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Thomas Stearns Eliot
Thomas Stearns Eliot was born to a very distinguished New England family on September 26, 1888, in St. Louis, Missouri. His father, Henry Ware, was a very successful 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 a permanent residency there. In 1927, he became a British citizen. While living in Britain, Eliot met and married Vivienne Haigh-Wood and at first everything was wonderful between them. Then he found out that Vivienne was very ill, both physically and mentally. In 1930, Vivienne had a mental breakdown and was confined to a mental hospital until her death in 1947. Her death was very hard on Eliot and he died on January 4, 1965. Most of Eliotís works were produced from the emotional difficulties from his marriage.
Because of Eliotís economic status, he attended only the finest schools while growing up. He attended Smith Academy in St. Louis and Milton Academy in Massachusetts. In 1906, he started his freshman year at Harvard University studying philosophy and literature. He received his bachelorís degree in philosophy in only three years. Eliot went on to study at the University of Oxford and also at the Sorbonne in
Paris. At the Sorbonne, he found inspiration from writers such as Dante and Shakespeare and also from ancient literature, modern philosophy and Eastern mysticism.
T. S. Eliotís first poem was The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock written in 1915. It is widely recognized as one of Eliotís most brilliant poems. J. C. C. Mays claims that, "It is one of his most approachable poems since it structurally takes fewer risks than some of his later poems. The tone of effort and futility of effort is central in Eliotís poems" (Mays 111).
Another poem, The Waste Land was written in 1922 and it contrasts modern society with societies of the past. "The assumption of the mythical method is that our culture and language once had a pervasive meaningfulness which has been lost in our increasingly rational and discontinuous society, but by recovering the lost myth from within our culture, poets can restore mythic unity to literature" (Leavell 146).
Eliot converted his religion to Anglo - Catholicism and in 1927, his poetry took on new spiritual meaning. Ash Wednesday was the first poem he wrote after his conversion. It was written in 1930. It is said that it traces the pattern of Eliotís spiritual progress. It strives to make connections
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