Anne (Bradby) Ridler


Anne Ridler, née Bradby (30 July 1912–2001); poet, playwright, editor, was employed at F&F, 1934–40, working for Richard de la Mare (director of production) and then for T. S. Eliot, 1936–40. In 1938 she married Vivian Ridler (1913–2009), manager of the Bunhill Press, London, and later Printer to Oxford University, 1958–78. They had two daughters and two sons. Her writings include poetry (A Dream Observed, 1941; Collected Poems, 1994), verse plays (The Shadow Factory: A Nativity Play, 1946), librettos and translations of opera (Monteverdi, Cavalli, Mozart); and the posthumous Memoirs (2004).

Geoffrey Faber to Frank Morley, 31 Jan. 1936: ‘Dick (d l M) has got a new, additional, secretary – one Ann Bradby, niece of Humphrey Milford, a Downe product. Very nice, & very intelligent; said to be a firstclass reader. Probably more suited to the editorial side than to Dick’s constantly frustrated purposes!’

Ian Smith, ‘I was the Possum’s minder’, Oxford Times, 15 Apr. 1988:

As Eliot’s secretary, she was responsible, among other things, for seeing the quarterly Criterion through the press, and monitoring the unsolicited contributions.

‘When after weeks of vetting the mostly-rubbishy poetry sent in, without finding anything worth his notice, I felt I must pick out something for him to look at and put a couple of manuscripts on his desk with his letters.

‘These were held out to me later, with a blank look, and the monosyllable ‘Why?’ To which I think I found no better answer than that I didn’t understand them, so thought they might be good.’

Mrs Ridler recalls how slight inaccuracies often crept into editions of Eliot’s poems. For the proofs, she feels, ‘were probably too reverentially treated by the correctors’. But the only natural fear of being made to look a fool was sometimes challenged by Eliot with his instinct for teasing, against which he expected people, even his underlings, to defend themselves vigorously …

‘In dictation he was measured but fluent: as with his normal speech, the sentences were perfectly formed – there might be a pause, but no humming and haaa-ing. Sometimes, his extempore criticism in a letter was so interesting that I found it hard to remember that my business was to take it down, not to listen or comment.’ …

Mrs Ridler paints a picture of a man whose standards of truthfulness were so high, that those around him tried harder ‘for the rest of one’s life, to be careful of the truth’; who was generous with money, to all kinds of people, and who was so tender-hearted that he could not bear to re-read old letters, ‘because of the emotion they evoked’.

See obituary of Anne Ridler in The Times, 16 Oct. 2001, 19.