1970 was a pivotal year for myself ( I had got my degree, and moved to London), and Jonathan’s literary career was taking off. His output was astonishing, beginning with the short story he had written over a non-stop three-day stint at my flat in Norwich ( with my handing meals to him; removing ashtrays and so on) to articles and book reviews for the New Statesman; the publication of The Society of the Poem – still an excellent piece of academic writing – ; and a play produced by Kenith Trodd.
My own life was interesting. I was keeping a diary of all the people I was meeting, both with George (MacBeth) and later Jonathan. Parties at the ICA, attended by Stephen Spender and Melvyn Bragg, and hearing a talk given by Borges – to a rapt audience.
I gave a small reading ( in a church) with a group of poets, and read at a gathering where Michael and his wife, Frances Horowitz, were present. I liked them both very much, and thought that Frances was a fine poet. Dear Michael shouted out to the audience ‘That Amanda Humphrey- Reeve’ is a damn good poet’. I was both flattered and embarrassed.
Actually, I regarded my name with horror, and longed to be rid of it. It was ridiculous. ‘Heaving Rump’ I was once called – absolutely cringe- makingly hilarious. Almost as embarrassing as the anagram for T.S. Eliot (‘Toilets’). I later wrote under the name ‘Reeve’, and even ‘Humphrey’, before publishing as ‘Sewell’, my beloved late husband’s surname. Jonathan made an anagram of my name as ‘Peevy human drama here’, which was both funny and apposite, as was the anagram of his name: ‘Hot banana jar’.
Frances Horowitz died tragically young in 1983 at the age of 45; but I still remember her delicate features, beautiful brown eyes and hair; lovely voice, and intense interest and kindness that she showed to me, and everyone around her.
I was now working for Cambridge University Press, as a picture researcher, which suited my restless spirit, as I spent most of my day in museums, searching for good photographs and objets d’art; trawling through the Mary Evans photo library to present appropriate visual images to the writer of a series of school history books that I was working for.
I would spend hours in the British Museum Library, which I loved, often sitting near Germaine Greer, where she worked, day after day, writing and researching.
The smokey, anarchic cafe downstairs in the basement was a joy to visit for a crafty ciggie and a disgusting coffee ( everyone seemed to smoke then); and where I chatted with other library habituees, such as the Polish-American poet, Lucien Stryk – a lively and intelligent conversationalist – and his group of friends. and also the writer, Vincent Brome ( a prodigious writer; generous-spirited and lively man, best known, perhaps for his insightful biography of Jung : ‘Jung: the Man and the Myth’.
I was also writing reviews for Twentieth Century magazine, and having the occasional poem published. I even wrote a small review about an exhibition of Terry Frost’s paintings ( in Oxford) for Arts Review, but realised the minimum payment of a few guineas wasn’t worth the trouble and effort involved.
Life was fun and enjoyable. I was renting a sunny room at 53, Hilldrop Crescent, the home of the painter Elizabeth Rees-Mogg, and sister of William. Elizabeth was a kindly landlady, who treated her ‘tenants’ with great respect, and shared her living quarters generously with us. I liked talking to her over mugs of tea in her kitchen or living-room.
We would laugh at the fact that the notorious murderer,Dr Crippen, had once lived down the road at No. 39 ( now a block of flats).