Hello, World!

Welcome to the Rare Books and Special Collections blog. We’ve chosen the title Curiositas, which can translate as (at least according to the Oxford Latin Dictionary) “excessive eagerness for knowledge, inquisitiveness, curiosity.”

The main purpose of this blog is to inform our friends, followers, and the casual reader of newly-acquired items and “rediscoveries”: those things we come across, in the course of our work with our collections, that are simply too interesting or wonderful not to share with a larger audience.

It’s late 2010, and though we’re just now moving into the blogging universe, please indulge us, and allow us to start off with something good, let’s say a bang, rather than a whimper…i.e.,

Some unpublished photos of T.S. Eliot.

T. S. Eliot with Jean Kennerley picnicing on the road to Marrakech, 1960. Photo by Valerie Eliot.

We have a collection of manuscript material by and about the publisher and book auction house owner Mitchell Kennerley (1878-1950) that are just being processed. Included in this collection are correspondence of Kennerley’s younger son, Morley Kennerley, who was a Director of Faber and Faber, the British publishers, for many years, and of his wife, Jean Baikie Kennerley. In that group are these 3 snapshots, two of them from a holiday to Morocco with the Eliots in 1960.

Eliot and Jean Kennerley picnicing, near Fedala (now Mohammedia), Morocco, 1960. Photo by Valerie Eliot or Morley Kennerley.

It’s hard to tell from these photos whether Old Tom is having a fine time or grimly lamenting his fate. According to his biographer Peter Ackroyd, the Eliots’ trip to Morocco early in 1960 was taken because of a need to escape damp, rainy England and provide relief from his emphysema. The trip was by all accounts a failure because the Moroccan weather was either too dry, too dusty, or both, and Eliot took some months to recover from this “recovery trip.” Ackroyd does not mention Morley and Jean Kennerley as the Eliots’ travel companions. Indeed, this particular relationship, with a fellow longstanding Faber & Faber Director like Kennerley, is not remarked upon in most of the scholarship on Eliot.

Lyndall Gordon, in her biography of Eliot, mentions the Kennerleys only once. In itemizing Tom’s many phobias, in this case of having to converse with a woman, Gordon states he was once horrified to have sat through a solo dinner with Jean Kennerley during the war. (See p. 494 of T.S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life, W.W. Norton, 1999). Be that as it may, by all accounts Jean Kennerley was a charming, intelligent woman with a wide social circle and wide-ranging interests, including her taking the occasional holiday with the Eliots, so one does wonder exactly how terrified he remained afterward in the face of such a not-terribly-intimidating presence….

Jean Kennerley with a handful of Pekinese puppies, 1975.

We’ll have a few more things Kennerley-related to share before too long, but these photos were a most pleasant discovery.


About Jeffrey Makala

The Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections is located in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library at the University of South Carolina. The department preserves and makes accessible rare materials and special research collections supporting teaching and research across a wide range of disciplines.
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