T.S. Elliot was a literary genius. He wrote many essays, plays and poems on different things.
Although originally born in the US; Eliot became an English citizen in 1927.
Born Thomas Stearns Eliot he was the youngest of six children having four sisters and two brothers. He was born into a prominent family and his mother was also a poet. Eliot was very well educated and studied Greek and Latin as well as other subjects
He did earn a PhD which he never received as well as other accolades. In 1925 Eliot married a governess Vivienne Haigh-Wood. The marriage was a relationship of convenience not love, neither was happy and there were suggestions that Vivienne had an affair.
Eliot took teaching jobs for a while in England and also studied. Both Eliot and his wife suffered from mental health issues, so much so that Eliot did actually have a nervous breakdown in 1921. When Eliot had become ill through nervous collapse he needed rest. This helped his writing enormously. One of his most famous poems ‘The Waste Land’ was partly compiled in this period Eliot nearly lost his wife in 1923 and this caused him to nearly collapse a second time. These incidents caused Eliot to begin to look for spiritual support. Although his family were Unitarian, Eliot rejected this and chose to turn to the Church of England. This decision in turn, led to Eliot writing predominantly religious articles.
His wife was eventually put in a mental hospital. The relationship had never been happy and had caused a rift in the family. Eliot and Vivien separated and Viviane died in 1947. During the Second World War Eliot helped on the home front; he became a warden. The poems he wrote in this period were focused, obviously on war. ‘Four Quartets’ published in 1943 was very popular. Eliot remarried in 1957. This marriage brought him peace, unlike his first.
Maybe of all Eliot’s poems, plays and critical writings the most famous and most loved are his poems on Cats. Short poetry, brought together under that famous and best loved of titles ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.’ In his book of cats there is no creed or personality of cat left out!
Even the aptly titled ‘Ad-dressing of cats ’ tells one how to talk properly to a cat.
The one that held my siblings and I; and then my own children riveted to the chair when it was read out was his poem; ‘Macavity the mystery cat’ all about the most diabolical of cats, who is so good at crime that ‘ When the crimes discovered then, MACAVITY’S NOT THERE!’ as quoted exactly from T.S. Eliot in his poem Macavity the mystery cat, from Possums book of cats.. There are so many that it is hard to single them out, from ‘The Rum Tum Tigger, who loves to create chaos, to ‘Bustopher Jones’, who’s rotund shape is well recognised in all restaurants and eating houses over London!
What ever type of cat, Eliot covered it in remarkable witty style. So famous are his cat poems that they have been immortalised in London’s West End. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical ‘Cats’ is based on Eliot’s poetry.
Eliot died in 1965 and his wife has been a driving force behind keeping his writing alive. He may have been criticized, and though he suffered many illnesses, problems and indecisiveness in his life; an example of this is that although he became British he always felt he should be looked on as American; in his poetry at least. What ever he was, and what ever he did, poetry has never been and will never be the same since. In fact in the words of Eliot himself, other poets could be seen like this:
‘nothing more than agents for the cat who of all time,
Just controls their operations: The Napoleon of crime!’
And that is that! (T.S.Eliot; Possums Book of Cats; Macavity The Mystery Cat)
For more on the poetry visit:
www.amazon.com and search T.S. Eliot poetry
For more on the musical visit:
With acknowledgement and heartfelt thanks to wikipedia and www.english.uiuc.ed