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I missed this when when I was on my self-imposed exile from the world-wide web but I have just chanced upon it today.


http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/23/carole-seymour-jones

Carole Seymour-Jones obituary [born 3 March 1943; died 23 May 2015]

Biographer whose subjects included Beatrice Webb, Simone de Beauvoir and Vivienne Eliot

Alastair Niven

Thursday 23 July 2015 11.53 EDT 



Three TSE related paragraphs from the obituary.

More significantly for her future as a biographer, she realised that it could often be truer to depict two characters than one, since a professional or personal relationship was often at the heart of understanding individual achievement. Beatrice was inconceivable without Sidney, in the same way that Vivienne Eliot could not be interpreted other than alongside her husband, Tom, or Simone de Beauvoir without Jean-Paul Sartre. Such an approach did not always endear itself to feminists since it suggested dependency. Indeed, it was a paradox of her biographical writing that Seymour-Jones chose fiercely individual women as her subjects, but often portrayed them as needing a counterweight.

Painted Shadow: A Life of Vivienne Eliot (2001) was a conscious act of reclamation. It had become an accepted view that Vivienne Haigh-Wood, TS Eliot’s first wife, was a mentally unstable, neurotic, drug-dependent leech, sucking the great poet’s creative energies and forcing him into a seemingly callous indifference as his only way of protecting himself. Seymour-Jones portrayed a different kind of woman, one ultimately destroyed by her husband’s self-absorption – but in the early years of their relationship acknowledged by him as his muse and mentor.

The biography gave interpretations of poems that many Eliot scholars thought simply wrong, overemphasising sexual implications which they denied were there. Seymour-Jones was convinced that Eliot was homosexual, and not all that repressed; that he encouraged his wife’s affair with Bertrand Russell; and that he drove Vivienne to probable suicide. Whatever the truth, biographers of the most influential poet of the 20th century will not be able to proceed without taking into account Seymour-Jones’s explanation of his first marriage – and her proposals about the poems she believed it influenced.