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MonkeyNotes-Murder In the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

T.S. ELIOT

Thomas Sterns Eliot is considered one of the most controversial and influential literary personalities of the twentieth century. Eliot was born to a wealthy and respectable family of merchants in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 26, 1888. His grandfather, the Reverend William Greenleaf Eliot, established the first Unitarian Church in St. Louis. He was also a founder of Washington University and became its Chancellor in 1872. T.S. Eliot's father, Henry W. Eliot, was the president of the Hydraulic Press Brick Company. Eliot's mother was a woman of intellectual and literary interests. It is not surprising that Eliot's youth was filled with education, religion, and family closeness.

Eliot entered Harvard University in 1906 and graduated in three years. He received his Master's Degree in his fourth year at Harvard. While in school, he began his literary career by writing poems for the undergraduate literary magazine, "The Harvard Advocate." He also became the editor of the publication. During his undergraduate years, Eliot was deeply interested in literature, religion, and philosophy; he read extensively, especially the literature of the French poets. After graduation, he continued his study of philosophy and French literature. He attended the Sorbonne in Paris and Oxford in England. Although he wrote a dissertation for his Ph.D., he never received the degree.

After completing his studies, Eliot began to write. His first efforts were largely poetic. His early volumes of poetry include "Prufrock and Other Observations" (1917) and "Power" (1919). He started his own magazine, "The Criterion," which was published in London. His famous poem, " The Waste Land" first appeared in this magazine. Written in postwar disillusionment, "The Waste Land" portrayed Eliot's beginning search for his own religious faith. In 1925, he published another volume of poems entitled "The Hollow Man." In 1927, Eliot declared that he was a Catholic in religion, a classicist in literature, and a monarchist in politics.


From 1930 until 1960, Eliot produced a variety of literature. He produced two major poems, "Ash Wednesday" (1930) and "Four Quartets" (1943). The latter one is considered as his masterpiece. His "Selected Essays" was published in 1932. In 1934, he wrote "The Rock" and in 1935, he wrote "Murder in the Cathedral"; both are religious dramas. "The Family Reunion" (1939), "The Cocktail Party" (1959), "The Confidential Clerk" (1955) and "The Elder Statesman" (1959) are his other well-known plays. His essays like "Tradition and Individual Talent" brought him repute as a literary critic.

In 1927, T.S. Eliot became a British citizen. In 1932, he was appointed as the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard. In 1948, Eliot was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in 1965. Today, Eliot is one of the eminent poets of the English language.

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