This sombre volume was Eliot’s first collection, and the title poem — ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ — was what brought him to the attention of Ezra Pound. The rest, of course, is history: Pound was forever after heavily involved in Eliot’s career, and ‘The Waste Land’, as we now know it, would have been impossible without him.
The name of J. Alfred Prufrock was almost certainly suggested by the Prufrock-Littau furniture company, at Fourth and St. Charles Streets, St Louis, the city of Eliot’s birth and poetic evolution. The company had a literary connection: it advertised its wares in Reedy’s Weekly, a St Louis literary periodical of the 1900-1920 period. When asked by a correspondent in the 1950s whether this was indeed the origin of the name, Eliot replied: ‘I did not have, at the time of writing the poem, and have not yet recovered, any recollection of having acquired the name in this way, but I think that it must be assumed that I did, and that the memory has been obliterated.’ (He might have added: ‘And now go away.’)
Modern Language Notes, Vol. 66, 1951, p 401 (accessed via JSTOR)
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