Thomas Stearns Eliot, poet, critic, publisher, was born in St Louis, Missouri, in 1888. He settled in England in 1915, where for a few years he worked in the foreign section of Lloyds Bank. His first book of poems, Prufrock and Other Observations, was published in 1917. In 1922, he became editor of the literary journal, The Criterion, publishing The Waste Land in its first outing.
In 1925 Eliot was recruited by Geoffrey Faber to be the literary editor and a director of a new publishing house, Faber and Gwyer (later Faber and Faber). It was a role in which he excelled, going on to establish Faber as a leading publisher of poetry with a list that embraced the outstanding English-language poets of the twentieth century.
Eliot received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1948. He continued to work at Faber until his death in 1965.
‘Each year Eliot’s presence reasserts itself at a deeper level, to an audience that is surprised to find itself more chastened, more astonished, more humble.’
‘He [Eliot] showed how poetic vocation entails the disciplining of a habit of expression until it becomes fundamental to the whole conduct of a life.’
‘More than any other twentieth-century poet, Eliot renders the experience of modernity in all its baffling complexity: the fragments of things we hear, half-hear, remember, or desire, or regret.’
‘April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.’
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey . . .’
‘Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.’
‘Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.’
‘Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place – MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!’