Life

This page is continually in progress. It aims to give an overview of Eliot's major life events, all the people he is known to have met, all the books he is known to have read (at a certain date or in a certain year) and all the lectures he has followed or given. Note that, like the rest of this site, scope is limited to his life up to and including 1922. 

This page is not and will never be complete. If you want to make it more complete however, any additions will be gladly accepted and swiftly included. Just send an email to: a.arum@wxs.nl with "Life of Eliot" in the subject heading.

1888 On 26 September in St. Louis, Missouri, at 2635 Locust Street, Thomas Stearnes Eliot sees first light. In his mother's bedroom a painting of the Madonna and child, and an engraving of Theodosius and St Ambrose, illustrating the triumph of holy over temporal power. During the summers the family stays at Hawthorne Inn, Gloucester, Cape Ann.

1894 Discusses the existence of God with his Irish nurse, Annie Dunne.

1895 Attends local school for two years, run by Mrs Lockwood. 

1896 His father builds a summer house at Eastern Point.

1898 Attends Smith Academy. Subjects: Greek, Latin, French, German, Ancient History and English. Gets mostly Cs Among the works Eliot studied in his final years at Smith are: Hill's Principles of Rhetoric, Shakespeare's Othello, the Golden Treasury, Milton, Macaulay, Addison, Burke's Conciliation with America, books III and IV of Virgil's Aeneid, Ovid, Cicero, Homer's Iliad, Racine's Andromaque and Horace, Hugo's Les Misérables, Molière's Le Misanthrope, La Fontaine's Fables as well as physics and chemistry. Has to go to the dentist twice a week for two years where he reads the collected works of Edgar Allen Poe. Specifically recalls reading The Assignation, the opening quote of which leads him to read poetry and plays a significant part in his desire to become a poet. 

1899 Is diagnosed to have a congenital double hernia. Gets sailing lessons. Brings out eight (Akroyd) or fourteen (Gordon) issues of own magazine, The Fireside. Among the various writings the little magazine's contained, notable is the appearance of a Dr Sweany.

1905 Eliot joins the Milton Academy. Writes 'A Tale of a Whale' for the April issue of the Smith Academy Record, and 'The Man Who Was King' for the June edition. 

1906 Eliot joins Harvard University, staying at 52 Mount Auburn Street. Is put on probation from December 1906 to February 1907 for 'working at a lower rate than most Freshmen.' Has low grades as before.

1907 Rooms at 22 Russell Hall, Holyoke House, or 42 Apley Court, with Howard Morris. Starts reading Baudelaire. (date unsure) Meets Betrand Russell at tea in art collector Ms Jack Gardner's mansion (but they must already have met in class). (?) George Herbert Palmer introduces Eliot to pre-Socratic philosophy and Heraclitus

1908  (?) Is instructed to read Dante in Italian. Takes composition classes from Copeland 1908/9 term. (?) Reads William James' Pragmatism. 'Circe' published in November. Comes across Arthur Symons' The Symbolist Movement in Literature in December, which leads him to order Laforgue's Oeuvres Complès from France, which arrived the following spring (1909).

1909 Sees 'Tristan'. Attains AB (BA) degree. Proceeds for MA in English Literature, under supervision of Irving Babbitt and George Santayana. Reads Santayana's Three Philosophical Poets (one of them Dante), has a course in the history of allegory with him. Irving introduces Eliot to Sanskrit and Oriental religion and teaches him French literary criticism. Joins board of Harvard Advocate. Takes own rooms at Apley Court. Meets Conrad Aiken. Writes 'Gentlemen and Seamen' article. 'Nocturne' published in the Harvard Advocate, November issue. Writes 'Opera', 'Nocturne', and 'Conversation Galante' in November. Visits a writer's club called 'The Signet' Reads early Yeats and Henry James, and is introduced to Pound's Exultations and Personae through W.G. Tinckom-Fernandez (a fellow editor of the Advocate).

1910 "Humoresque" published in the Harvard Advocate, January issue. Writes 'Spleen', 'Convictions' and 'The First Debate between the Body and Soul' in January. Begins his notebook called "Inventions of the March Hare," containing his poetry from 1909. Writes 'Easter: Sensations of April' (?) Writes 'I'. Has scarlet fever in May, preventing him from taking his spring finals, but nevertheless graduates on 24 June. Presumably writes the 'Goldfish' poems during summer. Writes 'Silence' in June. 'Mandarins' in August. Writes first passages from J. Alfred Prufrock. In October, Eliot sails to Europe, Paris, and stays at 9 rue de l'Université (Akroyd) or 151 bis rue Saint Jacques (Gordon), where he will meet Jacques Verdenal to whom he dedicated the first edition of Prufrock and other Observations. Studies French with Alain-Fournier Rivière with whom he reads French translations of Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot. Introduces in return Conrad's Typhoon, so Eliot  must have read that. Studies French literature at Sorbonne. Later points to Charles Louis Philippe's Bubu de Montparnasse as a 'symbol' for the the quarter of Paris he lived in. Buys Baedeker guide, London and the Environs, dated 14 October 1910. Sees a dramatisation of The Brothers Karamazov by Jacques Copeau at the Théàtre du Vieux-Colombier. Writes 'Portrait of a Lady' in November.

1911 Attends seven weekly lectures by Henri Bergon at the Collège de France, presumably reads his Creative Evolution, and comes across Maurras. Writes '2nd Debate between the Body and Soul', 'He said: the universe is very clever ...', 'Rhapsody on a Windy Night'. Travels to Munich where he completes "J. Alfred Prufrock" and somewhere in this year also "Portrait of a Lady." Travels to Italy where he visits among others the Palazzo della Ca d'Oro in Venice, holding Mantegna's St Sebastian. Returns to America, to study philosophy at Harvard, and on his way briefly stays in London where he presumably writes 'Interlude in London', visits Cricklewood, the churches St Helen's Bishopsgate, St Stephen Walbrook, St Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, St Sepulchre Old Bailey, St Etheldreda at Ely Place, Holborn, and St Magnus the Martyr. The third 'Prelude' in July. Subscribes to Nouvelle Revue Française and pins reproduction of Gauguin's 'Yellow Christ' on his wall. Studies Sanskrit and the Pantanjali's metaphytics under James Woods, Indic philology under Charles Lanman, and Indian philosophy. Presumably writes the first draft of 'The Little Passion'. Starts carrying a pocket version of Dante's Comedy in Italian, from which he starts memorizing passages and in which he marks most of the passages that are to reappear in his own poetry. 

1912 (?) Reads Hegel's Philosophy of History. Charles Lanman gives him a copy of Upanishads, the Twenty-Eight by Vasudev Laxman Shastri Phansikar (Bombay, 1906) on 6 May. Hears a lecture on Heraclitus 20 and 23 Oct. 1912, who becomes his 'hero of pessimism', as he declares in an address to the Harvard Philosophical Society in 1914 (see Gordon, p.78, who describes the notes of this lecture). Meets Emily Hale in this year.

1913 Takes part in a 'Stunt Show' at 1 Berkely Place (his aunt Mrs Holmes Hinkley's house), acting scenes of Bleak House (Dickens), Emma (Austen), and Maria Edgeworth, on 17 February. The scenes were written by Eleanor Hinkley (his cousin) and Eliot played M. Marcel and Mr Woodhouse. Emily Hale plays Mrs Elton and sings "Ecstasy', 'May Morning', 'Serenata' by Tosti, and 'Julia's Garden'.  Purchases copy of F.H. Bradley's Appearance and Reality in June. Writes paper 'The Interpretation of Primitive Ritual'. Begins writing his doctoral thesis on Bradley. Follows advanced seminar on Comparative Methodology with Josiah Royce and is very likely to be at least aware of the contents of his The Problem of Christianity (1913). In August he buys Paul Deussen's Upanishads des Veda. In October he buys Paul Deussen's Die Sutras des Vedanta. Writes and reads report on primitive religions for Royce's class on 9 December, in which he criticizes Frazer, Jane Harrison, Durkheim and Levy-Bruhl for neglecting 'human need'. Wonders what is the meaning of the 'mechanical behaviour' described by the anthropologists on 16 December.  

In this or the following year he gets his own typewriter. Writes an essay on Bergson probably this or next year (Gordon, p.59). Presumably writes 'Oh little voices ...' Enrolls for dancing and skating lessons this and the next year. Attends concerts of Ravel, Dvorak, Wagner, Sibelius, and Chopin, violin recitals of Mischa Elman and Fritz Kreisler at Symphony Hall, Puccine operas, and again Tristan at the Boston Opera House. Teaches undergraduate courses in philosophy in Emerson Hall. Studies the lives of saints and mystics, among which St Teresa, Dame Julian of Norwich, Mme Guyon, Walter Hilton, St John of the Cross (Dark Night of the Soul), Jacob Böhme, St Ignatius Loyola (Spiritual Exercises) and St Bernard, taking notes from among others Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism (1911). (.. from which he copies a fragment that ends 'Visionary experience ... is a picture which the mind constructs ... from raw materials already at its disposal.'. From these studies he probably learns the word aboulie which he uses in 1921 to describe his sickness. He also reads The Story of My Heart (1891) by Richard Jeffries, and Evelyn Underhill (? - complete source unidentified by Gordon). 

1914 Criticizes all theories of knowledge for their inability to "treat illusion as real" in Royce's class on 24 February. Writes 'After the turning ...', 'I am the Resurrection ...', 'So through the evening ...', and 'The Burnt Dancer' in June. Revises 'The Love Song of Saint Sebastian' in Germany, in July, and visits galleries and churches in Belgium, among which Hans Memling's St Sebastian, and then to Marburg where is to take part in a summer program for two months. The war, however, breaks out and he travels via Rotterdam to London on 3 August, where he visits among others the British Museum. Moves to Oxford in October, where he joins Merton College for the autumn term, under the Sheldon fellowship extended to him from Harvard. Here he continues working on his thesis and studies Aristotle under Harold Joachim, his Philosophical Tutor in college, from whom Eliot says to have learnt to write good English prose. Takes course in symbolic logic under Bertrand Russell.  Borrows only two books from Merton: Zabarella's Commentary and Westermark's Origin and Development of Moral Ideas. Calls on Ezra Pound on 22 September at Holland Place Chambers, Kensington and shows him Prufrock, who responds with "this is as good as anything I've ever seen". Pound introduces Eliot to Wyndham Lewis, Hilda Doolittle, John Gould Fletcher, Harriet Shaw Weaver, Hilda Doolittle and Richard Aldington. Presumably points Eliot to T. E. Hulme, among others his 'Conversion'. Joins the Bodley Club and the Nineties Society. Is elected president of Harvard's Philosophical Society. Meets E.R. Dodds at a lecture. Becomes close friends with Karl Culpin, an undergraduate historian. Goes for brief vacation with Barnd Blanshard and Culpin to Swanage, Dorset. Culpin soon after joins the army and is killed on his first day in the trenches. Joins 'the Coterie' at the invitation of E.R. Dodds. Goes to London in december and rents a room off Gordon Square. Writes 'The Death of Saint Narcissus' late this year or beginning of next.

1915 Sends 'Suppressed Complex' to Pound on 2 February.  Goes back to Oxford for a second term, where he has a class on Plotinus. Is renominated for his Harvard fellowship for a second year. Prufrock is published in Poetry (Harriet Monroe, Chicago) in June. Marries Vivenne Haigh-Wood on June 26. Preludes and Rhapsody on a Windy Night is published in Blast in July by Wyndham Lewis, who however refuses to print extracts from the Bolo saga, 'Bullshit' and 'The Ballad of Big Louise'. Eliot goes back to America late July to meet his parents. Eliot starts attending Thursday night gatherings in Soho and Regent Street restaurants at which various members of the Pound clan (see 1914) attended and where he heard people like Amy Lowell, Ford Madox Ford (on the great Victorians) and Arthur Waley (on Chines poetry). Portrait of a Lady is published in Alfred Kreymborg's Others. Five of Eliot's poems appear in Catholic Anthology (Pound). Jacques Verdenal dies in the war. Eliot and Vivien occupy Russell's flat at Russell Chambers in Bury Street, Eastbourne. Russell introduces Eliot to Ottoline Morrell. Works at High Wycombe Grammar School as schoolmaster. Vivien turns ill and the couple are offered to stay in Torquay at Russell's expenses. For second term, Eliot relocates to Highgate Junior School, where he teaches subjects like Latin, French, German, mental arithmetic, drawing and swimming. Writes reviews and criticism of studies on Theism, Nietzche and other philosophical subjects for the International Journal of Ethics. Reviews books for the literary pages of the New Statesman. Writes 'The Love Song of Saint Sebastian'.

1916 In April Eliot finishes and sends 'Experience and the Objects of Knowledge in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley' to Harvard. He was again offered the opportunity to return, but again declined. Eliot and Vivien returned to Compayne Gardens, then moved to a place of their own at 18 Crawford Mansions. Eliot and Vivien take up a cottage at Bosham for the summer, where many members of the Bloomsbury group hang out, such as Mary Hutchinson, Roger Fry and Lytton Stratchey. He prepares for the lectures on Modern English Literature ('from Tennyson to George Meredith) he is to give at the University of London (Southall), starting that autumn and continuing for the next three years. He also gives six afternoon lectures on Modern French Literature in Ilkley, Yorkshire, with themes such as "Romanticism and the reaction against it, a reaction formulated in terms of a new classicism (opposed to 'Rousseausm'), nationalism, and royalism and the Catholic Church (Akroyd, T.S. Eliot, p.75). Resigns from Highgate Junior School at end of the year. 

1917 Carl Culpin dies in the war. Eliot applies for a 'lectureship' and offers twelve possible courses ranging from Tendencies of Contemporary French Thought to Social Psychology. His name is shortlisted for the 'Supplementary List of University Extension Lecturers', but turned down on 27 February. In March on recommendation of Mr L.E. Thomas Eliot gains a position at Lloyds Bank, at the Colonial and Foreign Department at 17 Cornhill, where he starts with tabulating and interpreting balance sheet of the foreign banks. He remains with the bank for the next nine years. He experiments with writing French verse in March and/or April. In May the first 'Eeldrop and Appleplex' is published in the Little Review. Eliot becomes assistant editor for the Egoist in June, for which he also writes reviews of letters of J. B. Yeats, of Noh drama, Turgenev, and a number of 'Reflections on Contemporary Poetry', as well as a number of spoof letters. In July Harriet Shaw Weaver of the Egoist publishes Prufrock and Other Observations, on the initiative of Ezra Pound and with funds provided by Dorothy Pound. He spends two weeks in Bosham with Vivien. He is contracted to give a course of twenty-five lectures on Victorian literature at Sydenham. In the autumn, Russell confesses in a letter to Constance Malleson that he has slept with Vivien. In September the second  'Eeldrop and Appleplex' is published in the Little Review. He studies Gautier's quatrains with Pound. Pound, now foreign editor of Little Review, publishes The Hippopotamus and three French poems in July. Eliot anonymously writes 'Ezra Pound: His Metric and His Poetry' (also in Little Review?). Reads poetry at the house of Lady Colefax in December, where he meets the Sitwells for the first time. Consults a doctor who appears to diagnose strained nerves.

1918 He meets the Shiffs at evening gatherings in Cambridge Square and at their house in Eastbourne. In May, Eliot and Vivien move to a cottage in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. In October Eliot joins the London Library. Tries to join the army in some way, almost any way, but fails to do so before the war is over. Meets Middleton Murry and in October, Herbert Read. Eliot gives Pound's publisher, Alfred Knopf, a collectino of verse and prose (). In November 1918 he meets the Woolfs at Hogarth House in Richmond. Eliot and Vivien are both unwell during the last two months of 1918.

1919 Eliot's father dies at the beginning of January. At the end of January, Knopf turns down Eliot's book. In February, Eliot is ill. Knopf offers to print only the verse in April. John Quinn offers the combined verse and prose to John Lane, who turns it down in August.  In April, Eliot begins writing for the Athaneum, for which he writes articles such as the ones on Swinburne and Hamlet. In May, Eliot is sent on a business trip to the provinces for an extended time, during which he would only return to London once a week or so. During May and June, Eliot writes 'Gerontion'. The Woolfs agree to print Eliot's most recent work, under the title Poems in June. From June to September, Vivien lives at a rented cottage in Bosham, where Eliot only visits during the weekends, and is ill in July. In mid-August, Eliot takes a three-week holiday with Pound in the Dordogne, France. In October Eliot gives a lecture on 'modern tendencies in poetry' for the Arts League of Service. Richmond hires Eliot for the Times Literary Supplement to review studies of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and in November the first article appears, on Ben Johnson's plays. During this month Eliot begins work on 'He Do The Police In Different Voices.' In December, Eliot has a bronchial attack. Spends a week with friends in Wiltshire with Vivien.

1920 Eliot and Vivien go to Paris where Eliot gets influenza. In February, Knopf publishes the Poems including 'Sweeney Erect', 'Burbank' and 'A Cooking Egg'. John Rodker publishes 'Ara Vos Prec'. I.A. Richards takes an interest in Eliot's work and meets him. In April, he signs a contract with Methuen to produce a book of essays. In May he visits Katherine Mansfield. In July he completes The Sacred Wood and meets Lytton Stratchey at an Anglo-French poetry recital. In August Eliot travels with Wyndham Lewis to France, to Paris where he meets Joyce, then to Saumur, following the Loire down to Nantes and then went to the north of Brittany. In September he spends a weekend with the Woolfs at Monks House in Sussex. At the end of October, the Eliots move to 9 Clarence Gate Gardens, where they lived in several different apartments for the next ten years. In November, The Sacred Wood appears in print. 

1921 Somewhere before 7 February Lewis sees Eliot's new four-part poem. In March Eliot sees Love for Love with Virginia Woolf. On 9 May he told Quinn about his long poem, determined to finish it. In June, Charlotte, Marian and Henry come over from America to visit Thomas, staying till August. Eliot meets Lady Rothermere through Sidney Schiff who proposes to set up a new magazine for which Eliot is to be editor. Eliot was writing essays on Marvell, Dryden and the Metaphysical Poets, reading the later chapters of Ulysses, attended Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps in the summer and attended seances organized by Lady Rothermere, presided by P.D. Ouspensky. In September Eliot experiences severe headaches. A doctor diagnoses a nervous disorder and orders a three month absence from stress. The American tax-office pursue Eliot for income tax. He obtains three months absence leave from Lloyds as of 12 October, of which the first month he spends at Margate. Here he writes presumably the section of The Waste Land beginning with 'The river sweats...". On 6 November Eliot concludes, following on the advice of Ottoline Morrell and Julian Huxley, that he suffers not from nervous disorder but from 'aboulie' and decides to go to Lausanne to follow treatment by Dr Roger Vittoz, travelling back to London and then to Paris on his way, showing Pound the unfinished long poem. At Lausanne he wrote the final sections of the poem, primarily 'What the Thunder Said', which also includes passages he had written already at Harvard. 

1922 Eliot returned to London via Paris where he showed Pound the work again, who extensively edits the work he however greatly admires. 

source
Akroyd, Peter. T.S. Eliot. Penguin Books. London, 1984.

Arwin van Arum