Eliot, Thomas Stearns (1888–1965) By Templeton, Erin
Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888–1965) was an essayist, editor, playwright, poet, and publisher. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. He is perhaps best known for his long poem The Waste Land.
Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri and attended Harvard University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Eliot’s postgraduate studies in philosophy took him to the Sorbonne in 1910/11 and to Oxford in 1914. Once he arrived in England, however, he spent much of his time in London. There he met two of the most influential people of his literary life: the American poet Ezra Pound and a young Englishwoman named Vivienne Haigh-Wood, whom Eliot would marry in 1915 after a four-month courtship. Pound encouraged Eliot, who had been planning an academic career, to keep writing poetry and to submit “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to Poetry magazine for publication. In addition to writing poetry, Eliot also took a position with Lloyd’s Bank in 1917, managing foreign accounts. Pound and Eliot frequently collaborated and critiqued each other’s work throughout the 1920s and 1930s and remained friends until Eliot’s death, despite divergent political and religious paths. The most famous of these collaborations, The Waste Land, has been documented in a published facsimile edition of the poem (1972) that reveals Pound’s numerous comments on Eliot’s manuscript. The Waste Land is revolutionary both in its form, free verse, and its subject matter, which links urbanization, technology, sexuality, and post-war alienation to dozens of classical allusions in seven languages. The poem is a pastiche of voices and fragments linked both thematically and tonally.