Thomas Stearns Eliot, better known as T.S
@Nobel Laureates In Literature, Timeline and Childhood
Thomas Stearns Eliot, better known as T.S
T. S. Eliot born at
On 26 June 1915, T.S. Eliot married Vivienne Haigh-Wood, a Cambridge governess and a writer. Most probably, they got married so that he could remain in England and therefore, none of them were happy in this marriage. Moreover, Vivienne’s long list of illness, coupled with mental instability, made him increasingly detached.
The couple was formally separated in 1933. In 1938, before the divorce proceedings could start, Vivienne’s brother committed her to a lunatic asylum, where she remained until her death in 1947. Although she legally remained his wife, Eliot never visited her.
From 1938 to 1957, he had a relationship with Mary Trevelyan, at that time, a warden of Student Movement House, University of London. Although Mary wanted to marry him for some reason it never took place.
Thomas Stearns Eliot was born on 26 September 1888, in St. Louis, Missouri into a distinguished family, having their roots both in Old and New England. Named after his maternal grandfather, Thomas Sterns, he was mostly called Tom by his family and friends.
His father, Henry Ware Eliot, was an industrialist and philanthropist. He served as the Secretary at the Hydraulic-Press Brick Company before becoming its President. He was also a Member of the Board of Directors at Washington University, co-founded by his father William Greenleaf Eliot.
His mother, Charlotte Champe Stearns Eliot, was a school teacher and poet. She loved to dramatize those events from history, which reflected the struggles of men, dying for their faith. Later in life, she took part in social reforms, providing a house of detention for juveniles.
Thomas was the youngest of his parents’ seven children, having five sisters and one brother. Among them, Theodora Sterling Eliot, three years his senior, died in infancy. His surviving siblings were Ada (Eliot) Sheffield, Margaret Dawes Eliot, Charlotte (Eliot) Smith, Marian Cushing Eliot, and Henry Ware Eliot, Jr.
In his childhood, Thomas suffered from congenital double inguinal hernia, which prevented him from participating in many childhood activities. Consequently, he had few friends and spent most of his time, reading stories about Wild West and savages. He was especially fond of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’.
Although T.S. Eliot settled down in Oxford he was never fond of university towns, finding such places dull. Therefore, he often escaped to London, where he met many poets and writers. Chief among them was Ezra Pound, who was already established as a poet in London’s literary circle. .
Ezra Pound was quick to recognize the budding talent in Eliot and introduced him to many poets, writers, artists and intellectuals in London. He also helped him to publish his works.
In 1915, Eliot left Merton and started teaching French and Latin in Highgate Junior School in London. To earn extra money, he took evening extension classes at Birkbeck, University of London, where he taught English. Writing reviews was another source of his income.
Also in 1915, he had ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ published in ‘Poetry’. It was not only the first poem of this period, but also his first major work. Radical in nature, it represented a break from the immediate past.
All along T.S. Eliot continued working on his doctoral dissertation for Harvard, ‘Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley’. He completed it in 1916 and although it was accepted, because of the ongoing war, he could not travel to the USA to defend it.
Born Unitarian, T.S. Eliot converted to Anglicanism on 29 June 1927. Next in November 1927, he took up British citizenship. The move made him feel closer to English culture. Eventually, he became a warden of Saint Stephen's, his parish church and a life member of the Society of King Charles the Martyr.
In April 1930, he had his second long poem, ‘Ash Wednesday’ published. Often referred as ‘Eliot’s conversion poem’, it deals with the struggle that takes place when a person moves from spiritual barrenness towards religious fulfillment.
His next major work, ‘Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats’ was published in 1939. It consisted of number of whimsical poems, written over the decade. Meanwhile, he continued to produce significant number of verse dramas as well as literary criticism.
In the early 1960s, T.S. Eliot started working as an editor for the Wesleyan University Press. Although his health had started deteriorating by then he continued to seek new European poets for publication.