The Other Elizabeth Taylor

Deborah Friedell writes:

Do novelists come nicer than Elizabeth Taylor? Her mother died of politeness – she developed appendicitis over Christmas, and didn’t want to interrupt the doctor’s holiday – but rather than renounce good manners on the spot, her biographer Nicola Beauman writes, Taylor ‘cared about good manners very much indeed’ to the end of her days. So attentive a wife was she, so doting a mother, that her adolescent daughter was supposedly shocked to discover that Taylor wrote books. In her letters, Taylor sometimes worried that being a Buckinghamshire housewife hurt her writing: ‘How can I have anything to write about when nothing happens to me?’ A different world intruded only in the form of mistakenly delivered fan letters intended for her namesake. ‘Men write to me and ask for a picture of me in my bikini. My husband thinks I should send one and shake them, but I have not got a bikini.’

(LRB 6 August 2009)