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T.S. Eliot was a famous poet, literary critic, and playwright. He was one of the pioneers of modernism who wrote “The Waste Land”, a dense, allusion-heavy poem that went on to redefine the genre and become one of the most talked about poems in literary history.
See the fact file below for more information on the T.S. Eliot or alternatively, you can download our 25-page T.S. Eliot worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Thomas Stearns “T.S.” Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 26, 1888.
- He attended Smith Academy in St. Louis and then the Milton Academy in Massachusetts, as his family was originally from New England.
- Soon after the turn of the century, Eliot began seeing his poems and short stories in print, and writing would occupy him for the rest of his life.
- Eliot began courses at Harvard University in 1906, graduating three years later with a Bachelor of Arts degree. At Harvard, he was greatly influenced by professors renowned in poetry, philosophy, and literary criticism, and the rest of his literary career would be shaped by all three.
- After graduating, Eliot served as a philosophy assistant at Harvard for a year, and then left for France and the Sorbonne to study philosophy. From 1911 to 1914, Eliot was back at Harvard, where he deepened his knowledge by reading Indian philosophy and studying Sanskrit.
- He finished his advanced degree at Harvard while in Europe, but due to the onset of World War I, he never went back to Harvard to take the final oral exam for his Ph.D.
- He soon married Vivienne Haigh-Wood and took a job in London, England, as a school teacher. Not long after, he became a bank clerk – a position he would hold until 1925.
- It was around this time that T.S. Eliot began a lifelong friendship with American poet Ezra Pound, who immediately recognized Eliot’s poetic genius and worked to publish his work.
- The first poem of this period, and the first of Eliot’s important works, was The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, which appeared in Poetry in 1915. His first book of poems, Prufrock and Other Observations, followed in 1917, and the collection established Eliot as a leading poet of his day.
- While writing poetry and tending to his day job, Eliot was busy writing literary criticism and reviews, and his work in the criticism field would become as respected as his poetry.
- In 1919, Eliot published Poems, which contained “Gerontion.” The poem was a blank-verse interior monologue, and it was unlike anything that had ever been written in the English language.
- As if that didn’t garner enough attention, in 1922, Eliot saw the publication of The Waste Land, a colossal and complex examination of postwar disillusionment. At the time he wrote the poem, Eliot’s marriage was failing, and he and his wife were both experiencing “nervous disorders”.
- The Waste Land almost immediately developed a cult-like following from all literary corners, and it is often considered the most influential poetic work of the 20th century.
- The same year The Waste Land was published, Eliot founded what would become an influential literary journal called Criterion. The poet also edited the journal throughout the span of its publication from 1922 to 1939.
- Two years later, Eliot left his bank post to join the publishing house Faber & Faber, where he would remain for the rest of his career, shepherding the writing of many young poets.
- Whatever else was afoot, Eliot continued to write, and his major poems included Ash Wednesday (1930) and Four Quartets (1943). During this time he also wrote The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933), After Strange Gods (1934), and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1940).
- For his vast influence in poetry, criticism, and drama, T.S. Eliot received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. Congratulated by the poet John Berryman, he famously responded, “The Nobel is a ticket to one’s funeral. No one has ever done anything after he got it”.
- Eliot learned of the honour in November 1948, while visiting Princeton. Already that year, George VI had bestowed on him the Order of Merit – a distinction of which some claim Eliot was prouder.
Last Years and Death
- In January 1957, he married Valerie Fletcher, with whom he lived happily until his death and who became his literary executor.
- She was responsible for releasing a range of editions of Eliot’s work and letters, and she also approved Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation of Eliot’s light verse from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939) into the musical Cats (1981).
- Eliot died of emphysema at his home in Kensington in London, on 4 January 1965, and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. In accordance with his wishes, his ashes were taken to St. Michael and All Angels’ Church, East Coker, the village in Somerset from which his Eliot ancestors had emigrated to America.
- A wall plaque in the church commemorates him with a quotation from his poem East Coker: “In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning”.
- In 1967, on the second anniversary of his death, Eliot was commemorated by the placement of a large stone in the floor of Poets’ Corner in London’s Westminster Abbey. The stone, cut by designer Reynolds Stone, is inscribed with his life dates, his Order of Merit, and a quotation from his poem Little Gidding, “the communication / of the dead is tongued with fire beyond / the language of the living.”
- The apartment block where he died, No. 3 Kensington Court Gardens, has had a blue plaque on it since 1986.
T.S. Eliot Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about T.S. Eliot across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use T.S. Eliot worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about T.S. Eliot who was a famous poet, literary critic, and playwright. He was one of the pioneers of modernism who wrote “The Waste Land”, a dense, allusion-heavy poem that went on to redefine the genre and become one of the most talked about poems in literary history.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Authors Online
- Pop Quiz
- Eliot’s Eloquence
- Poetry Basics
- Prominent Poets
- Mysterious Macavity
- Wanted: Macavity
- Library Hunt
- Day Jobs
- A Poem for the Poet
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