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Anne Ridler obituary

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  • jchristopher@tarleton.edu
    Anne Brode directed my attention to this obituary from _The Guardian_: Anne Ridler Poet and librettist whose early work was championed by Eliot, and who was
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 4, 2002
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      Anne Brode directed my attention to this obituary from _The Guardian_:

      Anne Ridler

      Poet and librettist whose early work was championed
      by Eliot, and who was still translating risqué Mozart for
      Channel 4 in the 1980s

      Robert Potts
      Tuesday October 16, 2001
      The Guardian

      When Anne Ridler, who has died of cancer aged 89, was
      awarded an OBE for services to literature last June, she
      expressed pleasure but also a little surprise, just as she had
      done two years earlier, when Michael Palin hande
      d her the
      Cholmondeley award for poetry at the Royal Society of Authors.
      These tokens of recognition came late in a career the latter part
      of which had been devoted to translating librettos, including a
      modern interpretation of Mozart's Così fan tutte, as much as
      writing poetry.

      Yet earlier in her life, Ridler had mixed with Lawrence Durrell,
      WH Auden and Dylan Thomas, and had worked with TS Eliot at
      Faber and Faber, who published many of her books. Her poetry
      was in every anthology of the 1940s
      .

      The daughter of a housemaster at Rugby, she suffered from
      illness during her childhood and education at Downe House
      school, near Newbury, Berkshire, though this did mean that she
      read a great deal, Walter Scott proving to be an early favourite.
      In 1932, she took a diploma in journalism at King's College
      London; as she later said, this provided "a way of studying
      English literature without the Anglo-Saxon and so on required for
      a degree".

      For nine months in 1933, she worked on an anthology f
      or the
      poet Lascelles Abercrombie, and mixed with writers on the
      London scene, particularly Durrell, with whom she used to watch
      Marx Brothers films.

      She modestly attributed her employment at Fabers to her
      literary connections: in 1934, she started working there for
      Walter de la Mare's son, Richard; in 1935, she became
      assistant to Eliot, helping him with the Criterion, which he was
      editing, and reading submitted manuscripts, a task she
      continued to perform long after leaving the firm in 1940.


      It was her husband Vivian Ridler, a typographer and printer, who
      printed her first volume, Poems (1939), for Oxford University
      Press, using a small press which he was managing in Bunhill
      Row, London EC1. The whole stock was destroyed in a bombing
      raid in 1940. Her next publication was a pamphlet
      commissioned by Tambimuttu, the exuberant Ceylonese editor
      of Poetry London, whose eclectic enthusiasms benefited many
      major poets of the 1940s.

      Eliot had encouraged Ridler's early writing, and agreed
      to
      publish her next substantial volume, A Dream Observed (1941).
      Like almost all poets of the period, she was influenced by Eliot,
      who, she famously remarked, "first made me despair of being a
      poet", adding that it was Auden "who first made me think I saw
      how to become one". Her other influences included Sir Thomas
      Wyatt and Thomas Traherne, the metaphysicals and Charles
      Williams.

      Ridler's poetry displayed an attention to cadence and musicality
      in both her formal and her free verse, and managed
      to combine a
      Christian spirituality and Latinate, Elizabethan elegance with a
      more modern, even sceptical, tone. While some poems are
      overtly religious - Carol To Be Set To Music and Prayer In A
      Pestilent Time - she would more often situate her everyday
      subjects in contexts of both faith and doubt.

      She was also capable of eroticism and tenderness; for example,
      in At Parting, written to Vivian, who joined the RAF during the
      second world war: "Since we through war awhile must part/
      Sweetheart, and
      learn to lose/ Daily use/ Of all that satisfied our
      heart:/ Lay up those secrets and those powers/ Wherewith you
      pleased and cherished me these two years:/... I have no words
      to tell you what you were,/ But when you are sad, think, Heaven
      could give no more."

      During the war, and for a while afterwards, Ridler was a
      fashionable poet. She was awarded the Oscar Blumenthal prize
      in 1954, and the Union League Civic and Arts Foundation prize
      in 1955. Later - and certainly after Eliot's death in 1965 -
      she
      tended to be overlooked. Poems would occasionally appear in
      anthologies - generally the same few early poems - but her
      subsequent volumes attracted little attention until Michael
      Schmidt, the editor of Carcanet, laudably published her
      Collected Poems in 1994.

      She also turned to verse plays, under the influence (but not at
      the suggestion) of Eliot. Eliot's producer, Martin Browne, had
      turned his actors into the Pilgrim Players, who toured villages
      and towns which would otherwise have been de
      nied theatre
      during the war. Ridler offered her own work to them, and her first
      play, The Shadow Factory: A Nativity Play, was subsequently
      performed at the Mercury theatre in 1945, and published in
      1946. Half a dozen other verse dramas were performed in Oxford
      and London.

      In 1948, Anne and her family moved to Oxford, where Vivian
      worked for Oxford University Press, becoming printer to the
      university from 1958-78. She edited a number of texts and
      critical studies, wrote more poems and verse play
      s, and
      continued to read for Faber.

      In the 1970s, she turned her hand to librettos, in the first
      instance to help out a friend, the conductor Jane Glover, then a
      postgraduate student, who needed a modern translation of a
      baroque opera. She subsequently translated several operas by
      Monteverdi (Orfeo, The Return Of Ulysses, The Coronation Of
      Poppea), Cavalli (Rosinda, Eritrea, La Calisto) and Mozart (Così
      fan tutte, Don Giovanni and The Marriage Of Figaro). Her version
      of Così fan tutte, by Opera
      Factory, was televised by Channel 4
      in 1988; a slightly risqué version, set on a beach. It is a highly
      regarded translation, still performed.

      Ridler was attractively modest about her achievements, and
      admirably stoic about the ebbs and flows of critical attention.
      Receiving her OBE, she said simply that she was surprised
      because she "hadn't had any particular activity lately", but that it
      was "nice to have it".

      She is survived by her husband, whom she married in 1938, their
      sons Benedict and
      Colin, and their daughters Jane and Kate.

      Grevel Lindop writes: I first met Anne Ridler in 1994, when I
      was sent by the literary magazine PN Review to interview her
      about her newly published Collected Poems. I found a small,
      vigorous, beautiful woman quite undaunted by my tape recorder,
      and more interested in making a new friend than in what the
      interview should cover.

      She had the clearest and best-balanced poetic intelligence I had
      ever met. She was also a fine, understated raconteuse, with a

      perfect ear for dialogue and a neat sense of comic
      self-deprecation, whether recalling the contorted scrupulousness
      of Eliot's response when she dared to show him her earliest
      work, or confessing to the illicit delights of translating an opera
      libretto ("When you hear it sung, you get this marvellous
      delusion that you've written the whole thing yourself!").

      Her generosity was spontaneous and profound. She knew that I
      was working on a biography of her early mentor, the poet
      Charles Williams, and
      hoped to record her memories of him.
      This July, she telephoned unexpectedly: "I'm just ringing to say
      that if we're going to do that recording, we'd better do it soon."
      She was 24 hours out of hospital, and had been given only a few
      weeks to live.

      I saw her five days later and found her crystalline intelligence,
      high good humour and vivid memory unchanged. Scrupulously
      honest as ever, she insisted that her lifelong Christian faith
      made it no easier to face death; but her serenity, and her
      uncom
      plicated delight in every passing moment, suggested
      otherwise.

      · Anne Barbara Ridler, poet and librettist, born July 30 1912;
      died October 15 2001
    • Stolzi@aol.com
      In a message dated 1/4/02 10:52:34 AM Central Standard Time, ... Stop your ears, JRRT! :)
      Message 2 of 3 , Jan 4, 2002
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        In a message dated 1/4/02 10:52:34 AM Central Standard Time,
        jchristopher@... writes:

        > In 1932, she took a diploma in journalism at King's College
        >
        > London; as she later said, this provided "a way of studying
        >
        > English literature without the Anglo-Saxon and so on required for
        >
        > a degree".
        >

        Stop your ears, JRRT! :)
      • David S. Bratman
        Additional info on Anne Ridler s relationship to Williams, from Alice Hadfield s book and elsewhere: She was the niece of Sir Humphrey Milford, the publisher
        Message 3 of 3 , Jan 4, 2002
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          Additional info on Anne Ridler's relationship to Williams, from Alice
          Hadfield's book and elsewhere:

          She was the niece of Sir Humphrey Milford, the publisher of the OUP and
          CW's esteemed employer. CW met her while she was still a schoolgirl, and
          encouraged her poetic ambitions. They remained friends for the rest of his
          life, and she edited two posthumous collections of his work, plays (Seed of
          Adam) and essays (The Image of the City).
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