While many remarked, as his manners they saw, That they “never had known such a pious Jackdaw!”*

*from “The Jackdaw of Rheims”, by Richard Harris Barham (Thomas Ingoldsby) (1788–1845).

From: Penelope Fitzgerald – a Life (2013) by Hermione Lee:

“Those who did not like Penelope Fitzgerald found her reserved, perverse, stubborn, mischievous, wilful and sharp-tongued. Those who did like her found her kind, wise, stoical, funny, reticent, brilliant and generous. But those two people were one person.

…In the 1980s, her public activities centred on PEN**…

Those who observed her there most closely were Francis King and his friend Josephine Pullein-Thompson, a PEN stalwart and president of the organisation in the 1990s. Josephine’s partner was Anthony Babington, who, by coincidence, had been a colleague of Desmond’s in his Chambers, and knew about his disgrace. Josephine felt that once “she realised I knew all about her”, Penelope held her at bay…There were…some difficult moments at the PEN International Conference in Venice in May 1983.

…In Venice, Penelope shared a room at one of the cheaper hotels with Pullein-Thompson…

…Some of the women on the PEN trip had been complaining that their scarves were disappearing from the ladies’ cloakroom. Items of Josephine’s underwear went missing, too: perhaps the maid was stealing them? Getting ready for dinner, Josephine laid out black tights and a dress on the bed, while she had a bath; when she came back, the tights had gone. She went round the room looking for them; Penelope opened her bag and tossed them at her, saying: “Oh, there you are then.” After that, while Penelope was out of the room, Josephine went through her bag, found a few more of her things, and took them back. Nothing was said; and the scarf thefts stopped.

What is to be made of this story, evidently much relished, and perhaps mischievously embellished, by the sole witness? Penelope’s daughters, when told of it, found it incredible and entirely out of character. Yet it does tie in with anecdotes of how difficult she could be on foreign travels. And it does point to the long-lasting effects of years of deep anxiety about money, years which Penelope was recalling while she was in Italy.”

From an obituary for JP-T in The Guardian of 22.6.14. by Jonathan Fryer:

“Whereas in her youth Josephine devoted most of her voluntary work to the Pony Club, by the 1970s she had become increasingly involved in writers’ groups, including the Crime Writers’ Association and the Society of Authors, but most importantly English PEN, which promotes writers’ freedoms around the world. From 1976 to 1993 she was English PEN’s general secretary, organising speaker events and dinners in the atmospheric surroundings of the London Sketch Club in Dilke Street, Chelsea. Committee members were delegated to prepare and serve the food, and everyone was treated by Josephine with the same air of breezy efficiency; she was not someone who could be cowed by the likes of Harold Pinter or Salman Rushdie. She also organised summer outings to houses and towns of literary interest, marshalling everyone as if they were girls on a Pony Club expedition. When on one such occasion the elderly novelist Francis King wondered aloud when everyone was going to get some tea, Josephine silenced him with a resounding: “Stop grizzling, Francis.”…”

**The first PEN Club was founded in London in 1921 by Catherine Amy Dawson Scott, with John Galsworthy as its first president. Its first members included Joseph Conrad, Elizabeth Craig, George Bernard Shaw, and H. G. Wells. PEN originally stood for “Poets, Essayists, Novelists”

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