How a different Elizabeth Taylor made a name for herself in Beaconsfield
IT is not unusual for a man to remarry upon his first wife’s death except that in the case of local businessman John Taylor each bride, by taking his surname, shared those of a famous movie star, and a prominent illustrator and author respectively.
Further, his home with his second wife was opposite the birthplace of Beaconsfield born author Norman Collins who wrote one of the favourable reviews of the novel ‘At Mrs Lippincote’s’ which launched the career of his first wife, Elizabeth, who wrote it the same year as the actress of the same name made her mark in National Velvet.
Unsurprisingly, Nicola Beauman titled her biography ‘The Other Elizabeth Taylor’.
In it she traced the story of Elizabeth from the time she served her writing apprenticeship with its rejection slips whilst she sold The Daily Worker in High Wycombe to life in Penn as the middle class wife of a company director writing short stories and novels until the enthusiasm with which they were received was gradually replaced by respectful if unexciting reviews or downright rejection as tastes changed. She had married John in 1936 who retired when in 1966 his family’s business became part of Cavenham Foods.
This, together with the advent of grandchildren from the marriages of their son and daughter, ended the daily solitude in which Elizabeth had written.
The 1960s did, however, see her start to write children’s stories.
Elizabeth avoided both personal publicity and the literary establishment.
Despite the sneers this brought from ‘The Lady-Novelists AntiElizabeth League’, as Nicola Beauman called it, which scorned her as a mere woman’s magazine writer who married a sweet manufacturer and lived in the country, such discerning contemporaries as Kingsley Amis described her as ‘one of the finest novelists of her and our times’.
Two movies and two television adaptations were made from her novels.
In 1952 she was entered in Who’s Who, in 1966 became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 1971 was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
Her last novel, ‘Blaming’ was published posthumously in 1976 in which year she was awarded a Whitbread Prize for outstanding achievement over her lifetime. Elizabeth died in 1975. Two years later John remarried, his second wife, Eleanor who had been his and Elizabeth’s neighbour when they lived at Daw’s Hill in the 1940s. He died in 2006, but Eleanor lived to celebrate her centenary.