Wingspan teams up with A. N. Wilson to explore T. S. Eliot for BBC FourRead more...

Return to T. S. Eliotland

Writer and critic A.N.Wilson has been reading and rereading Eliot for much of his life. Now from the halls of Harvard University to a Somerset village, via a Margate promenade shelter, he follows the spiritual and psychological journey that Eliot took in his most iconic poems. 

From ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’ to ‘The Waste Land’ and from ‘Ash Wednesday’ to ‘Four Quartets’, Wilson traces Eliot’s life story as it informs his greatest works.  He travels to the places that inspired them, visiting the Eliot family’s holiday home on the Massachusetts coast, following him to Oxford where he met and rapidly married his first wife, the lively and bohemian Vivien Haigh-Wood and on to London where he made his home and his name.  He explores how Eliot’s realisation that he and Vivien were fundamentally incompatible and their resulting unhappiness influenced ‘The Waste Land’ and examines how his subsequent conversion to Anglicanism coloured his later works.  

Chock full of allusion, at times opaque and elliptical, Eliot’s poetry is widely regarded as complex and difficult - but here A.N.Wilson eloquently makes the case that grappling with it holds immense rewards. In these works Eliot takes on weighty ideas of time and memory and faith and belief, themes which Wilson argues have as much relevance today as during his lifetime. In a time when we are fed easy slogans by politicians and the media he makes the case that the demands Eliot’s poetry makes on us are worth the effort.