Thomas Eliot was born in 1888 in Missouri (USA) and he has been educated in Harvard. But his cultural background was at first English and then European; in fact he discovered the English Metaphysical poet John Donne and he learned Italian by studying Dante. In 1910 he first went to Europe and studied in Paris at the Sorbonne; later he came back to Harvard and took a degree in philosophy.
When the First World War came out he settled in London where he taught, worked in a bank as a clerk and married a woman who was told to have some mental problems.
In 1925 he became a director for the publishers Faber and Faber, publishing all his writings trough them. He spent some time in a Swiss sanatorium, in Lausanne, undergoing psychological treatment and here he finished The Wast Land: poetry was his only refuge where he expressed all his horror at his unhappy home life.
In 1925 he published The Hollow Man, a poem written as a sequel to The Waste Land’s philosophical despair, even here the seeds of his future faith may be found. Two years later he became a British citizen and joined the Church of England finding the answers to his own questionings.
In the 1930s and 1940s Eliot turned his interest towards the problems of modern society. In 1948 received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
His works can be divided in two periods:
- The works before his conversion to Anglicanism, as The Waste Land and The Hollow Man, characterized by a pessimistic vision of the world, where life has no meaning.
- The works after his conversion, as Ash Wednesday, Murder in the cathedral, where the main theme is joy, hope and purification.
He joined with Joyce the way of thinking that the artist has to be impersonal and to separate “the man who suffer” from the mind which creates”.