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Psycho-stalking Eglantyne Jebb – part two

As I started my research the residue evidence of Eglantyne’s life got more and more intriguing. Eglantyne had no children of her own but the granchildren of her elder brother still live at The Lyth, the magnificent Shropshire home in which Eglantyne grew up. Lionel Jebb and his wife Corinna were wonderfully supportive during my research, inviting me to stay with them – I slept in Eglantyne’s old nursery room – and generally giving me a free hand to plough through their boxes of papers and family albums.

Here were her childhood diaries, bunches of illustrated letters to remote aunts, and most excitingly piles of torrid love letters, tied in neat bunches and stashed in a box… Visits to the families of other relatives and friends were equally revealing. Her younger sister Dorothy’s grandson, Ben Buxton, was an archeology lecturer and had an instinctive understanding of my need for evidence – and once gave me an aging manilla envelope out of which I pulled a still bright red curl of Eglantyne’s baby-hair; real DNA, that was quite odd! Later I ate from Eglantyne’s plates, put flowers on her grave, and I even bought my own copy of the signature I had seen so often on letters in archives, when it popped up on eBay.

Sometimes it felt slightly uncomfortable opening Eglantyne’s private letters and diaries, and I used to think of my research as sort of psycho-stalking her, although only with the best intentions.  However once, when I had come to a dead-end when trying to unravel Eglantyne’s doomed love affair with a Cambridge don, Marcus Dimsdale, I found myself by coincidence having a drink with a friend of this man’s family. Just two weeks later I was sitting down to dinner with Robert and Nicholas Dimsdale, Marcus’s grandson and great nephew, and learning all about the other perspective on this romance… for once I had the uncanny feeling that it was perhaps the ghosts who were stalking me!

All in I loved researching the book. I am a very nosey person anyhow which helps, but Eglantyne’s life had so many intriguing stories and half-hidden traits that it was a joy to tease the truths out. I hope the result is worth this wonderful subject! Finally do comment on my blog and let me know if you have any thoughts or questions about Eglantyne and her life, or the process of writing a biography. Also I have a number of book talks coming up around Britain so do please come along to hear me – details under news and events on my website at www.claremulley.com Thanks, Clare

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