CATS and the survival of Fabers

This is a continuation of the story about Valerie Eliot and the making of Cats, told here. Let's start with a typical description of Valerie Eliot’s widowhood: After his death on 4 January 1965, Valerie proved a sterling and inspirational guardian of Eliot's work. She inherited his shareholding in the publishers Faber and Faber and became an active member of the board. The 1974 facsimile of The Waste Land, which includes Ezra Pound's annotations and which she edited, has not been faulted. I could quibble about the way Eliot’s first wife, [...]

March 21st, 2024|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: |

Valerie Eliot and the making of CATS

Valerie Eliot’s contribution to Cats has been unsung, largely because of her own concern about how she was viewed as a guardian of her husband’s literary legacy. The wealth it generated has huge consequences for her personally, and I’ve been puzzling over this since not long after her death in 2012. I worked for Valerie during the years when she was enjoying her new wealth, at a time when Faber & Faber, the publishing house that was also profiting greatly from Cats, was nonetheless struggling to survive. I’m interested [...]

March 21st, 2024|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , |

Telling Our Stories, Writing Our Lives

Originally published as a Berkshire Publishing newsletter in November 2016. It continues to be relevant, especially as I discover more examples of Valerie (Mrs. T. S.) Eliot's storytelling. Should we call it fabrication, mythmaking, or just plain lying?  Here's the latest example, from Alan Bennett's memoir Keeping On Keeping On: I only met her a couple of times, though was persuaded to attend her funeral if only because, through her family coming to our shop, I had known her longest—if in some respects least. She used to claim that she [...]

September 30th, 2023|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , , , |

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 - [...]

Sylvia Plath’s ghostly presence

I don’t know if Ted Hughes thanked his wife, Sylvia Plath, for typing in any of his acknowledgements, but he should have. She typed, and typed, and typed. She typed submissions for the poetry competitions that gave him early success. She typed the sets of poems he submitted to Fabers, which garnered the attention of T. S. Eliot, poet and publisher. But Plath herself was not published by Fabers until after her death in 1963, when Hughes, who had left her, negotiated a contract with Faber & Faber because he had [...]

September 30th, 2020|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , |