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<target target-type="anchor" id="page_xxvii" /> <sc>apprentice years</sc>, 1905-1918 <xref ref-type="break" />Introduction introduction Apprentice years, 1905-1918

“The token that a philosophy is true,” T. S. Eliot argued in a 1914 student essay, “is the fact that it brings us to the exact point from which we started.” Three decades later, in the final lines of his last major poem, Four Quartets, he echoes the idea: “And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” This volume, the first to assemble Eliot’s early prose, much of it previously unpublished and none of it previously collected and edited, returns readers to the beginning of Eliot’s intellectual life, enabling them to experience the depth and range of the prose from his years as a student and literary journalist.

The material here included is from the most formative period in Eliot’s life. In the spring of 1905, he was sixteen and in his last year of day school in St. Louis; at the end of 1918, he was thirty and established in London as a poet and essayist. In between, he spent almost a decade at the world’s premier institutions–Harvard and Oxford Universities, the Sorbonne–and in cultural centers that were both sordid and fascinating–Boston, Paris, and London. In 1914 and 1915, he wrote a doctoral dissertation on idealist philosophy, and then abandoned a promising career in philosophy for a precarious one in literature. These tumultuous years took him from the cocoon of a loving family to a world in which he struggled to create his own circle of friends, occasionally bonding, as with Conrad Aiken at Harvard, Jean Verdenal in Paris, and Ezra Pound in London. These years include his precipitous and disillusioning marriage to Vivien (Vivienne) Haigh-Wood, severe economic distress, and alienation from family and country. Between 1915 and 1918, living in a city ravaged by war, he supported himself as a teacher and journalist, slowly emerging as a respected man of letters. He published his first book, Prufrock and Other Observations, in 1917, and in the following two years, composed the poems that were to appear in his second, Ara Vus Prec( Ara Vos Prec), published in 1919. Beginning with essays related to his credentials in philosophy and then with reviews and articles on literary topics, he launched himself as a prose writer. By the end of 1918, he had come a long way from St. Louis, but it is to St. Louis, his first world, that he must be returned.

<target target-type="anchor" id="page_xxviii" /> <sc>i. smith academy</sc>

Eliot began his intellectual odyssey at The Lockwood School, a primary school in St. Louis, where from the age of seven to nine he was a day student. In his last year at Mrs. Lockwood’s, he wrote and illustrated in pencil several issues of “Fireside, A Weekly Magazine” consisting of “Fiction, Gossip, Theatre, Jokes.” 1 From 1898 to 1905, between the ages of ten and sixteen, he attended Smith Academy, which had been founded by his grandfather William Greenleaf Eliot to prepare boys for Washington University. The photograph of the fifth-year classical studies students in 1903–04 shows twelve uniformly attired, uniformly serious boys standing with their teacher on the steps of the handsome brick academy building. In a 1953 address at Washington University, Eliot reflected that the “most important part of my education” occurred at Smith, where one was taught “what I consider the essentials: Latin and Greek, together with Greek and Roman history, English and American history, elementary mathematics, French and German. Also English . . . in those days still called Rhetoric” ( TCC45). His reading at Smith, which ranged from Homer to Kipling, included many writers whose names would appear in his mature writing. In a 1905 letter to the headmaster of Milton Academy, his mother said that his reading at Smith included “practically all of Shakespeare,” much of which he retains “in memory.” The letter encloses in Eliot’s hand a partial list of his Smith courses and textbooks ( L14). In the address at Washington University, Eliot recalled a number of his teachers by name, singling out his English teacher Roger Conant Hatch. “My memories,” he added, “are...

Published By:   Johns Hopkins University Press