By Robert Simonson
13 Nov 2012
Esmé Valerie Fletcher, who was born in Leeds, England, on Aug. 17, 1926, was nearly four decades younger that the famous poet when they married in 1957. (She had been his secretary.) T.S. Eliot died eight years later. Thereafter, Mrs. Eliot devoted herself to protecting her husband's literary and personal legacy.
She turned down many a biographer and adaptor looking for access to Eliot's work. However, one of the projects she did approve was a theatrical adaptation of her husband's little-known 1939 book of children's poems, titled "Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats." It became the musical Cats. Many of the lyrics were very much what Eliot had set down. Other lyrics were provided by Trevor Nunn and Richard Stilgoe.
Mrs. Eliot provided Andrew Lloyd Webber with a previously unpublished fragment of her late husband's work. It became the musical's best-known song, "Memory."
When Cats won a Tony Award for Best Book/Score, Mrs. Eliot accepted the award on behalf of her husband.