The Dutiful Wife

Rafia Zakaria in The Baffler:

THERE IS, EASILY FOUND on the internet, a photograph of the writer Kingsley Amis relaxing on a beach with his back to the camera. Written in lipstick on his back are the words “1 fat Englishman. I fuck anything.” The words are the handiwork of his then wife Hilly, who had learned that her husband was having an affair with fashion model Elizabeth Jane Howard. Howard would eventually become the writer’s wife, the two of them having fallen in love during the inaugural Cheltenham literary festival that Amis had attended (and Howard had directed).

Having won the spot beside this literary genius was a dubious blessing. Howard, who had written three novels of her own before ever meeting the author who made his reputation with the publication of Lucky Jim in 1954 (and who in 1963 published One Fat Englishman), found herself running a large household revolving around the lone star of Amis. She stopped writing, took to cooking elaborate meals, juggling the schedule of Amis’s two sons to whom she was stepmother and a thousand other necessary tasks. As recounted in Carmela Ciuraru’s recent book Lives of the Wives: Five Literary Marriages, Howard was often so very tired that she would fall asleep sitting upright in a chair in the evening. With this capable woman at his side, Amis continued his writing career having changed out the wife he had procured at Oxford for a prettier new model.

More here.