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T.S. Eliot Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

Eliot was a cat lover and kept several as pets. His whimsical poetry collection Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats was the basis for the long-running Broadway musical Cats. We like to believe that if he'd known the book would unleash generations of leotard-wearing Cats fanatics, he never would have published it.17

George Orwell sent his manuscript of the novel Animal Farm to publishers Faber and Faber. Eliot, then an editor at the publishing house, rejected the novel as "not convincing" but added that Orwell's writing was of "fundamental integrity."18

The Waste Land was published in 1922, the same year as James Joyce's novel Ulysses. When the two modernist vanguards met in Paris in 1920, Eliot found Joyce "arrogant." They later became friends.19

The T.S. Eliot Prize is the most sought-after honor in British poetry. Founded in 1993, nearly thirty years after his death, the annual prize honors the best collection of new poetry published in England or Ireland that year. Eliot's widow Valerie, who was 37 years younger than her husband, donated the £15,000 prize money each year.20

Eliot hated the fact that a bad teacher could destroy a student's love of poetry. A poor teacher initially turned Eliot off to one of Shakespeare's tragedies, and it took Marlon Brando to get him interested again. "I took a dislike to 'Julius Caesar' which lasted, I am sorry to say, until I saw the film of Marlon Brando and John Gielgud," he told an interviewer.21

Eliot and Ezra Pound met as students at Oxford and were lifelong friends after that. Eliot called Pound "Mop," and Pound called Eliot "Possum."22

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