Modernist Essay 1 – Who is T. S. Eliot?

Every person has a past and T.S. Eliot is no different. This short essay will discuss some of the background events and influences that may have shaped Eliot’s world view and approach to his works.

On September 26, 1888 Thomas Stearns Eliot, commonly known as T.S. Eliot, was born. He was the youngest of seven children and was born with a double hernia, which led to increased care and vigilance from his family. His father was the president of the Hydraulic-Press Brick Company and his mother was a former teacher, social work volunteer and amateur poet. Furthermore, his grandfather founded a Unitarian church in St. Louis. While Eliot experienced the Unitarian Church, he also experienced the Catholic Church through his Irish-Catholic nurse, who often took him to Mass (Bush).

While growing up in the States, Eliot’s family enjoyed a beach house in Massachusetts, but this led to Eliot not being able to identify with a certain American culture, stating “that he gave up a sense of belonging to either region” (Bush). Although Eliot later said, “It is self-evident that St. Louis affected me more deeply than any other environment has ever done. I feel that there is something in having passed one’s childhood beside the big river, which is incommunicable to those people who have not. I consider myself fortunate to have been born here, rather than in Boston, or New York, or London” (Siders). While many city dwellers left St. Louis for suburbia, his family remained, allowing young Eliot to experience some of the blights of urban decay (Bush).

Some of Eliot’s earliest work came out of an experience of a primitive village exhibit during the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair (Bush). To further his academics, Eliot attended Harvard, from where he earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. He also attended Sorbonne in Paris and Oxford in England. He met his future wife while at Oxford and married in 1915, although he would marry again. After several teaching jobs, Eliot was largely employed in the banking industry, but he continued to write poetry, plays, and literary criticisms. Metaphysical poetry also influenced Eliot, especially poets John Donne, Baudelaire, and Laforgue. This is distinct in his spiritual style of writing. Furthermore, while it is hard to determine some of Eliot’s largest influences, it is safe to say that Christianity was one of them. Eliot eventually converted to Anglicanism and continued his works, which became even more imbued with Christian references (T. S.Eliot).

T.S. Eliot died on January 4th, 1965 and is buried in St. Michael’s Church with the epitah “In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning.” This quote may symbolize just how much his chosen Christian faith may have affected him and influenced his works (Bush).

Works Cited

Bush, Ronald. T. S. Eliot’s Life and Career. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/life.htm

Siders, Benjamin. We are lucky to live in St. Louis! T.S. Eliot Memorial and Literary Arts Creative Incubation Center. http://www.rallystl.org/ideas/Detail/1541

T. S. Eliot -1888-1965 , St. Louis , MO. http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/t-s-eliot

 

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