McBEAN, Angus.

Wedding photograph of T.S. and Valerie Eliot.

[London] [Angus McBean]. February 1957.

Black and white bromide print showing the couple in profile, with Eliot's face emerging from the shadows behind Valerie. Inscribed by Eliot "to Bob Giroux with affection from Tom and Valerie". Signed by Angus McBean. Mounted on cream card, on the verso is McBean's copyright stamp. In excellent condition.
On 10th January 1957 T.S.Eliot married Valerie Fletcher. The ceremony, at St Barnabas Church, Kensington took place at 6.15am "by special license", Eliot said, "from the Archbishop of Canterbury in order to evade the press". Eliot was famously shy, reserved and prickly so this somewhat cloak and dagger approach to his second marriage is unsurprising. Once the news was out, though, Eliot seemed to change and his last few years (he died in January 1965) were, everyone agreed, including Eliot himself, blissfully happy.
On their return from honeymoon in the south of France, the Eliots had their wedding photographs done by Angus McBean, then at the height of his fame. Brilliantly, McBean photographed them in profile, side by side so that just the forehead, nose and chin of whichever of the two was in the background would operate as a visual echo of the other. This works better when, as in this photograph, Valerie, with her soft, youthful features, is in the foreground. Eliot, hooded eyes and beak-like nose, can then lurk in the shadows, ever the enigma.
Bob Giroux, to whom this brilliant, moving photograph was given, was Eliot's American publisher. They had first met in 1946 when Giroux was working as an editor at Harcourt, Brace and Company (Eliot's then publishers). Giroux left the firm in 1955, partly in protest at the refusal of his then boss Eugene Reynal (see next item) to allow him to publish The Catcher in the Rye. He joined Farrar, Straus and Young, taking Eliot and many of the other leading writers of the time to his new firm. Giroux and Eliot were clearly close friends – shortly after his marriage to Valerie, Eliot told him "I'm the luckiest man in the world". Giroux described how they hit it off immediately when, over lunch on the day they first met, he asked Eliot "Since he was both a writer and editor…whether he agreed that most editors are failed writers. He did not answer at once, and then he slowly said, 'Yes, I suppose most editors are failed writers - but so are most writers.'"

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