Valerie Eliot

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Esme Valerie Eliot (née Fletcher; 17 August 1926 – 9 November 2012) was the second wife and later widow of the Nobel prize-winning poet, T. S. Eliot. She was a major stockholder in the publishing firm of Faber and Faber Limited and the editor and annotator of a number of books dealing with her late husband's writings.

A native of Leeds, Valerie married Eliot, almost 40 years her senior, on 10 January 1957.[1] She had been a star-struck fan of Eliot since her schooldays, as she confided to the novelist Charles Morgan, for whom she worked as a secretary. Morgan used his influence to get her a job at Faber & Faber,[2] where she finally met Eliot in August 1949, a debt of kindness which she always acknowledged.

In a 1994 interview with The Independent newspaper she recalled a very ordinary home life of evenings spent at home playing Scrabble and eating cheese, stating "He obviously needed a happy marriage. He wouldn't die until he'd had it."[2]

Following T. S. Eliot's 1965 death, Valerie Eliot was his most important editor and literary executor, having brought to press The Waste Land: Facsimile and Manuscripts of the Original Drafts (1971) and The Letters of T. S. Eliot: Volume 1, 1898–1922 (1989). She assisted Christopher Ricks with his edition of The Inventions of the March Hare (1996), a volume of Eliot's unpublished verse. A second volume of T. S. Eliot's letters was edited by his widow and long-delayed.[3]

One of Valerie Eliot's most lucrative decisions as executor was granting permission for a stage musical to be based on her husband's work Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. This became the hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats.[2] With her portion of the proceeds Valerie Eliot established "Old Possum's Practical Trust" – a literary registered charity[4] – and funded the T. S. Eliot Prize.[2]

In late 2009, the second volume of Eliot's letters was published. The third volume, edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden, followed in July 2012. She donated the £15,000 annual prize money for the T. S. Eliot Prize.[citation needed]

Valerie Eliot died on 9 November 2012 at her home in London.[5]


  1. ^ Esty, Jed (2002). "Modern American Poetry: An Online Journal and Multimedia Companion to Anthology of Modern American Poetry". Oxford University Press, 2000, accessed 20 January 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d Lawless, Jill (11 November 2012). "T.S. Eliot's widow Valerie Eliot dies at 86". Associated Press via Yahoo News. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Christensen, Karen. "Dear Mrs Eliot...", The Guardian, 29 January 2005.
  4. ^ Charity Commission. OLD POSSUM'S PRACTICAL TRUST, registered charity no. 328558. 
  5. ^ "Valerie Eliot, Poet’s Wife and Defender, Dies at 86", New York Times, 13 November 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2012.

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