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Selected Poetry of Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands
        (Preludes, 30-34)
  1. Aunt Helen
  2. The Boston Evening Transcript
  3. Conversation Galante
  4. A Cooking Egg
  5. Cousin Nancy
  6. Gerontion
  7. The Hippopotamus
  8. Hysteria
  9. La Figlia Che Piange
  10. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
  11. Morning at the Window
  12. Mr. Apollinax
  13. Mr. Eliot's Sunday Morning Service
  14. Portrait of a Lady
  15. Preludes
  16. Rhapsody on a Windy Night
  17. Sweeney among the Nightingales
  18. Sweeney Erect
  19. The Waste Land
  20. Whispers of Immortality


Notes on Life and Works

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born on September 26, 1888, in St. Louis, Missouri. He received his education at Smith Academy there, at Milton Academy in Massachusetts, and at Harvard University, where he obtained a B.A. and M.A. in philosophy (1909-10) and taught briefly in 1913-14. His Ph.D. thesis on F. H. Bradley was approved in 1916 after some years of study abroad -- at the Sorbonne in Paris, in Munich, and at Merton College, Oxford -- but Eliot never presented himself to accept the degree. He married Vivienne Haigh-Wood in January, 1915. He separated from her in 1932, and she died in 1947, in an mental institution. His first books of poetry were Prufrock, and Other Observations (1917), Poems (1919), Ara Vos Prec (1920), The Waste Land (1922), and Poems, 1909-1925. At first Eliot drew from French symbolist poetry, especially the works of Jules Laforgue, but with the friendship and advice of Ezra Pound, his wife Vivienne, and others, he came fully into his own as a poet with Gerontion and The Waste Land. In London, Eliot earned his living as a literary journalist, as a teacher at High Wycombe Grammar School and Highgate School, London, and as a clerk in the Colonial and Foreign Department of Lloyds Bank (1917-25). From 1917 to 1919 he acted as assistant editor of The Egoist; and he founded and edited The Criterion from 1922 to 1939. In this way Eliot helped many younger writers, including W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender. About 1927 Eliot permanently converted to the Anglican Christian faith. His poetry from this time on reflected his religious beliefs: Journey of the Magi (1927), Animula (1929), Ash Wednesday (1930), Marina (1930), and especially the magnificent Four Quartets (Burnt Norton, The Dry Salvages, East Coker, and Little Gidding; 1935-1942), by many considered the greatest long poem of the twentieth century. Throughout his life Eliot enjoyed a delightful sense of humour, best exhibited in his popular Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), the source of the modern musical Cats. Late in his career, Eliot helped revive verse drama. His plays include both religious pieces, Sweeney Agonistes (1932), The Rock (1934), and Murder in the Cathedral (of the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket; 1935), and the tragicomedies The Family Reunion (1939), The Cocktail Party (1950), The Confidential Clerk (1954), and The Elder Statesman (1959). Eliot also proved himself an important literary critic, from his first critical book, The Sacred Wood (1920) to one of his last, On Poetry and Poets (1957). He received many awards and honours in his lifetime, including the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Order of Merit, both in 1948. In 1957 he married his private secretary, Valerie Fletcher, a faithful friend, his beloved, and his literary executor. Eliot died on January 4, 1965, in London, and was interred in Westminster Abbey.

Important reference works on Eliot's life and works include the following:

Biographical information

Given name: Thomas Stearns
Family name: Eliot
Birth date: 1888
Death date: 1965