Category Archives: Friends and family

“The White Goddess from Cambridge”

Jacquetta Hawkes and Robert Graves, Mallorca, September 1950

Jacquetta Hawkes and Robert Graves, Mallorca, September 1950

“The White Goddess from Cambridge: Jacquetta Hawkes and Robert Graves” will be the title of a lecture by Dr Christine Finn, biographer of Jacquetta Hawkes and Writer-Fellow at the University of Bradford.  The lecture will be part of the 10th International Robert Graves Conference, which is held 6-10 July 2010 in Mallorca, Spain, where Graves lived from 1929 until his death.

Jacquetta and Robert Graves were in contact from the 1940s.  Both poets, both fascinated by myth and the classical world, they would have had much to discuss.  In 1950, after lecturing to the International Archaeology Congress, she visited him and his family in Deya, Mallorca.  She took her son Nicolas with her.  The Jacquetta Hawkes Archive includes a letter from Graves to Jacquetta about the practicalities of the visit, taxis and so on.  Dr Finn will be retracing their journey as much as possible on her way to the conference.


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Early Summer Special News

Out now, the lucky 13th issue of Special Collections News, packed with images and news including Bravo PaxCat, Priestley’s finest hour, Celebrating Jacquetta, and You made me shove you!

Hiding the Hoo hoard

In August 1939, as war threatened, London’s great museums and galleries evacuated their collections to safer locations, away from air-raids.  Artworks and treasures were moved to country houses, organisations in Wales, quarries, and the London Underground.

The archaeologist Christopher Hawkes, Jacquetta’s first husband, was then an Assistant Keeper at the British Museum.  He supervised the huge and difficult process of selecting, packing and transporting as many of the Museum’s treasures as possible for storage at the disused Aldwych tube station.  Jacquetta helped with the packing.

Diana Bonakis Webster, in “Hawkeseye”, her 1991 biography of Christopher Hawkes, quotes some telling details: Jacquetta felt “half choked” by fluff from the packing kapok. The objects were placed in “large, green, coffin-sized boxes” and transported inconspicuously by horse-drawn carts covered by tarpaulins.  The boxes were sent down a chute on one of the escalators, with their landing cushioned by sacks of sawdust.

I think the most exciting treasures stored at Aldwych were the Sutton Hoo finds.  Jacquetta remembered seeing “a large white chalked square on the platform.  It was clearly marked FOR SUTTON HOO”.   The Sutton Hoo objects had only just been unearthed after 1300 years in the ground.  Now these astonishing gold treasures, already compelling a complete re-think of 7th century history, had to return to the secret dark.

Dearest Jacquetta, love Iris

Iris Murdoch and JBP on steps at Kissing Tree House

Iris and JBP at Kissing Tree House ca. 1969

Iris Murdoch is in the news this week: a collection of her letters to surrealist novelist Raymond Queneau has been acquired by Kingston University’s Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies.

This story encouraged me to look again at the Iris Murdoch material in the  Hawkes Archive. Iris knew the Priestleys well for many years.  JB adapted her novel A Severed Head into a play, with great success.  Like Jacquetta, she was active in the CND Women’s Group.  Her introduction to Diana Collins’ memoir Time and the Priestleys offers a charming picture of the Priestleys as hospitable and life-enhancing friends.

The Hawkes Archive includes several letters and postcards from Iris to Jacquetta.  Although the subject matter is mainly social (relating to lunches, parties), all but the very shortest give a flavour of her writing style and personality.  I particularly liked her description of a weekend spent with the Priestleys: “I loved talking, and listening, and looking out of the window, and swimming, and drinking, and seeing the nightjars” and the quirky “I am now in a house of riotous children on the edge of the moor.  We walked on the moor last night which is very old and obviously still inhabited by abominable stone men”.

Henry Moore at the BBC

A collection of rarely-seen archive BBC programmes about Henry Moore is now available online, to complement the Tate Britain retrospective.  The programmes include innovative documentaries by John Read,  Monitor with Huw Wheldon, and a view of Moore’s 1972 Venice exhibition.  The Read documentaries in particular help the viewer understand Moore’s working methods and how he developed individual works such as his Festival of Britain sculpture.   There is also great emphasis on the inspiration of landscape, which is where Moore’s work meets Jacquetta’s ideas, to stunning visual effect in “A Land”.

Past, Present, Man, Nature: 10. “Active elderly lady, retired writer”

Past, Present, Man, Nature: celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes.

An online exhibit by Alison Cullingford, Special Collections Librarian, University of Bradford.

Intro | Credits | Previous | Next

10. “Active elderly lady, retired writer”

Menu cover for birthday dinner

Menu cover for birthday dinner

Here is the menu design for the Anodyne Dinner held at the Savile Club to celebrate Jacquetta’s 70th birthday, “anodyne” presumably because the enjoyment of the occasion would take away the pain of another birthday!  Priestley held similar dinners on important birthdays.  Guests included friends from the theatre and literary world, such as Peggy Ashcroft and Iris Murdoch, and members of their large extended family.  Hospitality and friendship were important to the Priestleys; Diana Collins vividly describes the delights of visiting their homes, first Brook Hill on the Isle of Wight, then Kissing Tree in Warwickshire, which Jacquetta described as “a patchwork but predominantly 18th century house”.  The Archive contains many letters from their friends and family, full of thanks for parties and weekends, and corresponding images, like this of Jacquetta with JBP’s daughter Barbara’s husband and children at dinner, one 1970s Christmas.

Dinner at Christmas time

Dinner at Christmas time

After Priestley died in 1984, Jacquetta moved to a smaller house, Littlecote, in Chipping Camden, where she continued to follow developments in her profession, to see her friends and family, and to enjoy gardening and nature study.  She described herself as an “active elderly lady, retired writer” in an advertisement for a cook-housekeeper. She died in 1996, of old age.  Her ashes are buried next to Priestley’s, at Hubberholme in the Yorkshire Dales.

Past, Present, Man, Nature: 7. Mrs Pro and Mr Con on tour

Past, Present, Man, Nature: celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes.

An online exhibit by Alison Cullingford, Special Collections Librarian, University of Bradford.

Intro | Credits | Previous | Next

7. Mrs Pro and Mr Con on tour

Jacquetta and JBP at cafe table

Jacquetta and JBP at cafe table

Travel was a major part of the Priestleys’ lives, for business and pleasure.  Jacquetta travelled abroad reporting for the Observer and other newspapers, and, as increasingly eminent people, both travelled to many conferences and events.   Their journeys are documented by many photographs, like this one showing them at a café table in Greece.  Jacquetta’s Archive is full of 35 mm slides of Taormina, Mexico, Amsterdam, Trinidad, Poland, Palestine …

Flight bulletin

Flight bulletin

This flight bulletin from a trip to Portugal for a lecture tour in 1949 is a rare survival in the Archive of the ephemera of travel.

Journey down a Rainbow

Journey down a Rainbow

One of the most interesting results of the Priestleys’ travels was “Journey down a rainbow” (1955), in which Priestley analysed 1950s USA while Jacquetta responded with delight to the survival of ancient pueblo culture in New Mexico.

Another shared piece, an unpublished article about a trip to Ceylon from 1970, gives us a feel for the roles adopted by the Priestleys abroad: Mrs Pro (Jacquetta) revelling in the “vegetable sculpture” of the paddy fields and the “huge glistening leaves” of the jungle, Mr Con (J.B.) complaining that “I’ve seen a fair number of jungles now, and I don’t want any of them”.