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Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: And Other Poems [Hardcover]

T. S. Eliot

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Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1888. He was educated at Harvard, at the Sorbonne in Paris, and at Merton College, Oxford. His early poetry was profoundly influenced by the French symbolists, especially Baudelaire and Laforgue. In his academic studies he specialised in philosophy and logic. His doctoral thesis was on F. H. Bradley.

He settled in England in 1915, the year in which he married Vivienne Haigh-Wood and also met his contemporary Ezra Pound for the first time. After teaching for a year or so he joined Lloyds Bank in the City of London in 1917, the year in which he published his first volume, Prufrock and Other Observations.

In 1919 Poems was hand-printed by Leonard and Virginia Woolf. His first collection of essays, The Sacred Wood, appeared in 1920. His most famous work, The Waste Land, was published in 1922, the same year as James Joyce's Ulysses. The poem was included in the first issue of his journal The Criterion, which he founded and edited.

Three years later he left the bank to become a director of Faber and Gwyer, later Faber and Faber. His Poems 1909-25 was one of the original titles published by Geoffrey Faber's new firm, and the basis of his standard Collected Poems 1909-1962. In 1927 he was received into the Church of England and also became a British citizen. Ash Wednesday was published at Easter 1930.

His masterpiece Four Quartets began with 'Burnt Norton' in 1936, continued with 'East Coker' in 1940, 'The Dry Salvages' in 1941 and 'Little Gidding' in 1942. The separate poems were gathered together as one work in 1943.Eliot's writing for the theatre began with the satirical 'Sweeney Agonistes' fragments.

In 1934 he wrote the London churches' pageant play 'The Rock', the choruses from which are preserved in Collected Poems, and the next year he was commissioned by the Canterbury Festival to write Murder in the Cathedral, about the martyrdom of St Thomas à Beckett. The Family Reunion followed in 1939, when he also published his children's classic, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the jacket drawn by Eliot himself. (The Possum was Eliot's alias among friends). He later wrote three more verse plays, all of which were premièred at the Edinburgh Festival: The Cocktail Party, The Confidential Clerk and The Elder Statesman. A film of Murder in the Cathedral was shown at the Venice Film Festival in 1951.

Eliot's most important literary criticism is collected in Selected Essays 1917-1932, which he enlarged in 1951. There are a number of other volumes of lectures and essays, among them The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, For Lancelot Andrewes, On Poetry and Poets, and two works of social criticism - The Idea of a Christian Society and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture. Eliot was appointed to the Order of Merit in January 1948 and in the Autumn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He married for the second time in 1957, to Valerie Fletcher.

Eliot died in January 1965. There is a memorial to him in Westminster Abbey, beside those to Tennyson and Browning. His ashes are in St Michael's Church, East Coker, the Somerset village from which his ancestor Andrew Eliot emigrated to America in 1667.

After his death his widow edited the long-lost original manuscript of the The Waste Land and a volume of his letters. She also commissioned editions of his early poems Inventions of a March Hare and his Clark and Turnbull lectures The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats provided the lyrics for Andrew Lloyd Webber's dance musical Cats, which has been performed all over the world for the past 25 years.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Let us go then, you and I ...." 22 Jan 2001
By Kelli - Published on Amazon.com
Perhaps not the seminal work which is "The Waste Land", nevertheless Prufrock is one of the key poems of the early 20th Century. I remember fondly first encountering this poem as a high-schooler -- what an enchanting mixture of ideas, emotions, allusions, sympathies, images. And all of this from Eliot's early 20's! Simply a smashing poem -- it will move you, it will cut you to the core, really, even if you do away with the many erudite allusions and references that are so typical of many of Eliot's poems. Whether you read it in a separate volume such as this, or in a larger collection of Eliot's works, you should rad "Prufrock" -- you will learn more about yourself if you do.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than brilliant! 1 Aug 2000
By "hermia1596" - Published on Amazon.com
When I first encountered "Prufrock" in an American literature class, I was slightly put off by his erudite work. In a way, I was just completely intimidated by it and did not give it much thought. Later on, I was once again faced with Prufrock and this time I decided to "tackle" the challenge...I could not believe that I had blown of such an amazing work earlier on. Prufrock holds feelings and ideas that we can all identify with. The imagery of a man, alienated from the world, too scared and shy to go after what he thinks he wants for fear of never really being satisfied, rings true with many of our feelings today. I found it especially interesting how Eliot manages to use such a mature voice in this poem even though he wrote it when he was in his early 20's. Eliot was an amazing poet whose work will never leave us.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 28 July 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
"Do I dare disturb the universe?" the narrator questions in Eliot's most special poem. Indeed we do! J. Alfred Prufrock is a masterpiece in both form and function; a glittering slide-show of insurmountable obstacles and emotions, a critical read for anyone lierate or informed.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is it all worth it? Who are we? 30 Nov 2005
By Ryan N. Loucks - Published on Amazon.com
Perhaps the most noted and respected poem of T.S. Eliot's industrious career, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock exemplifies modernism in English Literature. Eliot composed Prufrock while attending Harvard, and it later it became his first published work of poetry, almost instantly capturing the attention of literary critics everywhere. For this reason, Prufrock has been a subject of study since its publication in 1915, prodding readers to ask fundamental questions: Is it all worth it? And who are we?

Common to modernism is the adoption of disruption: Disruption of continuity, disruption of social mores, and disruption of Victorian convention. In this way, Prufrock epitomizes modernism through its use of complex imagery and multifaceted insinuation; it is the story of a man conflicted in the same ways early 20th-century western culture was conflicted.

The introspective slant present in this modernist piece of literature and the historical backdrop before which it was written make Prufrock a pivotal social statement, as well as a snap-shot of the changes taking place in western culture at the turn of the 20th century. Stanly Sultan (1985) called Prufrock a "cultural artifact" because it reflects the concerns of a people caught in the turmoil of cultural revolution. Genteel society had come into question, and the opulence associated with privilege had experienced great defeats. Europe commenced toward socialism, and the United States had begun its journey as world power.

The world was asking itself the same questions that Prufrock asked: Is it all worth it? Who are we? Eliot offered the world an answer to these difficult questions through Prufrock. No! It is not worth it. We are conflicted, contradictory people. We have no heroes. We have no greatness. And those of us who are good and pious are silenced by exclusion. "I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas"-this is ultimately what Prufrock wishes; maybe that he was never born.

A fantastic poem. A fantastic writer.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book 18 Mar 2000
By Nate - Published on Amazon.com
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is a masterpiece. The rhythmic cadence of it, the tentative narrative style, the imagery ('I wish I were a pair of ragged claws/ scuttling across silent seas.'), even the title are brilliant and wonderful.
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