Thomas S. Eliot biography.
Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. on September 26, 1888 to Henry Ware (a businessman) and Charlotte Stearns Eliot (a poetess). Eliot’s family line can be traced back to the earliest of New England settlers, and the family produced many a distinguished male in letters and religion throughout their long history in Boston, Massachusetts, where “America’s cultural aristocracy” ruled. The influence of this family also extended to St. Louis, where Eliot’s paternal grandfather established and presided over Washington University.
Endowed with and proud of their social connections and respectability, the Eliot family made the most of it. Accordingly, Eliot went to only the very best schools: Smith Academy in St. Louis (grammar school), Milton Academy in Massachusetts (secondary school). By 1906 he was a freshman at Harvard University. This is not to say that Eliot was only there because of who he knew; quite the contrary–he finished his bachelor’s degree in only 3 years, was a grad. student in philosophy from 1910-1914, and even studied at the Sorbonne in Paris for a year.
Eliot never received his doctoral degree however, as he had taken up residence in England and liked it so much he decided not to return to America. Part of this decision had to do with his falling in love with a beautiful English girl named Vivienne Haigh-Wood. Eliot only returned home for occasional visits, and became a British citizen in 1927 after a period of much soul-searching. This explains why Eliot can be found in both the English Poets and American Poets section of one’s local libraries and bookstores. Nevertheless, Eliot has said that he should be considered an American rather than an English poet.
In 1915 Eliot married Vivienne, a relationship chronicled in the recent movie Tom and Viv starring Willem Dafoe as Eliot and Miranda Richardson as Vivienne. Vivienne would later die in 1945 after a long period of increasingly degenerate health (both physical and mental). Eliot would not remarry until 1957 to Valerie Fletcher, a happy marriage for both.
Eliot held many different kinds of jobs throughout his lifetime, as writing poetry was not and still is not the most lucrative of occupations when one is not well-known. His occupations varied from schoolmaster, bank clerk, free-lance writer, assistant editor (of the Egoist), editor (of The Criterion), publisher (with Faber and Faber) and even professor of poetry at Harvard.
Being an introspective kind of person, as most poets are, Eliot underwent a profound religious calling. After much soul-searching and inner turmoil, Eliot was confirmed as a member of the Anglican church in 1927. This brought him a much more positive attitude towards life that can be seen in his writings after this date.
It is rather difficult to find much information on T. S. Eliot, which is quite hard to understand, considering the profound impact he had on American and English literature. However, it can be explained that since Eliot was a very private man and also forbade in his will an official biography, the dearth of information on Eliot is justifiable.
Eliot diedon January 4, 1965.
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