T.S Eliot (Thomas Stearns)

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Back to: Poets (you should know)

American born poet: later emigrated to the UK. TS Eliot3

T.S.Eliot (Thomas Stearns) 1888-1965

Nobel Prize in Literature 1948
Born: 26 September 1888, St Louis, Missouri, USA
Died: 4 January 1965, Kensington, London, UK


Eliot left the US in 1927 and at age 39 (1927) became a naturalised UK citizen. He drew inspirations from poets such as Donne and Baudelaire. His earlier works question the literary and social conventions of Victorian society. The word’ Bullshit’ was coined by Eliot in 1910 in the title of a poem. He converted from American Unitarian (as opposed to Trinitarianism) to Orthodox Christianity. He was a director at Faber and Faber Publishers. His ashes are in St Michael’s Church in East Coker in Somerset from where his ancestor Andrew Eliot emigrated to the US in 1667 and there is memorial to him in Westminster Abbey.


“This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.”
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”
“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”
“Television is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.”
“Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
“Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.”
Eliot’s epitaph: “In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning.”

Selected Bibliography (*Best known)


Eliot wrote nearly 60 poems – some very long!
*Gerontion: Here I am, an old man in a dry month, Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
*The Waste Land: April is the cruellest month,
*The Hollow Men: We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men Leaning together
*Ash Wednesday: Because I do not hope to turn again Because I do not hope
*Four Quartets: They shut me up in Prose
*The Love song of J Alfred Prufrock: Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherised upon a table;
*Gus: The Theatre Cat: Gus is the Cat at the Theatre Door. His name, as I ought to have told you before, Is really Asparagus. That’s such a fuss To pronounce, that we usually call him just Gus.
*Preludes: The winter evening settles down with smell of steaks in passageways. Six o’clock. The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
Song: Memory (Cats): recorded by both Barbra Streisand and Elaine Page, Lloyd Webber’s lyrics are inspired by lines in TS Eliot’s Preludes
*Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (On which Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s musical Cats is based)
*Murder in the Cathedral

Letter and Essays

There are numerous books about Eliot as well as collections and collations of his work and his literary criticisms.