T.S. Eliot, the 1948 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is one of the giants of modern literature, highly distinguished as a poet, literary critic, dramatist, and editor and publisher. In 1910 and 1911, while still a college student, he wrote “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and other poems that are landmarks in the history of literature. In these college poems, Eliot articulated distinctly modern themes in forms that were both a striking development of and a marked departure from those of 19th-century poetry. Within a few years he had composed another landmark poem, “Gerontion” (1920), and within a decade, one of the most famous and influential poems of the century, The Waste Land (1922). While the origins of The Waste Land are in part personal, the voices projected are universal. Eliot later denied that he had large cultural problems in mind, but, nevertheless, in The Waste Land he diagnosed the malaise of his generation and indeed of Western civilization in the 20th century.
Eliot was almost as renowned a literary critic as he was a poet. From 1916 through 1921 he contributed approximately one hundred reviews and articles to various periodicals…. Beginning in the late 1920s, Eliot’s literary criticism was supplemented by religious and social criticism. In these writings, such as The Idea of a Christian Society (1939), he can be seen as a deeply involved and thoughtful Christian poet in the process of making sense of the world between the two World Wars. These writings, sympathetically read, suggest the dilemma of the serious observer of Western culture in the 1930s, and rightly understood, they complement his poetry, plays, and literary journalism.
T.S. Eliot’s last years, though happy, were darkened by illness. He died of emphysema in London on January 4, 1965. The London Times obituary was titled “The Most Influential English Poet of His Time,” and the long obituary in Life magazine concluded with “Our age beyond any doubt has been, and will continue to be, the Age of Eliot.”
(From “T.S. Eliot,” The Poetry Foundation. For complete article, click here.)