Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri of New England descent, on Sept. 26, 1888. He entered Harvard University in 1906, completed his courses in three years and earned a master's degree the next year. After a year at the Sorbonne in Paris, he returned to Harvard. Further study led him to Merton College, Oxford, and he decided to stay in England. He worked first as a teacher and then in Lloyd's Bank until 1925. Then he joined the London publishing firm of Faber and Gwyer, becoming director when the firm became Faber and Faber in 1929. Eliot won the Nobel prize for literature in 1948 and other major literary awards.
Eliot saw an exhausted poetic mode being employed, that contained no verbal excitement or original craftsmanship, by the Georgian poets who were active when he settled in London. He sought to make poetry more subtle, more suggestive, and at the same time more precise.
He learned the necessity of clear and precise images, and he learned too, to fear romantic softness and to regard the poetic medium rather than the poet's personality as the important factor. Eliot saw in the French symbolists how image could be both absolutely precise in what it referred to physically and at the same time endlessly suggestive in the meanings it set up because of its relationship to other images. Eliot's real novelty was his deliberate elimination of all merely connective and transitional passages, his building up of the total pattern of meaning through the immediate comparison of images without overt explanation of what they are doing, together with his use of indirect references to other works of literature (some at times quite obscure).
Eliot starts his poem 'The Hollow Men' with a quote from Joseph Conrad's novel the...