T.S. ELIOT, poet, dramatist and literary critic, born in St. Louis MO (d: 1965) He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. He wrote the poems “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, The Waste Land, “The Hollow Men”, “Ash Wednesday”, and Four Quartets; the plays Murder in the Cathedral and The Cocktail Party; and the essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent”. Eliot was born an American, moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 (at the age of 25), and became a British subject in 1927 at the age of 39. When he was living in Paris before WWI, he met a French medical student named Jean Verdenal in the Luxembourg Gardens. Werdenal was waving a branch of lilac at the time. Verdenal died in the Dardanelles in 1915. Eliot dedicated Prufrock to him, adding a epigraph from Dante’s Purgatory: “Now can you understand the quantity of love that warms me to you, so that I forget out vanity, and treat the shadows like the real thing.”
This is all we know about his friendship with the young medical student, and all we are likely to know. Other considerations: Eliot had a horror of the female body, he feared it, and thought it “smelled.” He had an abhorrence of sex in general, though as a boy, he masturbated guiltily and wrote a magnificently sensuous poem about it…an excerpt here:
Then he knew that he had been a fish
With slippery white belly held tight in his own fingers
Writhing in his own clutch, his ancient beauty
Caught fast in the pink rips of his new beauty.
Eliot obsessed with the thought that every man wanted to kill a woman, and without irony, extended his fantasy to all men. His first marriage was miserable in that his wife laughed in his face at the very idea of sleeping with him. These are the general facts, and various interpretations are offered by various biographers. Thus far, interpretations have run in two obvious directions. Of course he was completely asexual. Of course he was a latent homosexual. Either seems unfair in some way; he was simply T.S. Eliot. Perhaps the first queer?