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T.S. Eliot

Poet / Critic

Born: 26 September 1888
Died: 4 January 1965
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri
Best known as: Author of The Waste Land

Name at birth: Thomas Stearns Eliot

Eliot's "The Waste Land" is the most famous English poem of the 20th century, a landmark meditation on our unease with the modern world. Born in America, Eliot moved to England in 1914 and worked as a bank clerk while writing his first collection of poetry, Prufrock and Other Observations (1917, featuring "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"). He followed that success with The Waste Land (1922), Ash Wednesday (1930) and Four Quartets (1943), among other collections and essays. Also a highly regarded critic, Eliot was the founder (1922) and longtime editor of the literary magazine Criterion. His plays include Murder in the Cathedral (1935) and The Cocktail Party (1949). Eliot became a British subject and member of the Church of England in 1927. Eliot's whimsical volume of children's verse, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), was adapted into the long-running hit musical Cats.

Extra credit: He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1948... Eliot was close friends with poet Ezra Pound... Eliot's wives were Vivienne Haigh-Wood (m. 1915) and Valerie Fletcher (m. 1957)... He studied at prestigious universities in three countries: Harvard in the U.S., the Sorbonne in France, and Oxford in England... Eliot is unrelated to the author George Eliot... "The Waste Land" begins with the famous line "April is the cruellest month"... His poem "The Hollow Men" ends with the lines "This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper."

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