Valerie Eliot Helped Shape A Writing Legend's Legacy

Valerie Eliot, author T.S. Eliot's second wife, has died at the age of 86. Host Scott Simon remembers Valerie Eliot, who became the guardian of the Eliot legacy. She published an acclaimed edition of The Waste Land, complete with notes from Ezra Pound, and became a generous patron of poetry.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This week, we learned that the wife of another literary legend has died. Valerie Eliot, T.S. Eliot's second wife, was 86. The man who wrote "The Waste Land," which is perhaps the bleakest masterpiece of the 20th century, seemed to find genuine peace and happiness with Valerie Fletcher Eliot. She was almost 40 years his junior and began as his secretary at the publishing house where he was editor. Friends remembered they seemed devoted to each other, holding hands at parties, drinking whiskey, playing cards late into the night. And their partnership continued after his death. Valerie Eliot became the guardian of the Eliot legacy. She published an acclaimed edition of "The Waste Land," complete with notes from Ezra Pound and became a generous patron of poetry. It was Valerie Eliot who approved a theatrical adaptation of her husband's book of poems for children, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." So, the author of "The Waste Land" is now remembered as a man who really loved cats.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEMORY")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Touch me, it's so easy to leave me all along with the memories of my days in the sun. If you touch me, you'll understand what happiness is...

SIMON: Valerie Eliot died in London, at the age of 86.

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