What do Valerie Eliot’s clothes tell us?

I hadn’t realized how useful clothes can be in understanding a life until I talked to Sarah Byrd, a fashion historian in New York. This post was written soon after that meeting in April 2019. I'm republishing it now after having discussed the subject with several people at the International T. S. Eliot Society's annual meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2023. We got into the subject of TSE's clothing choices, too, and how he worked so hard to dress like an English gentleman. Sarah Byrd's contention is that fashion is [...]

September 28th, 2023|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , , |

How T S Eliot’s desk came to America

A member of the Berkshire Woodworkers Guild came to look at the T S Eliot desk a few days ago. I'd asked my neighbor Bob Norris, an avid woodworker, if he might be able  to help me identify the wood the desk was made from. He said he wasn't expert enough but would find someone - and he did. T S Eliot desk in Camberwell, London. Probably Spring 1990.* I had thought for years that the desk must be made of pine - called "deal" in England - [...]

Trollope: Toast & Marital Troubles

I am reading Orley Farm, one of Anthony Trollope's less well-known novels. One of his topics is male infidelity, or at least the pursuit of what he calls "strange goddesses." He explains the situation from the point of view of each of the characters, which is interesting in itself: a middle-aged Victorian writer imagining the experience of a long-suffering wife. What I really appreciate is the way he conveys some of this in homely examples. Here's one: In the course of the evening the footman in livery brought in tea, [...]

January 26th, 2022|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Mary Beard’s Women & Power

I’ve just read a tiny hardcover book called Women & Power: A Manifesto by the celebrity classics scholar Mary Beard. It consists of two edited speeches with black-and-white illustrations (I’ve pulled the color versions of a couple of them for this post) and sells at US$15.95. I had high expectations. “A Manifesto” sounds quite definitive, doesn’t it? But in the end Beard simply says we don’t really have a model for women and power. While I am not ready to introduce my own manifesto, I want to point out two [...]

January 23rd, 2022|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Remembering Rosemary Goad of Faber & Faber

Rosemary Goad, the first woman to become a director of Faber & Faber, died in October (obituary here, paywalled). I originally planned to go to the memorial service on 17 December with one of her long-time friends, a former Faber secretary, but I had to cancel my flight because of the developing Omicron situation. Fortunately, the church streams its services and I was able to watch and listen. In his eulogy to Rosemary, the author and former Faber director Robert McCrum referred to Rosemary's talking about the days when she [...]

January 23rd, 2022|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|

Shanghai Book Review interview by QIU Xiaolong

This article appeared in Chinese in the Shanghai Book Review on 25 September, but I didn't see it until I woke up on the 26th, my birthday as well as T. S. Eliot's. It's wonderful to have it in Chinese, of course, because I've already heard from colleagues in China who saw it, but for those who don't read Chinese and would prefer something other than the Google Translate version, here's our original English exchange, which Qiu Xialong then translated. The Chinese version includes photographs I provided. QIU Xiaolong: It's [...]

September 26th, 2021|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|