Eliot The Dunderhead?

As seen at the blog Harriet - a link to news that the great(est) American poet of the last century, Mr TS Eliot, had trouble at Harvard with his studies - in short, he got far fewer As and Bs than we might have expected.  Instead, the no doubt day-dreaming, perhaps anxious, maybe even sleepy, Mr Eliot, missed classes, got a D, and seemed to be on academic probation.  Mr Eliot, unique in being both a charlatan and a genius, often in the same essay, or sentence, was a master of verbal erudition that displayed more than it actually said - the reverse of subtext - he was the lord of the overtext.  He also abandoned his PhD work, and, famously, went on to work in a bank, edit books at Faber, pen essays, plays, and the most famous difficult poem of the last two centuries in English, and, win the Nobel Prize.  I too was a piss-poor undergrad student who got through on a wing and a prayer, as were (I would guess) several other poets.  Poets have a habit of missing deadlines, over-writing or under-writing essays, and crumpling up bits of paper in their pockets.  They sometimes drop out, or become professors.  Or not.  But it is charming to know that, 100 years ago this month, Old Possum was just a young dolt.

Comments

Brian Busby said…
Not just poets, I'm afraid. I, too, was a young dolt. How could doltage have been avoided? A young man, newly of drinking age, experiencing that first taste of independence, living in that first apartment (with visiting girlfriend)... it's a wonder I attended classes at all.

I'm betting this was a common experience.
Poetry Pleases! said…
Dear Todd

Attending Oxbridge has left me with a massive scepticism about formal education. Leaving university prematurely doesn't seem to have harmed characters like Bill Gates. Many of the most brilliant people I know either got thirds or dropped out altogether.

Best wishes from Simon

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