T.S. Eliot

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As one of America's first modernist poets, T. S. Eliot's unique style and subject matter would have a dramatic influence on writers for the century to come. Born in 1888 in St. Louis Mo. at the tail end of the "Cowboy era" he grew up in the more civilized industrial era of the early 20th century, a time of the Wright Brothers and Henry Ford. The Eliot family was endowed with some of the best intellectual and political connections in America of that time, and as a result went to only the best schools. By 1906 he was a freshman in Harvard, finishing his bachelors in only 3 years and studying philosophy in France from 1910 to 1914, the outbreak of war. In 1915 the verse magazine Poetry published Eliot's first notable piece, 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'. This was followed by other short poems such as 'Portrait of a Lady'. 'The Waste Land', which appeared in 1922, is considered by many to be his most challenging work (see American Literature).

In 1927 Eliot became a British subject and was confirmed in the Church of England. His essays ('For Lancelot Andrewes', 1928) and his poetry ('Four Quartets', 1943) increasingly reflected this association with a traditional culture.

His first drama was 'The Rock' (1934), a pageant play.

 

This was followed by 'Murder in the Cathedral' (1935), a play dealing with the assassination of Archbishop Thomas a Becket, who was later canonized. 'The Family Reunion' appeared in 1939. 'The Cocktail Party', based upon the ancient Greek drama 'Alcestis' by Euripides, came out in 1950 and 'The Confidential Clerk' in 1953. The dialogue in his plays is written in a free, rhythmical verse pattern. Eliot won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1948 and other major literary awards. The author was married twice. He died on Jan. 4, 1965, in London.

T.S. Eliot once said that the largest difficulty facing poets today was form and that they must find "a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a...
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