The Most Famous British Novelist You have Never Heard Of


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The Most Famous British Novelist You have Never Heard Of At age 19, aspiring actor Elizabeth Jane Howard married the much older naturalist and illustrator Peter Scott, son of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott. Within a year, Howard had dutifully given birth—to a girl. The formidable Baroness Kennet scolded her young daughter-in-law for failing to issue an heir, and shrewdly suspected this wouldn’t be the young woman’s only failing. As Howard recounts in her 2002 memoir Slipstream, Scott’s mother told her: “If you ever make Pete unhappy I shall want to stab you. I should enjoy doing it.” Despite this chilling and explicit warning, Howard’s propensity for ill-advised liaisons led her astray then as it would throughout her life. She disastrously began an affair with Pete’s half-brother. Her husband, with his mother’s help, brought it to a swift end, treating the pair “as though we were unspeakably disloyal children.”

Howard, who died this past January at age 90, soon gave up acting for writing, but her colorful personal life overshadowed her career. She conducted love affairs with numerous men-of-letters, including Arthur Koestler, Laurie Lee, Cyril Connolly, Kenneth Tynan and Cecil Day-Lewis. One of them, with Kingsley Amis, resulted in an 18-year marriage. Howard’s stepson Martin Amis considers her, “with Iris Murdoch, the most interesting woman writer of her generation. An instinctivist…she has a freakish and poetic eye, and a penetrating sanity.”  SEE MORE ON PAGE2

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