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T. S. Eliot's Parisian Year

Nancy Duvall Hargrove

Publication Year: 2009

After graduating from Harvard in 1910, T. S. Eliot spent a year in Paris, and his experiences there had a profound and lasting influence upon his life and his work. Even so, most scholars and biographers ignore it, mention it only in passing, or, in rare cases, dismiss it as a typical post-graduation year any wealthy student of the time could have had.

Nancy Hargrove sets the record straight on just how vitally important this period was for the young man. She meticulously re-creates the city and discusses in detail how pre-war Parisian culture influenced the works Eliot later produced. Hers is the first in-depth study of this crucial but largely overlooked year in the life of the artist, and reveals the complex repercussions it had on his literary career.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. ix

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xvi

In 1970 upon completion of my dissertation on Eliot’s use of landscape at the University of South Carolina, my dissertation director Ashley Brown suggested that, after I revised the dissertation for publication, I should explore the overlooked year that Eliot spent...

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pp. 1-5

In his 1944 essay in French entitled “What France Means to You,” T. S. Eliot notes that he had the “exceptional good fortune” to discover Paris during the academic year 1910–1911 (94),1 a time when that city was the intellectual and cultural center of the world,2 seething with a diversity of...

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1. “Un Présent Parfait”: The Year in Review

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pp. 6-58

In March 1910, Eliot informed his parents of his desire to spend the following academic year in Paris. In a letter dated April 3, 1910, his mother made clear her disapproval of such a venture and tried to dissuade or at least to discourage him by various tactics: “I have rather hoped...

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2. Daily Life in Paris in 1910–1911

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pp. 59-100

In order to convey a comprehensive sense of Eliot’s experience of living in Paris in 1910–1911, in this chapter I reconstruct the practical aspects of the city, beginning with a brief history from 1848 to 1911 to set the stage...

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3. The Theatre

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pp. 101-125

The richness and variety of the Parisian theatre scene provided Eliot with inspiration for both the aspiring poet and the latent dramatist within him. His description of Paris as a perfect present in its combination of past and future...

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4. The Visual Arts

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pp. 126-163

Eliot’s description of Paris as a stunning combination of the past and the future was also accurate for the visual arts, for the city was a magnificent and extensive repository of great art works of the past—from the ancient Greeks to the nineteenth century—as well as the acknowledged hotbed...

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5. The Dance

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pp. 164-189

Geoffrey Whitworth, a British dance critic, begins his little book on Nijinsky, published in 1913, by quoting a passage from the 1910 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica bemoaning the current stagnant state of the dance: “It seems unlikely that we shall see any revival of the best period and style...

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6. The Opera

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pp. 190-208

Eliot’s appreciation and knowledge of opera have long been recognized. However, the important role played by the operatic scene in Paris during his year there has been overlooked. My reconstruction of the operatic offerings, which include a revival of Debussy’s only opera, the premiere of Ravel’s first opera,...

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7. Music of the Concert Hall

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pp. 209-225

The classical music scene in Paris in 1910–1911 was spectacular, featuring (as did the other Parisian arts) the works of both established masters and young aspiring composers. In this chapter, I re-create that scene, describing performances...

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8. Popular Entertainment

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pp. 226-256

While Eliot was without doubt drawn primarily to the offerings of high culture in Paris, he took advantage of being far away from his mother’s certain disapproval1 and in a more liberal environment than St. Louis and Boston to indulge his love of popular culture2 by frequenting...

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pp. 257-282

When Eliot left Paris in September 1911 to return to the United States, he took with him far more than the immediate indications of the influence of that magical, impressive, and life-altering year: wearing “exotic Left-Bank clothing,” carrying a Malacca cane, hanging a reproduction...


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pp. 283-298

Works Cited

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pp. 299-312


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pp. 312-324

About the Author

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pp. 324

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045931
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813034010
Print-ISBN-10: 0813034019

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 41 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Eliot, T. S. 1888-1965 (Thomas Stearns), -- Knowledge -- France.
  • American poetry -- French influences.
  • Poets, American -- 20th century -- Biography.
  • Paris (France) -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
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