Valerie Eliot, who married the poet TS Eliot near the end of his life and steadfastly guarded his literary legacy for nearly half a century, died on Friday in London. She was 86. The Eliot estate announced her death. Mrs. Eliot, who was almost 38 years younger than her husband, had been his secretary for several years at the publishing house Faber & Faber when they married in 1957. By all accounts it was a happy marriage. Like many who considered Eliot one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, she had admired his poetry since she was a teenager; she had sought out the job at Faber & Faber specifically because he was there. Eliot, who guarded his privacy fiercely, died in 1965, having stated his wish to keep biographers from stirring the ashes of his life. His wife became the stewardess of his estate, doling out permissions to quote from his work with extreme parsimony and routinely turning away requests from scholars and the dreaded biographers. She herself, however, edited a much-admired edition of "The Waste Land," consisting of a facsimile and transcript of its original drafts and edited annotations by Ezra Pound. And she approved a theatrical adaptation of her husband's book of poems for children, "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," which became the musical "Cats," bringing her and the estate great wealth, from which she created a charitable trust.
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