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Complete Poems and Plays Paperback – October 7, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"'Each year Eliot's presence reasserts itself at a deeper level, to an audience that is surprised to find itself more chastened, more astonished, more humble.' Ted Hughes"

About the Author

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 & Gwyer, later Faber & 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 a 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 premiered 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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber Poetry; Main edition (October 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571225160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571225163
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #432,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri, and became a British subject in 1927. The acclaimed poet of The Waste Land, Four Quartets, and Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, among numerous other poems, prose, and works of drama, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. T.S. Eliot died in 1965 in London, England, and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

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191 of 196 people found the following review helpful By Carl Tait on January 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
T. S. Eliot was arguably the greatest poet of the 20th century, but this collection is far from ideal. Alert readers will have already noticed the ominous qualifier "1909-1950" in the title; this book does *not* include the last two plays ("The Confidential Clerk" and "The Elder Statesman"), the last Ariel poem ("The Cultivation of Christmas Trees"), or the handful of Occasional Verses included in "Collected Poems 1909-1962." In addition, the typography in this volume is claustrophobic in the early poems. TSE's style is concentrated and intense, and virtually every collection of his work has the sense to begin each poem on a new page. This book, unfortunately, is the exception: it crams the poems together like classified ads.
The One True Eliot Collection was never published in the United States: "The Complete Poems and Plays of T. S. Eliot" (Faber and Faber, 1969 and later reprintings). It's worth looking on for a used copy since this book contains virtually all the published poems, all five plays, and even "Poems Published in Early Youth." In the meantime, U.S. readers are better off skipping the 1909-1950 volume. Get "Collected Poems 1909-1962" and buy the plays separately -- along with Old Possum's Book of You-Know-Whats, if you insist.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I became familiar with Eliot's work chronologically, learning something new at each step. "Prufrock" introduced me to modern poetical structure, "The Waste Land" showed me how literary allusion can enrich verse, "Ash-Wednesday" refreshed the world of religious poetry, and the supernal "Four Quartets" was for me a metaphysical insight of the greatest beauty.
Eliot is without a doubt the finest poet of the 20th century, perhaps the finest poet ever. His contributions to the poets who came after him, and to literature in general, are persistently evident. Eliot doesn't always succeed, and many of his poems seem trite and pretentious, but when he succeeds he hits dead on with poetry perfect in form, balance, and sound. There is the man here, the poet as reflected in his own work, but there is also common human experience through looking at history ("The Waste Land") and meditating on Man's relationship with the Divine and the eternal (Ariel Poems, and most of his output after 1928).
HOWEVER, this edition of his "collected works," COMPLETE POEMS AND PLAYS: 1909-1950 lacks several last poems which can be found in COLLECTED POEMS 1909-1962. I recommend that edition, as tt is worth missing out on Eliot's plays in order to have a truly complete collection of his sublime verse.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Matt Fellows on February 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
A wonderful volume for those interested in T.S. Eliot. Be warned! Does not contain any annotations (other than Eliot's) or introductions. You get the texts and thats it. This is a wonderful investment, but just make sure you buy a Companion or a Study on Eliot to go along with it. Unless of course you have studied T.S. Eliot before and know what your doing.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steven Cain on May 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
An excellent collection of the vast majority of his published works.
While Eliot lived into the sixties, there is an inevitable temptation to concentrate on his earlier classic works such as The Love Song Of J Alfred Prufrock, which yielded the above line, The Waste Land and The Hollow Men above all.
A lot of Eliot's perspectives involve psychological impotence, and a majestic failure to act, and be a part of events, of the World, the Life, if you like; such as in the lines "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing for me."
Here, he writes about isolation and alienation, with accompanying non-participation. The impotent voyeur, as in Joyce's Ulysses, based on the classical myth. Joyce's Sirens are Lydia and Mina, the 'sexy barmaids' at the Ormond Hotel. Bloom can hear their siren song from the next bar, as they lure the male clientele to part with their cash, but he is separate from events; reflecting cyborg-like on their music which he terms 'musemathematics'.
While The Waste Land and The Hollow Men in particular were clearly written during a time of deep spiritual crisis, Eliot did transcend this period and they are not really representative of his later life philosophy.
One stanza from T S Eliot's The Hollow Men, became the source of Nevil Shute's book title On The Beach - this being his 1957 post-apocalyptic novel which later appeared as the 1963 Gregory Peck movie of the same name, about the last doomed survivors of a nuclear holocaust.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 1, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Even in his lifetime Eliot became a legend, a literary figure so universally praised, so enormously influential, that some of his best works, in spite of their popularity, and perhaps because of it, have been buried by the overly abusive and vulgar public. So for the several decades after his death, his dominant spirit was--had to be--combated by those who wish to break new ground. It is true that now we can see beyond Eliot, but we hardly realize that we still must begin with him, as he himself had begun the modernist tradition nearly a century ago.
This book, the complete Eliot, is possibly the single most important book in modern English poetry. Reading Yeats and Eliot side by side, we cannot help but notice that Yeats, and perhaps Stevens with him, belonged to the Romantic tradition, however they masked themselves. But Eliot is different. His poetry represents something new, but at the same time something ancient, as ancient as the Greeks that he so admired. Eliot was a beginning, in the sense that Dante, his master, was a beginning. Like Freud's, Joyce's, Kafka's, and Picasso's, Eliot's voice is unique. But hardly any major poet alive today can escape it. The truth is, we talk like Eliot whenever we want to say something meaningul or "profound"; because his voice had dominated ours, just as his imagination had become part of ours.
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