Valerie Eliot

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First Look at the Sealed Collection of Letters from T S Eliot to Emily Hale

Note: At Berkshire Bookworld, you'll find my interview with Sara Fitzgerald recorded 10 days after the opening of the collection. Click here to get the podcast. I first heard about the Emily Hale letters from Valerie Eliot herself, in 1986 or 1987. Valerie led me to believe that Hale had been a hanger-on whom T. S. Eliot had had to push away, who had exaggerated her relationship with him and placed the letters Eliot had written to her at Princeton against his wishes. I believed what she said, [...]

January 4th, 2020|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , , |

Telling Our Stories, Writing Our Lives: Valerie Eliot & Truth-telling

Originally published on the Berkshire Publishing blog in November 2016, and republished here in January 2020 because it is relevant to the opening of the Eliot letters to Emily Hale. My friend Emma once complimented me on an anecdote I’d told, saying, “I can dine out on that for years.” And there are a few stories about Emma and my days as housemates in London I still tell, especially the one about how we acted out the Lucan murder, on the stairs where it had taken place just a few [...]

January 4th, 2020|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , , , |

Valerie Eliot and the making of CATS

When I started working for Valerie Eliot in 1986, the musical Cats was only a few years into its record-breaking run in London, but it had already made Valerie a wealthy woman. She was defensive about it, as she was about many things, and would use me as a sounding board. She loved having the money, no doubt; she was good with money and would allude to decisions about her stock portfolio with that confidence that people have when they are talking about something they understand and enjoy. But she [...]

December 19th, 2019|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , |

What do Valerie’s clothes say?

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. Her contention is that fashion is the most important part of everyone's history. While I don’t go quite that far, Sarah helped me look at - quite literally - the women I am writing about it a new way. Sarah and I met in a Chinese restaurant on 8th Avenue and went through a folder of photographs I’d brought of Valerie Eliot. My curiosity about fashion [...]

April 4th, 2019|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , , |

T. S. Eliot and his women

"How unpleasant to meet Mr. Eliot," wrote T. S. Eliot, but women did not find it unpleasant to meet him at all. In fact, they fell in love with him: secretaries and literary scholars alike, and the next couple of years will see a great deal of new information about T. S. Eliot's women. He was a dour, gray-faced, elderly poet in poor health who nonetheless broke at least two (and perhaps four) hearts when he married his secretary, Valerie Fletcher, in 1957. A quarter of a century earlier, he wrote [...]

Valerie Fletcher Eliot, born this day in 1926

Today would be Valerie Fletcher Eliot’s 90th birthday. I’ve been thinking about the reserved girl whose schoolmates I’ve visited in different parts of England over the past two years. I have met wonderful old ladies whose energy and vivacity gives me hope for my own future decades. None knew Valerie well. She was that quiet girl in the back of the picture, shadowy in memory and only memorable now because of her marriage to a famous poet in 1957. In this school photo, which I found in an album kept [...]

August 17th, 2016|Categories: Writing a Woman's Life|Tags: , |