Beazley and MacNeice: A Note

George Huxley

Trinity College

In Classics Ireland Volume 7 (2000) p. 3 Professor Arkins writes: "But MacNeice could also be acerbic about Greek art". Arkins then refers to the poet's "involvement with Mary Beazley, daughter of the leading authority on Athenian black and red vases" Among the reasons given for MacNeice's hatred of Greek vases was, in his own words "because the house where I have most often been embarrassed and disparaged was full of them, whole or in fragments". Some clarification may be helpful.

First, Mary was the step-daughter, not the daughter, of (Sir) Jo~eazley. Her full name was Giovanna Marie Therese Babette ('Mariette') Ezra, and her father, Captain David Ezra, was killed in battle near Amiens in August 1918.[1] Her mother, Marie Ezra, was the daughter of Bernard Blumenfeld (afterwards Bernard Bloomfield). Marie Ezra married J.D. Beazley in 1919. The Beazleys had no children.

Louis MacNeice was involved with Mrs Beazley's daughter to the extent of marrying her, though both sides were opposed to the marriage. The civil wedding took place in Oxford on 21 June 1930, shortly before Louis MacNeice heard that he had achieved a First in Greats. The marriage, vividly described by E.R. Dodds[2], ended in divorce. A son, Daniel, was born to them in 1934.[3]

The reference to disparagement associated with Greek vases and fragments alludes to Sir John's practice of working at home with pottery around him in the company of Lady Beazley, his "guardian dragon".[4] I remember seeing sherds when I was taken to tea at 100, Holywell by my former tutor C.G. Hardie in October 1955. When Louis and Mariette were engaged Mrs Beazley regarded him as "totally undesirable", as her future son-in-law said. Matters were made worse by Mrs Beazley's learning that the poet had a mentally deficient brother. Proof that the deficiency was not hereditary was demanded. The embarrassment and dispamgement must indeed have been hard to bear. However, her Ladyship could be peremptory even towards persons who posed no threat; A. Andrewes, later Wykeham Professor of Ancient History, recalled being asked: "Mr Andrewes, we have had this discussion before. Why didn't you tell me?",[5] and C.G. Hardie was once directed towards a goose in the kitchen with the command "the man Hardie will pluck it".

[1] Jon Stallworthy, Louis MacNeice (London and Boston 1995) p. 122.

[2] E.R. Dodds, Missing Persons. An Autobiography (Oxford 1977) p. 116.

[3] D.M. Davin, D.N.B. 1961-1970 (Oxford 1981) 709-712.

[4] Martin Robertson, D.N.B., vol. cit. 84-85.

[5] Stallworthy, op. cit. p. 117.

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