Thomas Stearns Eliot was born September 26th, 1888 during what can be called an age of transition and could quite possibly be named one of the best poets of the 19th century. He wrote many poems of memories of childhood and bitter visions of various times in his life. Later in life, his craving for writing theatrical dramas took over. His most famous and celebrated work is the long and perplexing poem, The Waste Land, which took him nearly a year to finish. T.S. Eliot had a life full of conflict and pain, but this became his fuel for writing some of the greatest literary works of all time.
From the very beginning, he was different from the rest of his family, perhaps because of the considerable age difference between him and his siblings. He was one of the seven children that Charlotte Champe Stearns, a school teacher, and Henry Ware Eliot, a merchant, had brought into the world. The Eliot family was all-around very well respected, and gave the city they lived in its distinctive and elevated tone. Eliot was more sensitive than the rest of his large family, and him being the youngest of his six siblings was partially to blame for that. Regardless fo how many children she had, Charlotte always told him how special he was and how he was an important addition to the family. Much of Eliot's time was spent reading since he did not have much in common with his much older brothers and sisters. Eliot began to actually prefer being alone rather than socializing with others. He was incredibly introverted so the gap of intimacy grew larger between him and his peers. His supportive and loving mother was one of his only friends. Eliot's incredible self-respect can be credited to his mother, who only spoke to Eliot as an equal. However, Charlotte was also very overprotective of her youngest son, and this kept Eliot from participating with his friends in various activities such as sports. Because Eliot had been born with a double hernia, Charlotte feared his participation in anything that could jeopardize his health. She even tagged along with Eliot during any sort of outing to make sure he was in constant comfort. Charlotte's overwhelming presence was a huge factor in Eliot's non-existent relationships with his peers. However, Eliot can thank his loving mother for his intellect and spirituality.
Eliot's father, Henry, did not have as much of an influence over Eliot as his mother did. His father was very deep into his profession of manufacturing bricks, so there was not as much interaction with him and his son. This is probably a result of Henry's own over-bearing father. Despite his lack of time spent with young Eliot, Henry was a very moral man. He loved his son and referred to him as "modest" and "affectionate," however, he had little faith that T.S. Eliot would aspire to be much of anything due to Eliot's mediocre grades in school. There was a third party in young Eliot's life that had a major influence on him, and that was his Irish nurse, Annie Dunne. Annie introduced him to God at the age of six which is what stimulated Eliot's religious thinking. She also made T.S. Eliot feel very secure and he has confessed to being "greatly attached" to her.
In 1896, Eliot's father built a large house in Massachusetts near the ocean, which inspired Eliot to become a sailor. Despite harsh conditions that the New England coast brought, some of Eliot's favorite times were while he was sailing. The outside imagery that he experienced seeing is encapsulated into much of his writing. Eliot later went to college at Harvard University and he became deeply interested in religion. He also became more social and joined several clubs. As a freshman, his courses were so eclectic, that he soon became on academic probation. He recovered, however, and persisted and got a Bachelor's and a Master's Degree in English literature.
In December of 1908, a book Eliot found in the Harvard library forever changed his life. This...
Cited: Bloom, Harold. Bloom 's BioCritiques. Pennsylvania: Chelsea House Publishers, 2003.
Chiari, Joseph. T.S. Eliot: Poet and Dramatist. London: Harper & Row, 1972.
Gish, Nancy K. The Waste Land: A Poem of Memory and Desire. Massachusetts: Twayne Publishers, 1988.
Moody, A. David. The Cambridge Companion to T.S. Eliot. Great Britain: University Press at Cambridge, 1994.
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