Thomas Stearns Eliot


Eliot’s blue plaque outside Kensington Court Gardens
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Name:Thomas Stearns Eliot

Dates:1888 - 1965


Address: 3 Kensington Court Gardens, W8

Dates at address:1957 - 1965


Eliot was born in Missouri and studied at Harvard, the Sorbonne and Oxford. Lecturers at Harvard included Irving Babbitt and Bertrand Russell. He loved Paris, socialising with Picasso, Bergson and Janet, but found wartime Oxford “not intellectually stimulating”. He married the emotionally scarred Vivienne Haigh-Wood in 1915, leading to a massive family breakdown with his disapproving parents. Marital problems escalated until she was committed, dying in the asylum in 1947. He later married Valerie Fletcher in 1957.

Although he wrote poetry at Harvard from 1910 his real career only took off under the guidance of Ezra Pound in England. He wrote many poems, most famously The Wasteland and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the inspiration for Lloyd-Webber’s musical Cats. Besides poetry he wrote for The Times Literary Supplement, Athernum and The Criterion and worked at Lloyds Bank and Faber and Guyer Publishers (now Faber and Faber). After converting to Catholicism he wrote many religious plays, including Murder in the Cathedral. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948.

Eliot was active in the borough for many years. A Kensington air raid warden during World War II, he moved to Kensington Court Gardens after marrying Valerie. He was nicknamed “His Grace” by friends Dylan Thomas and Roy Campbell due to his plays and charity work for St Stephen’s Church, where his urn was allowed to rest for a month.

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