Every writer is
different. Each has his or her own way of working, a method for getting words
down on paper. Some are procrastinators, some are methodical, some write in
between juggling a daytime job and caring for a family.
Eliot (September 26, 1888 – January 4, 1965), commonly known as T.S. Eliot, was
an essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic, and is thought
by many to have been the most influential poet of the twentieth century. He was
born into a high-ranking family in Boston and after a childhood fraught with
physical weakness and isolation found himself in Oxford, England, on a
scholarship in 1914. He married the following year and from then on was to make
England his home for the rest of his life. After a brief dalliance with
schoolmastering, in 1917, he took a position at Lloyds Bank in London, working
on foreign accounts. He quickly made himself indispensible to the firm and proved
to be a superb businessman.
It was while he
was engaged in the staid world of banking that he provided some of his most
trenchant poetry, criticism, and essays of the time. He worked incredibly hard
and had a strict schedule to keep every day. He needed the extra money in order
to make ends meet, so after putting in a full day’s work at the office he would
return home to write essays, lectures and book reviews. In his “spare” time he
also founded and edited the Criterion literary magazine and produced several
volumes of groundbreaking poetry.
after a long career with Lloyds, he moved to the publishers Faber and Gwyer (later
to become Faber and Faber) as poetry editor where he was responsible for seeking
out hidden talent and published poets such as W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Ted
Hughes and Dylan Thomas.
But in his
later years, even when he was rather comfortably off and did not need to worry
about money he still kept to a punishing schedule. He would rise early and
leave the house at 6.30 to attend mass, returned home and, after a full English
breakfast, write until about noon. Then after lunch he would take a bus to his
office at the publishing house (completing the infamous Times cryptic crossword
on the way) and work all afternoon having meetings with other editors, reading
manuscripts that had been submitted and dictating letters to his secretary. In
the evenings he was often called upon to deliver lectures at various venues, so
he also spent time in meticulous preparation.
say, long years of unremitting hard graft took its toll on his health, so
periodically he would need to take time off work because of nervous exhaustion.
It was during one of these extended breaks, first in Switzerland and then in
the seaside resort of Margate on the English coast, that he composed most of
The Wasteland, his poetic masterpiece that was to rock the literary world to
Eliot was the
exact opposite of the dreamy-eyed romantic who pens nature haikus and love
sonnets in a flood of emotion and cant. He was a shrewd businessman, and
incisive critic, a brilliant poet who articulated the spirit of the times and
an inveterate workaholic.
Labels: Boston, Criterion magazine, Dylan Thomas, England, Faber and Faber, Lloyds, Stephen Spender, Ted Hughes, The Wasteland, TS Eliot, W.H. Auden