Under Eliot's 40-year administration, Harvard developed from a small college with attached professional schools into a great modern university. Several notable reforms were introduced in the college: the elective system was extended, the curriculum was enriched through the addition of new courses, written examinations were required, the faculty was enlarged, and strict student discipline was relaxed in favor of flexible regulations. Increased entrance requirements prevailed both in the college and in the professional schools, which Eliot reformed and revitalized. The courses of study were radically revised, and the standards for professional degrees were raised with the able cooperation of such men as Christopher C. Langdell, dean of the law school. New schools were established, including the Bussey Institution (agriculture), schools of applied science, the graduate school of arts and sciences, and the school of business administration. Eliot also supported Elizabeth Cary Agassiz in her project to establish a women's college and then fostered the development of Radcliffe College, which was affiliated with Harvard. He was greatly interested in secondary education, and as chairman of the Committee of Ten, appointed in 1892 by the National Education Association, he was influential in securing a greater degree of uniformity in high school curriculums and college entrance requirements.
After Eliot's resignation in 1909 he turned to public affairs. He had been a strong advocate of civil service reform for many years and was a member of the General Education Board and a trustee of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Among his published works are The Durable Satisfactions of Life (1910, repr. 1969), which presents his religious and ethical views, and The Conflict between Individualism and Collectivism in a Democracy (1910, repr. 1967). His most important papers written before 1914 are reprinted in two volumes, edited by W. A. Neilson, under the title Charles W. Eliot, the Man and His Beliefs (1926), and those since 1914 in A Late Harvest (1924), edited by M. A. De Wolfe Howe. In 1901 he wrote a biography of his son Charles Eliot, 1859-97, a landscape architect, who established a reputation through his work in planning the park system of Greater Boston.
See biography by H. James (1930); S. E. Morison, The Development of Harvard University, 1869-1929 (1930); H. Hawkins, Between Harvard and America: The Educational Leadership of Charles W. Eliot (1972).
In 1856, Mary Ann began Scenes of Clerical Life, a series of realistic sketches first appearing in Blackwood's Magazine under the pseudonym Lewes chose for her, George Eliot. Although not a popular success, the work was well received by literary critics, particularly Dickens and Thackeray. Three novels of provincial life followed—Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Silas Marner (1861). She visited Italy in 1860 and again in 1861 before she brought out in the Cornhill Magazine (1862-63) her historical romance Romola, a story of Savonarola. Felix Holt (1866), a political novel, was followed by The Spanish Gypsy (1868), a dramatic poem. Middlemarch (1871-72), a portrait of life in a provincial town, is considered her masterpiece. She wrote one more novel, Daniel Deronda (1876); the satirical Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879); and verse, which was never popular and is now seldom read. Lewes died in 1878, and in 1880 she married a close friend of both Lewes and herself, John W. Cross, who later edited George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals (3 vol., 1885-86). Writing about life in small rural towns, George Eliot was primarily concerned with the responsibility that people assume for their lives and with the moral choices they must inevitably make. Although highly serious, her novels are marked by compassion and a subtle humor.
See her letters (ed. by G. S. Haight, 7 vol., 1954-56); her collected essays (ed. by T. Pinney, 1964); biographies by L. and E. Hanson (1952), G. S. Haight (1968), F. R. Karl (1995), R. Ashton (1997), and K. Hughes (1999); studies by E. S. Haldane (1927), J. Thale (1959), B. Hardy (1967), D. Carroll, ed. (1971), T. S. Pearce (1973), and G. Beer (1983).
See biographies by C. Francis (1849), repr. 1969), C. Beals (1957), and O. E. Winslow (1968).
Eliot's early poetical works—Prufrock and Other Observations (1917), Poems (1920), and The Waste Land (1922)—express the anguish and barrenness of modern life and the isolation of the individual, particularly as reflected in the failure of love. The Waste Land, whose published version reflects extraordinary editing by Eliot's friend Ezra Pound, compelled immediate critical attention. His complex early poems, employing myths, religious symbolism, and literary allusion, signified a break with 19th-century poetic traditions. Their models were the metaphysical poets, Dante, the Jacobean dramatists, and French symbolists. Their meter ranged from the lyrical to the conversational. In his later poetry, notably Ash Wednesday (1930) and the Four Quartets (1935-42), Eliot turned from spiritual desolation to hope for human salvation. He accepted religious faith as a solution to the human dilemma and espoused Anglo-Catholicism in 1927.
Eliot was an extraordinarily influential critic, rejecting Romantic notions of unfettered originality and arguing for the impersonality of great art. His later criticism attempts to support Christian culture against what he saw as the empty and fragmented values of secularism. His outstanding critical works are contained in such volumes as The Sacred Wood (1920), For Lancelot Andrewes (1928), Selected Essays, 1917-1932 (1932), The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933), Elizabethan Essays (1934), Essays Ancient and Modern (1936), and Notes towards a Definition of Culture (1948). Eliot's plays attempt to revitalize verse drama and usually treat the same themes as in his poetry. They include Murder in the Cathedral (1935), dealing with the final hours of Thomas à Becket; The Family Reunion (1939); The Cocktail Party (1950); The Confidential Clerk (1954); and The Elder Statesman (1959). His complete poems and plays appeared in 1969, his letters in 1988, and his previously unpublished early poems (1909-17) in 1996.
See biographies by B. Bergonzi (1971), P. Ackroyd (1984), L. Gordon (rev. ed. 1999), and C. Raine (2006); studies by D. E. Jones (1960), E. M. Browne (1969), J. D. Margolis (1972), A. W. Litz (1973), E. Schneider (1975), C. Bedient (1987), J. Olney (1988), A. Julius (1996), and D. Donoghue (2000); bibliographies by D. Gallup (rev. ed. 1969) and B. Ricks (1980); biography of Vivienne Eliot (2002) by C. Seymour-Jones.
Eliot is home to Littlebrook Air Park and the Raitt Homestead Farm Museum.
As of the census of 2000, there were 5,954 people, 2,307 households, and 1,704 families residing in the town. The population density was 302.0 people per square mile (116.6/km²). There were 2,418 housing units at an average density of 122.6/sq mi (47.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 98.44% White, 0.22% African American, 0.12% Native American, 0.35% Asian, 0.10% from other races, and 0.77% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.49% of the population.
There were 2,307 households out of which 35.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.9% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.1% were non-families. 20.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.58 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the town the population was spread out with 25.8% under the age of 18, 5.6% from 18 to 24, 28.8% from 25 to 44, 27.7% from 45 to 64, and 12.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 92.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.9 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $52,606, and the median income for a family was $63,598. Males had a median income of $44,205 versus $30,530 for females. The per capita income for the town was $24,403. About 5.2% of families and 5.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.1% of those under age 18 and 3.5% of those age 65 or over.