Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888 -1965) was a poet, literary critic, playwright and lecturer. Better known as T.S. Eliot, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.
Born in St. Louis Missouri, he moved to England in 1914 at the age of 25, later assuming British citizenship and remaining in England until his death in 1965.
I was first introduced to his poems in a high school English class and met up with him later in a World Literature class in college. I think he stuck in my visually attuned mind because he painted such meaningful and vivid images in his poetry. He is considered the founder of 20th Century Modernist poetry.
The 19th Century Romantics, such as Wordsworth, had held sway over English poetry for many decades. Eliot’s essays on literature and his work as a poet opened the door to a new type and style of expression. He experimented with new verse rhythms based on the rhythms of contemporary speech. The structure of his poems were like collages - composed of fragments of speech and images. He integrated numerous other voices in his poems besides his own - and many outright quotations from other authors - his favorites being Dante and Shakespeare.
And yet this man - steeped in philosophy, Sanskrit, and religious skepticism - who revolutionized the language of poetry - became a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. His work as a “Christian” author, essayist, and lecturer is less well known than G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis. I know that Eliot held some views typical of the upper class and elites of his day that we do not cherish now. Nor was Eliot a saint.
I am NOT an expert of T.S. Eliot - I didn’t even major in English! But I am very interested in exploring how his long literary period of essays, lectures, plays, and poetry were informed by his piety and his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I really enjoy listening to Eliot read his own poetry in recordings he made which you can easily find on-line. Here is Part One of my exploration of T.S. Eliot: