- from the north of the heart

T S Eliot’s Modernist masterpiece The Waste Land exploded onto the literary scene in 1922. He had been thinking about the poem for some years, as a “light diversion” from his magnum opus The Aristocats, which tells the story of a group of whiskery scamps who have a series of escapades before going on to star in a hit musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

In March 1921, Eliot sent an early draft of the poem to his friend and fellow poet, Ezra Pound, who famously went mad in later life, changed his name to Mussolini and died after swallowing a tortoise for a bet. Pound’s notes were brutal but effective, and persuaded Eliot to separate his twin themes of “mischievous cats” and “lugubrious erectile pessimism”.

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