Happy birthday T.S. Eliot!

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T.S. Eliot (September 26, 1888—January 4, 1965) was an American-born, British-naturalized author of poetry, prose, and plays. Some of his most notable pieces of work include "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1915), "The Waste Land" (1922), "The Hollow Men" (1925), "Ash-Wednesday" (1930) and "Four Quartets" (1945).

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Eliot was born Thomas Stearns Eliot in St. Louis, Missouri to Henry Ware Eliot and Charlotte Champe Stearns. His father's family had been a prominent family in New England, but he had moved to St. Louis to establish a Unitarian church after graduating from Harvard Divinity school. His father was also the president and treasurer of the Hydraulic-Press Brick Company. His mother was a social worker and teacher. Eliot was the sixth child, born to his parents once they were already in the mid-forties, with five older sisters always looking out for him. (Image source)

Eliot was born with congenital double inguinal hernia, making it so that he could not participate in physical activities with his peers. This led directly to the development of his love for literature. He would spend hours reading the adventure stories of Mark Twain and others.

Eliot attended Smith Academy in St. Louis until he was 16. Following his attendance of the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904, he went to Massachusetts to attend the Milton Academy.

Having spent many summers in the Boston area as a result of his parents' Unitarian connection there, Eliot was at one time both a New Englander and a South Westerner.

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Following his preparation at the Milton Academy, Eliot moved on to Harvard College. His course there can be described as completing a Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature in three years, and a Masters Degree in English during his fourth year. Some of his biggest influences during this period were Arthur Symons, Jules Laforgue, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, perhaps most importantly, Tristan Corbière.

Following one year working as a philosophy assistant at Harvard, Eliot moved to Paris. He studied at the Sorbonne, surrounding himself with the intellectuals of the day including Émile Durkheim, Paul Janet, Rémy de Gourmont, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Bergson. It was during this period (1910-11) that he scribbled some of his most notable poems into a leatherbound notebook: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," "Portrait of a Lady," "La Figlia Che Piange," "Preludes," and "Rhapsody on a Windy Night."

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He returned to Harvard for a few years, and then ended up in Oxford on a scholarship. However, he grew to abhor the "university people," opting instead to spend his time exploring London with the likes of Ezra Pound.

In the spring of 1915, Eliot met Vivienne Haigh-Wood and married her almost immediately. However, Haigh-Wood had many mental and physical health issues and these quickly became a burden on the relationship. Eliot later said that his marriage to Haigh-Wood put him in the mindset that allowed for his writing of "The Waste Land," in 1922, though it is often attached to the mentality of the post-war generation. (Image source)

Eliot wrote "The Hollow Men" in 1925.

By 1927, Eliot took on British citizenship and converted from Unitarianism to Anglicism. His conversion is widely understood to be an attempt to identify even more strongly with English culture. "Ash-Wednesday" is the first long poem written by Eliot after his conversion.

But in 1932, Harvard offered him a professorship and he took it, leaving Haigh-Wood.

He went on to write for stage including Sweeney Agonistes (published in 1926, first performed in 1934), The Rock (1934), Murder in the Cathedral (1935), The Family Reunion (1939), The Cocktail Party (1949), The Confidential Clerk (1953), and The Elder Statesman (first performed in 1958, published in 1959).

In 1948, Eliot was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Order of Merit. In 1964, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. These came in addition to many other honors.

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Friday, 26 September 2014
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