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Old Possum’s widow will not stand for illiteracy

By Harriet Staff

Valerie Eliot, widow of T.S. Eliot, made a donation to the Evening Standard‘s Get London Reading campaign, while taking time to speak on the importance of literacy and education, while reflecting on her marriage. She said:

“When I heard that about 20 per cent of London pupils leave secondary school without being able to read or write with confidence I was profoundly shocked. Nothing attaches one more fundamentally to the world than being able to read.

It is the one basic skill that every single human is entitled to – in order to progress through life with confidence and success – and with it comes vital, nourishing and deep knowledge about human behaviour and endeavour. To live and to learn we need to read.”

Eliot’s marriage to Valerie came after a quite rocky one to Vivienne (the latter was institutionalized for the remainder of her life after the couple split up, and Virginia Woolf once likened her to a “bag of ferrets” tied around Eliot’s neck). Valerie and Tom, on the other hand, were quite happy to the end, as Eliot himself once stated:

“This last part of my life is the best, in excess of anything I could have deserved.”

To which Valerie responds:

“He obviously needed a happy marriage.

He wouldn’t die until he’d had it. There was a little boy in him that had never been released.”


Posted in Poetry News on Friday, June 10th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.