Claire Tomalin’s essay in the Review pages of today’ edition of The Guardian is a fragmented memoir to her mother, Muriel Herbert, and an account of the part she an others played in getting her mother’s songs released on CD – Songs of Muriel Herbert – decades after her death
But sometimes I think that if I could switch back time to 1925, years before my own birth, I would say to her: turn away from the clever young Frenchman who is going to propose to you. Have nothing to do with him, do not even think of marrying him. Remain a single woman, devote yourself entirely to your art. Because you have a gift, priceless and fragile, which risks being crushed by marriage, by children, by the distraction and trouble they bring. Too late, again.
“There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall“ wrote the 50s critic and writer Cyril Connolly. I accept that Tomlain has little enough to tell us about her mother, but I suggest that there is enough in what she does tell us to for us to conclude that the pram in the hall was not as great an enemy as the daughter seems to think it was.