Thomas Stearns Eliot was born to a very distinguished New England family onSeptember 26, 1888, in St. Louis, Missouri. His father, Henry Ware, was a verysuccessful businessman and his mother, Charlotte Stearns Eliot, was a poetess.His paternal grandfather established and presided over Washington University.
While visiting Great Britain in 1915, World War I started and Eliot took up apermanent residency there. In 1927, he became a British citizen. While living inBritain, Eliot met and married Vivienne Haigh-Wood and at first everything waswonderful between them. Then he found out that Vivienne was very ill, bothphysically and mentally. In 1930, Vivienne had a mental breakdown and wasconfined to a mental hospital until her death in 1947. Her death was very hardon Eliot and he died on January 4, 1965.
Most of Eliots works were producedfrom the emotional difficulties from his marriage. Because of Eliots economicstatus, he attended only the finest schools while growing up. He attended SmithAcademy in St. Louis and Milton Academy in Massachusetts. In 1906, he startedhis freshman year at Harvard University studying philosophy and literature. Hereceived his bachelors degree in philosophy in only three years. Eliot wenton to study at the University of Oxford and also at the Sorbonne in Judice 2Paris.
At the Sorbonne, he found inspiration from writers such as Dante andShakespeare and also from ancient literature, modern philosophy and Easternmysticism. T. S. Eliots first poem was The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrockwritten in 1915. It is widely recognized as one of Eliots most brilliantpoems.
J. C. C. Mays claims that, “It is one of his most approachable poemssince it structurally takes fewer risks than some of his later poems. The toneof effort and futility of effort is central in Eliots poems” (Mays 111).Another poem, The Waste Land was written in 1922 and it contrasts modern societywith societies of the past.
“The assumption of the mythical method is thatour culture and language once had a pervasive meaningfulness which has been lostin our increasingly rational and discontinuous society, but by recovering thelost myth from within our culture, poets can restore mythic unity toliterature” (Leavell 146). Eliot converted his religion to Anglo -Catholicism and in 1927, his poetry took on new spiritual meaning. Ash Wednesdaywas the first poem he wrote after his conversion. It was written in 1930. It issaid that it traces the pattern of Eliots spiritual progress. It strives tomake connections between the earthly and the eternal, the word of man and theWord of God and the emphasis is on the struggle toward belief. “Eliotdevelops independently and begins immediately in all of his works.
Ash Wednesdaytakes place in a world which is all meaningless, and yet is a plea directedtoward the infinite, toward a realm that is ultimately unknowable” (Leavell152). Judice 3 In the poem, A Song for Simeon, a man sees the Incarnation afterhis birth. After seeing this, the man wishes only for death because he feels nowthat he is free from sin. In this poem, Eliot used images of Jesus life suchas: the crucifixion, Roman soldiers, and Judas betrayal of Jesus. I thinkEliot used these images because of how important Jesus life and death are toeveryone in the Christian faith. “A Song for Simeon is an essentiallyinterior monologue with the repetition of his prayer for peace, oblivion, anddeath” (Brooker 101). Other poems Eliot has written are: Portrait of a Lady(1915), Mr.
Apollinax (1916), Sweeny Among the Nightingales (1918), and FourQuartets (1943) which he believed to be his greatest achievement. Eliot alsowrote the play “Murder in the Cathedral” (1935). It was about themurder of Thomas Becket and was later turned into a film in 1952. Other playswritten by Eliot are: “The Family Reunion” (1939), “The CocktailParty” (1949), “The Confidential Clerk” (1953), and “TheElder Statesman” (1959). “Thomas Stearns Eliot has been considered bymany to be the leading American poet of this century.
His poem The Waste Land isa summation of the disillusion and fragmentation that was felt by so many peoplefollowing the first World War. It contained many poetic techniques that changedthe face of modern poetry” (Costa 96). Eliot is considered one of thegreatest poets and equally one of the greatest critics to ever live even thoughmany were put off by his personality. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1948and the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964.BibliographyBrooker, Jewel Spears. Words in Time: New Essays on Eliots Four Quartets.
London: Athlone, 1993. Costa, Marco. The Norton Anthology of AmericanLiterature.
Fourth edition volume 2. Norton Company Inc. 1994. Leavell, Linda.T.S.
Eliot: Essays from the Southern Review. Oxford: Claredon, 1988. Mays, J. C.C.
“Early Poems: From Prufrock to Gerontion.” TheCambridge Companion to T.S. Eliot. Ed.
A. David Moody. Cambridge: Cambridge UP,1994. 108 – 120. 1996 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Copyright 1996 GrolierInteractive, Inc.English Essays