Constance 'Cocky' Moncrieff, T. S. Eliot, Emily Lina 'Mappie' Mirrlees and Hope Mirrlees at Shamley Wood, Shamley Green, Surrey, 1940s.
Photographer unknown; from the collection of the T. S. Eliot Estate.

Emily Lina Mirrlees, née Moncrieff


Emily Lina Mirrlees, née Moncrieff (1862–1948) – ‘Mappie/Mappy’ – daughter of a family of lawyers, was born in Edinburgh and married in 1886 a Glasgow tycoon, William Julius Mirrlees (1863–1923). Their daughter was TSE’s friend Hope Mirrlees. Through much of WW2, Eliot was to retreat from the Blitz by spending long weekends as a family friend and paying guest at Shamley Wood, Shamley Green, near Guildford, Surrey, home of Mappy and Hope, of whom he became deeply fond.

TSE to Philip Mairet, 21 Feb. 1941: ‘My hostess here [at Shamley] … is a very intelligent, though not intellectual, Scotch lady – but distinctly high in brains as well as character.’ Margaret Behrens to TSE, 30 May 1948:

Yes! Mappie’s going will make a big blank in all our lives. I can’t realize that she won’t be there when I get back. Her welcome was one of the things that made coming home seem really cosy. Like you, I know no one who has made a deeper impression on me. She was such an extraordinary compound of fantasy, Scotchness, cleverness and, above all kindness and generosity. I never knew anyone with so warm a heart. All her ‘lame dogs’ will be lost without her, though Hope will do her best to carry on in memory of Mappie, I know.

TSE to Hope Mirrlees, 7 Dec. 1952: ‘You would be surprised to know how often, and how wistfully, I think of Shamley from time to time. I think of Shamley (though I never want to re-visit it – I mean Shamley then) and when I say Shamley I mean “Shamley Wood” – and what Mappie made it, as “home”: the nearest I have had since I was a boy. And it may be that I did there what will be regarded as my best work. And I think of Mappie for a moment every day – as you say, in eternity.’