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 Thomas Stearns “T.S.” Eliot

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Thomas Stearns “T.S.” Eliot

  • Birth 26 Sep 1888 Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA
  • Death 4 Jan 1965 London, City of London, Greater London, England
  • Burial East Coker, South Somerset District, Somerset, England
  • Memorial ID 1631

Poet. Perhaps best known for, other than to his literary public, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), which was popularized by Andrew Lloyd Webber in the musical CATS. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri to the former Charlotte Champe Stearns, a teacher and amateur poet herself, and Henry Ware Eliot, president of the Hydraulic-Press Brick Company. The youngest of seven children. Early congenital health problems led to his elder five sisters and mother keeping him sheltered. His paternal grandfather, William Greenleaf Eliot was a protégé of William Ellery Channing. Struck by the native villages at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair he wrote short stories about primitive life for the Smith Academy Record when he was sixteen. He attended the Milton Academy just outside of Boston for a year after completing his studies at the Smith Academy in St. Louis. His life was conflicted from an early age. At Harvard, where he followed his older brother Henry, his cousin Charles William Eliot was the reform-minded and progressive President in the Unitarian tradition. While he used the freedom of the elective system he was more drawn to the moralizing of Irving Babbitt and skepticism of George Santayana. Despite being on academic probation because his course choices were so eclectic he would receive his B.A. in three years and earn his M.A. in English literature in the fourth. He found his voice in poetry inspired by Jules Laforgue and verse of Ezra Pound. He would together with Pound, who was not easily impressed, change Anglo-American poetry. While on the board of Harvard's literary magazine, the Advocate hew would form a lifelong friendship with Conrad Aiken. He had copied his early poems "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," "Portrait of a Lady," "La Figlia Che Piange," "Preludes," and "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" between 1910 and 1911. Those that read these in their manuscript form were overwhelmed. Aiken said "how sharp and complete and sui generis the whole thing was, from the outset. The wholeness is there, from the very beginning." He left on a traveling fellowship to Europe in 1914 and in 1915 Scofield Thayer, a friend from Milton Academy and Harvard would introduce him to the dancer Vivien Haigh-Wood whom he would marry later that year at the Hampstead Registry Office. His parents were shocked and he from that time on was rooted in England. Virginia Woolf once said "He was one of those poets who live by scratching, and his wife was his itch." His wife almost died in 1923 and his despair led him to seek religious support. Long unfulfilled with his family's Unitarian roots, he turned to the Anglican church. He would later say that he considered himself a "classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and anglo-catholic in religion." In 1938 his wife was committed to Northumberland House, a mental hospital north of London. She died in 1947 and in 1957 he would marry Valerie Fletcher with whom he knew more contentment that he had every had in his life before. He died in London and, according to his own instructions, his ashes were interred in the church of St. Michael's in East Coker, the village that Eliot's ancestor Andrew Eliot had departed from for America in the seventeenth century. A commemorative plaque on the church wall bears his chosen epitaph--lines chosen from Four Quartets: "In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning."

Bio by: D C McJonathan-Swarm

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1631
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas Stearns “T.S.” Eliot (26 Sep 1888–4 Jan 1965), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1631, citing St Michael and All Angels Churchyard, East Coker, South Somerset District, Somerset, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .