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The Life of T.S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns Eliot was born on September 26, 1888, in St.Louis Missouri, to Henry Ware and Charlotte Stearns Elliot. His father was a businessman, and his mother was a poetress. Eliot came from a financially endowed family and was allowed to attend all of the best schools. His education started at the prestigies grammar school Smith Academy in St.Louis. He then went to secondary school in Massachuets at Milton Academy, a preparatory school for Harvard. In 1906, he started his Bachelor’s Degree at Harvard, and within three years he graduated. He then started graduate school at Harvard to earn a Masters degree in Philosophy. In 1910 Eliot studied French Literature in Paris at Sorbonne. Then, in 1911 he went to Munich. Due to the war he was unable to travel back to the States, and was detained in London, England. Eliot had always dreamed of being out on his own. He finally had the chance. He devoted his life now to learning and writing.
Eliot’s literary career began early in life. His first publication, “A Tale of A Whale,’” was in an issue of The Milton Academy Record in the April issue of 1901. His second publication soon followed with Milton Academy publishing “The Man Who Was King’” in the June issue of 1901. His first major publications arrived shortly after. His friend and trusted advisor Ezra Pound was able to persuade Eliot to publish “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock,” in 1915. Pound also introduced Elliot to Vivian Haigh-Wood, who Elliot was married to three months after meeting. It is said that “The Love Song..” deals with Eliots own self image. The lead character in this poem is insecure around ladies, and the story is set in an environment where flirtation is a key component(Longman). Even though Eliot did receive fame for this poem, he still struggled with financial problems. He was forced to get a job as a school teacher from 1915-1916. Eliot was still writing and now teaching, and also was having problems with his marriage; these factors undoubtably, led Elliot to collapsing and being sent to a sanitarium in Switzerland(Longman). He was thought to have suffered from a nervous condition, but was found out later he had ‘alboulie’. While in the sanitarium Elliot finished his finest work ever published “The Wasteland”. After Eliot’s death people drew upon the conclusion that the “The Waste Land” was a mirror of Eliot’s
life (Litz, 61).
After Eliot’s short lived career as a school teacher, he took a job in a bank in London.
This career was needed to support Elliot and his wife; however, it was not stimulating enough for Elliot. To keep Eliot’s writing a major part of his life, he created a quarterly literary magazine in 1922 entitled The Criterion. This magazine was unique because Elliot allowed a vast array of opinions by his writers. He did not limit writers to his beliefs or views of the time period. This magazine was intended to be original and stir up ideas within people. Due to his position at the bank, Elliot wished for his name to remain anonymous as the editor of the Criterion. In a letter to a fellow co-worker, Edmund Wilson, he asked him to never reveal that he was the editor of The Criterion. Elliot feared that if it was announced that he was editor then it would jeopardize his job at the bank, and he could not afford to lose his job due to the fact he was not receiving payment for his editorship (Margolis 22).
Elliot had always been far removed from any religious convictions, but in the early 1920’s his work started to show some signs of religious beliefs. He was not conscience of this, but evidence was beginning to show in his work. Pound had also turned Eliot onto the works of Dante, and around 1920 he began writing critiques of Dante’s work comparing it to Christianity. Eliot also wrote a critique on William Blake and talked of how Christianity was the underlying meaning of Blake’s works (Margolis, 38). Eliot unknowingly was starting to unleash the beliefs that would lead to the end of The Criterion. Eliot began to focus more on the Christian meaning
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Eliot family, New Criticism, T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, Elliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Criterion, East Coker, Jared Eliot
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