The Paradox to Be Found in T. S. Eliot’s Summer House

Menand-The-Paradox-to-Be-Found-in-T-S-Eliots-Summer-HouseLouis Menand at The New Yorker:

It seems a little incongruous that T. S. Eliot, a man who adopted all the attributes—political, religious, cultural, and sartorial—of a proper Englishman was actually a Midwesterner. But, of course, he grew up in St. Louis, and some of the landscapes that seem distinctly English to many readers in his poetry, like the “yellow fog” in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” were recollected from his childhood there.

The Eliots were originally from New England, though. Eliot’s grandfather, William Greenleaf Eliot, moved to Missouri as a young man and eventually founded Washington University, in St. Louis. Eliot’s father, Henry, who ran a company that manufactured bricks, took the family to Massachusetts every summer, and in 1896, the year Eliot turned eight, Henry built a big house on Cape Ann, in Gloucester, overlooking the outer harbor. Until Eliot went off to Europe, in 1914, he spent his summers there.

Eliot often talked about his nostalgia for the sea off the Eastern Point, where he used to sail, and for the granite, the tide pools, and the birdlife of Cape Ann, memories that gave rise to many images in his poetry:

The salt is on the briar rose,
The fog is in the fir trees.

more here.

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