I know it's a long time since I've posted anything on this blog, but a story in today's Evening Standard https://www.standard.co.uk/news/londoners-diary/valerie-eliot-portraits-to-go-on-sale-amid-whispers-8951564.html raises some troublesome questions about the fate of Eliot books mentioned in other portions of Valerie Eliot's will. The will leaves Valerie Eliot's collection of Eliot 'first editions' to Magdalene College, Cambridge; but the term 'first editions' is not itself clarified; will it include all editions that include new material (such as the third edition of the Selected Essays)? first appearances of significant poems, such as The Waste Land in periodicals? the revisions of Anabasis? Who will make such decisions, and on what basis? Equally unclear, and equally important, is the decision as to what constitutes Eliot's working library, or in the words of the will 'all other books which in the opinion of my Executors were of importance to him in his work': who decides what was important? Who knows what will be thought important in the future? Surely all his remaining books should be kept together? I very much hope the trustees will consult widely and openly with Eliot scholars before making any irreversible decisions...
The following are the relevant portions of Valerie Eliot's will.
"6. I give the bust by Epstein of my late husband T S Eliot to Eliot College in the University of Kent at Canterbury free of inheritance tax.
7. I give the following items, free of inheritance tax, to my Executors upon trust with the intention that they shall give the same to Magdalene College, Cambridge, on condition that they are accepted in their entirety as a collection not to be dispersed, and if the said College shall not accept the same on that condition then to the trustees of the Old Possum’s Practical Trust a charity with registered charity number 328558 (the ‘Old Possum’s Trust’) for its general purposes absolutely:
7.1 my collection of T S Eliot first editions in English and foreign languages
7.2 T S Eliot's gold Nobel Prize medal;
and 7.3 T S Eliot's sets of Dickens and Shakespeare; his copy of Bradley's Appearance and Reality and all other books which in the opinion of my Executors were of importance to him in his work.
8. I give the following gifts, free of inheritance tax, to the trustees of the Old Possum's Trust for its general charitable purposes:
8.1 My collection of miniatures, with the request that the trustees of the Old Possum's Trust lend them to the Victoria and Albert Museum
8.2 Such of my portraits of T. S. Eliot and other portraits of major interest as the trustees of the Old Possum's Trust shall in their discretion select, with the request that the trustees of the Old Possum's Trust lend them to the National Portrait Gallery;
and 8.3 All of the rest of my personal chattels not otherwise gifted by my Will with the request that any items relating to T. S. Eliot should be retained by the trustees of the Old Possum's Trust to be lent out as necessary."