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T S Eliot
Biography



"I was too slow a mover. It was much easier to be a poet."
- on giving up boxing in college

St. Louis-born Eliot wrote one of his most famous poems, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, while still a student at Harvard. A formidable scholar, he did graduate work at Harvard, the Sorbonne in France, and Oxford. He settled in London in 1915, becoming a British citizen in 1927. His writings attracted attention from the start, but because of financial pressures he taught school for a time, worked in a bank, and eventually became an editor and a director of a major British publishing house. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1948.

As poet and critic, Eliot had an enormous influence on twentieth-century poetry. In his criticism he discussed his distaste for romanticism and the emotions it expresses. In his own poetry he made a complete break with the literary conventions of the Romantics and Victorians. Instead of using traditional "poetic dictions", he turned to the idiom and rhythms of natural speech; instead of relying on abstractions and generalities, he expressed himself through sense impressions and concrete images.

In early poems such as Prufrock, The Hollow Men, and The Waste Land, Eliot pictured the sterility, boredom, and spiritual emptiness of the modern world. In 1927, however, he became a convert to the Anglican Church, and in his later poetry turned to religion as the one possible hope for modern man.

In addition to poetry and criticism, Eliot wrote a number of verse dramas, of which Murder in the Cathedral is considered the best.

contributed by Gifford, Katya


8 March 2002
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