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Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St Louis in 1888 to a family with prominent New England roots Eliot largely abandoned his Midwestern roots and chose to ally himself with both New and old England throughout his life He attended Harvard as an undergraduate in 1906 was accepted into the literary circles and had a predilection for 16th- and 17th-century poetry the Italian Renaissance particularly Dante Eastern religion and philosophy Perhaps the greatest influence on him however were the 19th-century French Symbolists such as Charles Baudelaire Arthur Rimbaud Stephene Mallarme and Eliots favorite Jules Laforgue Eliot took from them their sensual yet precise attention to symbolic images a feature that would be the hallmark of his brand of Modernism Eliot also earned a masters degree from Harvard in 1910 before studying in Paris and Germany He settled in England in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I studying at Oxford teaching and working at a bank In 1915 he married British writer Vivienne Haigh-Wood they would divorce in 1933 a woman prone to poor physical and mental health and in November of 1921 Eliot had a nervous breakdown By this time Eliot had already achieved great success in 1917 with his first book of poems Prufrock and Other Observations which included The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock a work begun in his days at Harvard Eliots reputation was bolstered by the admiration and aid of esteemed contemporary poet Ezra Pound the other tower of Modernist poetry During Eliots recuperation from his breakdown in a Swiss sanitarium he wrote The Waste Land A couple of months later he gave Pound the manuscript in Paris Thanks to Pounds heavy editing as well as suggestions specifically about scenes relevant to their stormy hostile marriage from Haigh-Wood The Waste Land published in 1922 defined Modernist poetry and became possibly the most influential poem of the century Devoid of a single speakers voice the poem ceaselessly shifts its
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