hampstead Register Office on 26th June 1915. His first wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood died in 1947. He married second time with his private secretary, Valerie Fischer in 1957.
T. S. Eliot began to write poetry when he was of 14. His first published poem was “A Fable for Feasters”. It was written as a school exercise and was published in the Smith Academy Record in February 1905. He published three short stories in 1905, “Birds of Prey”, “A Tale of a Whale” and “The Man Who Was King”. The Marriage was not happy because of Vivienne’s health problems. They formally separated in 1933.
T. S. Eliot was a famous modern poet, playwright and Critic. He met Ezra Pound in 1914. He was Eliot’s literary mentor who got his poems published and aided him in receiving critical acclaim.
Eliot’s first major poem was “The Love Songs of J Alfred Prufrock”. It was published in “A Magazine of Verse”. Ezra Pound persuaded the magazine editor to publish that poem. Later that poem was published separately as a part of Eliot’s first collection of poetry-“Prufrock and Other Observations in 1947”. The title of this song has been taken from Rudyard Kipling’s poem- “The Love Song of Har Dyal”.
The poem’s well-known opening lines are-
“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;”
His next major work was “The Wasteland”. It was first published in “The Criterion”. This poem was dedicated to Ezra Pound and referred him as ‘il miglior fabbro’ or ‘the better craftsman’. The poem was criticised for being too obscure and complex. The poem reflects the moral and spiritual decay in post-World War in Europe.
His essays “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1920) and “Hamlet and His Problems” (1920) made him famous modern critic.
In “Tradition and Individual Talent”, Eliot defined poetry as ‘not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion’. ‘Not the expression of personality, but as escape from personality’.
Eliot’s Volume of Plays- (1962)
1– Murder in the Cathedral (1935)
2– The Family Reunion (1939)
3– The Cocktail Party (1949)
4– The Confidential Clerk (1954)
5– The Elder Statesman (1959)
He was awarded Nobel Prize in Literature for his pioneer contribution of poetry.
T. S. Eliot died on January 04, 1965, in London. His ashes were placed in St. Michael’s Church, East Coker, his ancestral village, on 17th April 1965.