Susan Crosland

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Susan Barnes Crosland (23 January 1927 – 26 February 2011)[1] was an American journalist and novelist who was resident in London for more than fifty years. She was the widow of the Labour Party politician Anthony Crosland.

Born Susan Barnes Watson in Baltimore, Maryland, the descendant of passengers on the Mayflower,[2] she was the daughter of Mark Skinner Watson, a defence correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, later the publication's editor,[2] and Susan Owens who was also a journalist.[3] She graduated from Vassar College and taught at the Baltimore Museum of Art.[1] In 1952 she married Patrick Skene Catling, then working with her father,[4] and relocated to London in 1956 when Catling was posted to the London office of The Baltimore Sun.

At a party during the year she met Anthony Crosland shortly after The Future of Socialism, his most significant book, had been published. Her first marriage collapsed in 1960, and she and Crosland married in 1964; they kept separate residences at first.[5] By now she had begun to write for British newspapers, originally as Susan Barnes. Taken on by John Junor of The Sunday Express just prior to her divorce, she freelanced after her second marriage, and specialised in writing features and profile articles. Following a period on the pre-Murdoch The Sun, Crosland worked for The Sunday Times from 1970. Noted for her profiles she insisted on not interviewing the wives of 'great men' feeling that "they wanted to perpetuate the image".[6] Labour politician Tony Benn though, one of her subjects and a friend of her husband, persuaded Crosland not publish an article dedicated to himself (he had been allowed to vet it) which Benn considered unflattering.[4] The interview was eventually published in The Spectator during October 1987.[7]

Anthony Crosland had a fatal stroke in February 1977. His wife had strongly supported him throughout his periods as a Cabinet Minister, culminating in his appointment as Foreign Secretary in 1976, was pressed to stand as the Labour candidate for his Grimsby constituency in the subsequent by-election. She declined, but subsequently wrote a well-received biography of him published in 1982.[8] One friend she acquired in this period via the biography, Therese Lawson, second wife of the Conservative politician Nigel Lawson, once spoke of the impression Crosland made on her:

Some people make a deliberate stage entrance. Susan isn't like that but she does have a definite presence. Her voice has a slow, gentle, appealing laugh to it. It's not in the least bit raucous. Susan is much too ladylike for that. She has a particular American sense of humour which I appreciate.[9]

Resuming her writing career, a biography of Anthony Blunt fell through after Crosland had already spent a third of the advance. George Weidenfeld, her publisher, suggested a novel instead, the result Ruling Passions appeared in 1989,[2] the first of several works of fiction ending with The Politician's Wife in 2001. Crosland also assembled two volumes of collected journalism.

By the mid-1980s, Crosland had formed a deep platonic relationship with the conservative journalist Auberon Waugh which lasted until his death in 2001. By then she had begun to suffer from severe arthritis, thought to have had its origins in a riding accident she had suffered at eighteen, and acquired the MRSA bacterium while in hospital having a hip replaced; the infection went undiagnosed for some time.[10]

Susan Crosland was survived by her first husband and their two daughters.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Obituary: Susan Crosland, Daily Telegraph 28 February 2011
  2. ^ a b c Geraldine Bedell "Profile: Fiction with friction", The Independent, 6 February 1994
  3. ^ Julia Langdon Obituary: Susan Crosland, The Guardian, 28 February 2011
  4. ^ a b Paul Levy "Susan Crosland: Biographer, novelist and journalist who wrote an acclaimed account of the life of her husband Tony Crosland", The Independent, 5 March 2011
  5. ^ Sylvia Roger "My first home: Susan Crosland", Daily Telegraph, 17 October 2001
  6. ^ Philip Hoare "The big book of revenge", The Independent, 28 August 1997
  7. ^ Reprinted in Christopher Silvester (ed.) The Penguin Book of Interviews, London: Viking, 1993, p.501-4
  8. ^ Dick Leonard, A Tribute to Susan Crosland, Fabian Society Blog, 6 March 2011.
  9. ^ Sue Fox "How We Met; Susan Crosland and Therese Lawson", The Independent, 15 October 1995
  10. ^ Moira Petty "I put my faith in the NHS - and it's crippled me", Daily Mail, 27 February 2007