Nov 12, 2012

By Scott Walker

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The widow of T.S. Eliot has died.

Valerie Eliot was 86. She was the second wife of the U.S.-born Nobel literature laureate. The two married in 1957, and friends described the marriage as a happy one despite the almost 40-year gap in their ages.

After T.S. Eliot’s death in 1965, Valerie became his executor, editing his poems and letters for publication and steadfastly refusing to cooperate with would-be biographers, in keeping with the poet’s last wishes.

She did, however, welcome the unlikely idea of a stage musical based on a volume of Eliot’s verses. Andrew Lloyd Webber turned Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats into one of the longest-running musicals in history. Cats became a global hit that brought in huge sums for the Eliot estate.

Valerie Eliot used some of the windfall to set up a literary charity, Old Possum’s Practical Trust. She also funded the T.S. Eliot Prize, an annual award for poetry.


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