Friday, December 26, 2014

T. S. Eliot Biography

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

v     TS Eliot is considered one of the 20th century's greatest poets.

v     His most famous poems are:

                        1915            The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
                        1922            The Waste Land
                        1925            The Hollow Men
                        1945            Four Quartets

v     Eliot is also famous for a book of children's poems titled Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, which was turned into the musical Cats in 1981 by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Running on Broadway for 21 years, it's now the third longest running musical in Broadway history, and also won a Tony award.

v     He also wrote seven plays, including Murder in the Cathedral. It tells the true story of Thomas Beckett, archbishop of Canterbury (and now a saint), who was killed in 1170 by King Henry II. It all started over a political dispute over which bishop was allowed to coronate a king.

v     Eliot won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.

Personal Life:

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in America, in St. Louis, Missouri, a city by the Mississippi River. His father was a businessman who made bricks, and his grandfather was a Unitarian minister. His mother was a social worker who wrote poetry. Eliot was the last surviving child in the family, and his parents were already in their forties when they had him.

Eliot suffered at an early age from a double hernia (pruh), which kept him from playing sports. So, he spent much of his time reading. Eliot went to Harvard to study philosophy. He earned his bachelor's degree in three years (skipping a year). He worked there for a year as an assistant, and then went to study at the Sorbonne in Paris.

During WWI, Eliot went to England, studying at Oxford, in Merton, where he faced anti-American sentiments. Eliot wrote to a friend, "I hate university towns and university people, who are the same everywhere, with pregnant wives, sprawling children, many books and hideous pictures on the walls ... Oxford is very pretty, but I don't like to be dead."

T.S. Eliot, by Wyndham Lewis

Eliot soon moved to London where he met Ezra Pound, and decided to become a poet, and a school teacher. Having little confidence with women, Eliot was set up with a governess named Vivienne Haigh-Wood. They married after a few months, and it ended up being a mistake. Like Fitzgerald's wife, Vivienne suffered from depression.

Eliot wrote, "I came to persuade myself that I was in love with Vivienne simply because I wanted to burn my boats and commit myself to staying in England. And she persuaded herself (also under the influence of [Ezra] Pound) that she would save the poet by keeping him in England. To her, the marriage brought no happiness. To me, it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land."

By marrying Vivienne, Eliot could stay in England, and in 1927, he gained British citizenship. In 1932 Eliot returned to America for one year, alone, to teach at Harvard, and when he returned he separated from Vivienne (informally), who spent the rest of her days at the Northumberland House Mental Hospital.

From 1938-57, Eliot dated Mary Trevelyan, a warden at London University (in charge of international students there).

In 1957, age 68, Eliot married his secretary, a girl less than half his age, named Esmé Valerie Fletcher. She was a huge fan of his work, and later wrote, "He obviously needed a happy marriage. He wouldn't die until he'd had it." She described her idea of a happy marriage as playing Scrabble at home, and eating cheese.

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