The "Isms"

The “Isms”: T.S. Eliot's beliefs

T.S. Eliot originally believed in a single God and followed Unitarianism for the early part of his life. But he changed to Anglicanism in June 29, 1927, at the age of 39.

Eliot became a British citizen in November of 1927. He became a life member of the Society of King Charles the Martyr. Eliot became the warden on his parish church, Saint Stephen’s, Gloucester Road, London. Eliot considered himself an Anglo-Catholic.

He even proclaimed himself as, "classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and Anglo-catholic [sic] in religion."

T.S. Eliot has even been accused of being an Anti-Semitic, for his depictions of Jews in his work. Anthony Julius's T. S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism, and Literary Form of 1996, puts forth the strongest case that Eliot was being Anti Semitic.

Several of his works have been accused of showing prejudice towards Jews. “Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar”, “Gerontion”, “In A Cooking Egg”, “Sweeney Among the Nightingales” are some of the poems that seem to tell that Eliot was Anti Semitic, but there were a lot of Jews in the production of these works and they all deny to think of the works to be Anti Semitic.

Emanuel Litvinoff

Emanuel Litvinoff was an Anglo-Jewish writer, who was one of the first to openly protest against Eliot, in an inaugural poetry reading attended by Eliot himself, much to the shock of the gathered men.

Professor Ronald Schuchard of Emory University, published in 2003, the details of a previously unknown cache of letters from T.S. Eliot to Horace Kallen, which revealed that Eliot was not Anti- Semitic and in fact supported Jews in many ways. He had helped Jewish refugees move from Germany and Austria to re-settle in America and Britain and he even expressed his support for Israel.

Leonard Woolfe

A Jewish friend of Eliot, Leonard Woolf, said that Eliot was slightly Anti-Semitic and that he was no more that unusual than a common man. The debate whether T.S. Eliot was Anti Semitic and if he was prejudiced towards the Jews, still rages on and only future discoveries of Eliot’s life would reveal the truth of his views.

Merits of the Highest order

T.S. Eliot: Awards and Honors

T.S Eliot had received thirteen honorary doctorates, from Universities like Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne and Harvard.

King George VI of the United Kingdom, awarded the Order of Merit for T.S. Eliot in 1948, honoring him for his services in Literature.

In Stockholm of 1948, the same year he got the Order of Merit, T.S. Eliot also received the Nobel Prize for Literature, "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry".

In 1951, T.S. Eliot was honored as the Officier de la Legion d'Honneur, which is a French order, established by Napoleon Bonaparte, in 19th may 1802.

In 1955, T.S. Eliot received the Hanseatic Goether Prize in Hamburg, which is a German literary and artistic award, given biennially since 1949 to a figure of European stature.

In 1959, he received the Dante Medal in Florence.

In 1960, he received the Commandeur de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres, which is an Order of France established in 2 May 1957 by the Minister of Culture, and confirmed as part of the Ordre national du Mérite by President Charles de Gaulle in 1963.

In 1964, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 1950, The Broadway production of the Cocktail Party won a Tony Award for Best Play.

The Eliot College in the University of Kent was named after him.

T.S Eliot was celebrated on commemorative Postage Stamps.

He was awarded two Tony Award in 1983, posthumously for his poems, used in the musical Cats.

T.S. Eliot was honored a star in the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Eliot's Contemporaries

T.S. Eliot, criticism and fellow writers:

T.S. Eliot's work was not welcomed by all, though admired and loved by many. There were people who even thought that his poems were not actually poems, because of his constant references to other people's works and their quotations.

Eliot however considered necessary and gave much importance to it. Eliot himself was known for his criticism and even influenced the New criticism. He was considered by many to be the greatest critic of the 20th century. His criticisms were seen to be very penetrating and detailed.

Eliot was known for his writing of Metaphysical subjects and many writers and poets were influenced by him. His own work The Waste Land, was considered by many to be an hoax or joke and his critics were not very soft on him.

"Catholicity", which was published in 1947, as a contribution to the process which resulted in the Church of England's Report on Doctrine (1948), was in fact produced by a group, with a lot of senior clergy in it. Eliot was a member of this group in 1946.

A Commission produced, The Revised Psalter, in 1963 and Eliot was made to be part of it, by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1958। C।S. Lewis was a member of this commission and a not so sweet relationship between them, turned into a friendship.

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis himself called Eliot's Literary criticism to be "unscholarly and superficial". T.S. Eliot received a letter from C.S. Lewis, in 1934, with the following comment,

"I hope the fact that I find myself often contradicting you in print gives no offence; it is a kind of tribute to you—whenever I fall foul of some widespread contemporary view about literature I always seem to find that you have expressed it most clearly. One aims at the officers first in meeting an attack!"

Antagonism and admiration were often seen in C.S. Lewis view on T.S. Eliot. Fellow writers and critics like Ted Hughes and Hugh Kenner how however expressed great admiration and love for his work.

Ted Hughes had stated, "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.”

Hugh Kenner had commented, "He has been the most gifted and influential literary critic in English in the twentieth century." However, other writers have not supported this view


The End of a legacy: Death of Mr. T.S Eliot

T.S. Eliot had been a heavy smoker and had a lot of health complications because of it. He had been suffering a lot because of Bronchitis and Tachycardia. He suffered from Emphysema and died because of it.

His death took place in London, when he was 76. On January 4, 1965, T.S. Eliot breathed his last and it was truly the end of a great legacy. But his popularity only increased over the years and he continues to live through his work.

T.S. Eliot was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. As per Eliot’s wishes, when he was alive, his ashes were taken to St. Michael’s Church in East Coker. It was the same village, from which, his ancestors had immigrated to America.

Several honours were made for the great writer. One of them being the wall plaque, that commemorates him with a quotation, from his own poem, “East Coker”.

“In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning”.

On the second anniversary of Mr. Eliot’s death, he was commemorated, by the installation of a large stone, in London’s Westminster Abbey, in the floor of Poets’ Corner. The stone was installed in 1967, as mark of respect for Mr. Eliot.

Mr. Reynolds Stone was the person who designed the stone. It has the inscription of Eliot’s life dates, his Order of Merit and a quotation from one of his poems, “Little Gidding”

“the communication/ Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond/ the language of the living.”

Second Marriage

Remarriage: Second time lucky?

Esme Valerie Fletcher was Eliot’s secretary at Faber and Faber and Eliot and her, knew each other for some time. T.S Eliot married her, when she was 32 and he himself was 68.

The wedding was a small event, with no one attending except, Esme’s parents. Their marriage was held as a secret and hence no one came to their wedding. They had chosen to get married at 6.15 in the morning in a church and they lived together happily, till Eliot passed away, when he was 76. Eliot’s wife had been dedicating her life to look after his work and keep up his legacy.

She had edited and annotated some of Eliot’s works, namely The Letters of T.S. Eliot and a part of the draft of The Waste Land.

Unlike the first marriage, which ended in a complete disaster, with Vivienne ending up in an asylum and Eliot becoming depressed enough to write his greatest work, The Waste Land, the second marriage was a peaceful and happy one for Mr. Eliot and Esme Valerie Eliot and the smoothness in their relationship, was because of their understanding and knowledge of each one, before the marriage. They had known each other for a long time and Esme, despite being much younger than Eliot, did go on to marry him and she had dedicated her entire life for him. Their marriage had taken place on January 10, 1957.

Vivienne however spent her final days in the asylum, before developing a great anger for Mr. Eliot and even asking by passers, if he had been beheaded yet, one fine morning at five. She remained in the asylum and she died at the age of 58.

The Marriage:The Better half, for the worst

The Better half, for the worst:

The 1994 movie Tom & Viv was based on Eliot's marriage with Vivienne.

The Marriage that made him a poet, but killed him as a man. T.S. Eliot respected women a lot and even considered them a source of his inspiration. Vivienne Haigh-Wood was a Cambridge governess, who came to meet Eliot, thanks to Thayer. She was born in 28th May 1888 herself and she went on to marry T.S. Eliot, becoming his first wife.

Vivienne Haigh-Wood

They had met in Oxford in March 1915, while Eliot was studying at Merton College and they both were married in Hampstead Register Office, within three months of their meeting. They remained married till she died in 1947, but their relationship was not that great because of Vivienne’s poor physical and mental health and Eliot’s inability to handle and tolerate her.

While Eliot was busy looking after his career, a philosopher named Bertrand Russell took an interest in Vivienne, whose flat, the young couple actually stayed in. There were speculations regarding some sort of an affair between the two, but they were never proved. Eliot however had confessed that it was not a happy marriage and that he lived with Vivienne, because he wanted to have the connection with England and she herself, believed that she needed to be with him, to make him stay in England.

Eliot had arranged for a formal separation in February of 1935 and avoided Vivienne completely, not even talking or seeing her, despite her, trying everything to get to him. He even asked his friends and colleagues to not reveal where he was. Vivienne unable to handle the separation, became depressed and she became severely mentally ill.

Vivienne finally managed to get to Eliot in November 1935 at a Sunday Times Book Fair, in London. She had arrived there with her dog and three books and she asked Eliot, if he would get together with her again, but he denied discussing it with her and that was the last time Vivienne saw him.

Miranda Richardson Playing Vivienne in the 1994 movie Tom & Viv.

She was then taken into Asylum in 1938, by her brother Maurice. She spent her life there, having tried to escape once, but ending up back in the asylum and died at the age of 58, out of heart attack, though it was suspected that she had died of overdose. Theresa, Eliot’s sister in law, quoted on their relationship, "Vivienne ruined Tom as a man, but she made him as a poet."

It is believed that T.S. Eliot had written the Waste Land, because of his not so happy marriage with Vivienne. Vivienne was considered to be the Muse for Eliot’s work, but not in a way of praise, but for making their marriage disastrous and thereby inspiring Eliot, to bring some of the most well known works of the nineteenth century.

The 1994 movie Tom & Viv, starring Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson was based on the true story of the relationship between T.S. Eliot and Vivienne Haige-Wood Eliot.

Who, what and where?

T.S. Eliot: The man behind The Waste Land


T.S. Eliot, Thomas Stearns Eliot, was an English poet, born in America in September 26th 1888. He was and is still considered to be, one of the most important and prolific English- language Poet in the 1900’s. Apart from being a poet, T.S. Eliot was also a playwright and literary critic. He was a Nobel Laureate and won the prize in 1948 for his services in English Literature.

He was born in St. Louis in Missouri and did much of his education in the east and at Harvard. He became a British citizen at the age of thirty nine. He studied philosophy at Sorbonne for a year and won a scholarship to study at Oxford in his early twenties.

His greatest works include,


Prufrock and Other Observations (1917),

The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1917),

Portrait of a Lady (1917),

Aunt Helen (1917),

Gerontion (1920)

Sweeney Among the Nightingales (1920)

The Hippopotamus (1920)

Whispers of Immortality (1920)

Mr. Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service (1920)

A Cooking Egg (1920)

The Waste Land (1922)

The Hollow Men (1925)

Ariel Poems (1927-1954)

The Journey of the Magi (1927)

Ash Wednesday (1930)

Coriolan (1931)

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939)

The Marching Song of the Pollicle Dogs and Billy M’Caw: The Remarkable Parrot (1939)

Four Quartets (1945)  


Sweeney Agonistes (1926, though performed for the first time in 1934)

The Rock (1934)

Murder in the Cathedral (1935)

The Family Reunion (1939)

The Cocktail Party (1949)

The Confidential Clerk (1953)

The Elder Statesman (performed for the first time in 1958 and published in 1959)


Christianity & Culture (1939, 1948)

The Second-Order Mind (1920)

Tradition and the Individual Talent

The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1920)

Hamlet and His Problems (1920)

Homage to John Dryden (1924)

Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca (1928)

For Lancelot Andrewes (1928)

Dante (1929)

Selected Essays, 1917- 1932 (1932)

The Use of Poetry and The Use of Criticism (1933)

After Strange Gods (1934)

Elizabethan Essays (1934)

Essays Ancient and Modern (1936)

The Idea of a Christian Society (1939)

A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1941)

Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948)

Poetry and Drama (1951)

The Three Voices of Poetry (1954)

The Frontiers of Criticism (1956)

On Poetry and Poets (1957)

Posthumous Publications

To Criticize the Critic (1965)

The Waste Land: Facsimile Edition (1974)

Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917 (1996)

Critical Editions:

Collected Poems, 1909-1962 (1963)

Old Possum’s book of Practical Cats, Illustrated Edition (1982)

Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot by Frank Kermode (1975)

The Waste Land (Norton Critical Editions) ed. By Michael North (2000)

Selected essays (1932); enlarged (1960)

The letters of T.S. Eliot, ed. Valerie Eliot, vol.1: 1898-1922 (1988)

The letters of T.S. Eliot, ed. Valerie Eliot, vol.2: 1923-1925 (2009)