I had some bad moments with him. I hadn’t been there more than a few months when he caught me looking out of the window onto Russell Square. I had my back both to my colleagues and to the door, and I was saying: ‘Look at all those lucky people in Russell Square doing bugger all.’ My colleagues were silent and when I turned round I realised why: Eliot had come into the room and was glowering at me. I might as well have been tearing at the grapes with murderous paws. After I’d graduated to blurb-writing he showed all the directors a blurb I’d written, saying: ‘Surely we can’t publish this.’ It was for Ann Jellicoe’s play The Knack and I’d said that the knack in question was the knack of getting girls into bed. Once, early on, I pointed out a discrepancy between two printings of one of his early poems – I can’t remember which. I was quite proud of myself. He said it didn’t matter.
The disapproval wasn’t all one way. When no one else was in the room I’d look at the letters his secretary typed up for him and turn away dismayed to have found him thanking people for their ‘courteous’ or ‘gracious’ letters. How could he use such awful words? Then there were the clothes, the light blue flannel suits: surely a poet, even an elderly poet, should dress in normal tweeds, or in black, or in something more outlandish altogether. Worst of all, I saw him one evening standing at the top of the stairs holding hands with Valerie. How could someone so old and so grand allow himself to be seen in public holding hands with his wife?