Elizabeth Jane Howard …

Elizabeth Jane Howard 

Elizabeth Jane Howard in her Bungay home in 2008. Photo: Andy Darnell

Elizabeth Jane Howard (1923 ~ 2014) was an English novelist.

She married ornithologist and conservationist Sir Peter Scott when she was aged just 19 and later married novelist Kingsley Amis. A former Vogue model and actress, she also had relationships with a long list of famous men including Cecil Day-Lewis, Laurie Lee and Kenneth Tynan.

With first husband Sir Peter Scott

In 1951, she won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for her first novel, The Beautiful Visit (1950). Six further novels followed, before she embarked on her best known work, The Cazalet Chronicle (published in 5 volumes), a family saga about the ways in which English life changed during the war years, particularly for women. This was adapted for both TV and radio.

Elizabeth Jane Howard in 1965 with husband Kingsley Amis.

In 2008, aged 85, she was interviewed by the Guardian for their Writers Rooms series.

I moved into this room 20 years ago and spent the first five years fighting desks that weren’t right in some way. Eventually I had this one made – right size, filing cabinets and drawers in the right place – and it’s made such a difference. I write on an Apple Mac, but still can’t help thinking of technology as something of an enemy. I’m much fonder of things like the meat skewer paper knife given to me by my old and beloved agent AD Peters. He sent them to all his clients, but I’m probably one of the last to still use it.

My chair is one of the ugliest I’ve ever seen. But it is comfortable and moves around. I’ve long looked for a graceful chair that was any use and did once try one of those Swedish designs where you half kneel. But all that happened was my knees got exhausted and I couldn’t stop thinking “I am in this extraordinary chair” when I should have been concentrating on writing.

I work from about 10 in the morning to 1.30. I used to have another stint in the late afternoon, but I’m now 85 and one session a day seems enough. I’m not a quick writer, but I don’t have to rewrite much. Anything writers ever say about writing can only apply to them, as you have to find your own way of doing things. And it’s a strange business. Years ago Kingsley [Amis] and I tried to write a section of each other’s novel. He’d usually write quite quickly with lots of laughing at his own jokes. I’d write slowly and would bite my nails a lot. But when we swapped over, I started laughing and he started biting his nails.

I still find writing hard and anxious work, and have had a tremendous battle with smoking that has reached the point where I don’t smoke except when I write. The next stage is to face up to whether I can write and not smoke. We’ll see. But you might have noticed that there’s still an ashtray on the bookshelf within reach of my chair.

She lived in Bungay, Suffolk, and was appointed CBE in 2000. Her autobiography, Slipstream, was published in 2002. She died, aged 90, at home on 2 January 2014.

Biography by Artemis Cooper

 

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4 responses to “Elizabeth Jane Howard …

  1. What an extraordinary woman. She is my new hero. Thank you for posting this, my dear fellow.

  2. Small world Pete. From five until ten I went to school in Bungay. 😉

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