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Elizabeth Jane Howard

January 5, 2014

Husbands, lovers and novels

Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Jane Howard

Most obituaries of the author of The Cazalet Chronicles paid more attention to her beauty, marriages and affairs than to her writing. Married to Peter Scott (ornithologist and son of the polar explorer), James Douglas-Henry, and famously Kingsley Amis, she had affairs with Laurie Lee, Ken Tynan, Cecil Day-Lewis, Cyril Connolly, and Arthur Koestler. Bad boys all.

The Amis affair started off passionate and wonderful, but once they’d formalised the relationship, he expected her to wait on him hand and foot, took to heavy drinking, and probably not unrelated, became impotent. The best thing that came out of it was Martin Amis, who having been allowed to run wild by his mother Hilly and Kingsley, was allegedly put back on the straight and narrow by Jane. She deserves a better poem than this.

Young Elizabeth Jane
Had both beauty and brain,
The most high powered
Of the family Howard.

When an aged ornithologist
Held back the budding novelist,
She started up affairs with poets
And chronicled the Cazalets

But the poets’ ugly wives
Soon got out the sharpened knives,
So, after meeting Lucky Jim,
She jumped again, and married him

But although she mixed his drink
He kept her at the kitchen sink.
Soon, after Martin she was looking
While the boozer did the writing

Learning late that men are useless
She finally fulfilled her promise,
And the lesson of this rhyme is
Keep well clear of Kingsley Amis.

Jim Thornton

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