Jacquetta was a unique woman – poet, archaeologist, film-maker, and author, famous on both sides of the Atlantic – but she is best remembered today as the third wife of JB Priestley, with whom she founded the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
In "Ice Without, Fire Within", Christine Finn uses her own archaeological training to investigate Jacquetta’s personal past, to dig not just into Hawkes’ work, but the woman herself. Jacquetta's life is the unjustly forgotten missing link between such key writers as Robert Graves and Vita Sackville-West, and this is the long overdue first biography of a fascinating woman.
But the book is also a bridge between archaeologies - that driven by science, and the other by the arts. Tracing her life and work from its origins in Cambridge to her celebrity status in London in postwar Britain, Finn draws on more than 20 years of access to Jacquetta's papers, which she rescued after her death in 1996, and journeys in her footsteps from Orkney and Venice to New York and New Mexico.
How did this woman at the centre of Britain's postwar cultural scene become out of print and forgotten, even before her death? It is time to bring to light the complex personality which prompted Jack Priestley to remark: "What a woman, ice without and fire within!" Her nature writing and passion for the past - and the future - appreciated by a new generation of archaeologists, poets and artists.
This passionate literary excavation echoes Jacquetta Hawkes's own championing of public archaeology and public art – please pledge to help us bring Jacquetta Hawkes’ story back to the world.
How I began excavating Jacquetta
An archaeologist excavating an archaeologist…Those were my thoughts as I began to go through the books in Jacquetta Hawkes’s study shortly after her death. She was still a formidable presence, her house strewn with objects and ephemera which narrated a life of eighty-five years. Not just an archaeologist's life, but that of a poet, novelist, playwright, photographer, journalist, not least a celebrity, too; all aspects of this remarkable woman in time lay in fragments around me, requiring nothing less than rescue archaeology of a literary kind. Invited there to survey, I began to dig as well.
Opening my notebook to record the auction-bound books, I tried to interpret the order. The volumes became sections of a trench, their spines exposed to the daylight. How best to interpret a book jammed into a too-small space? (Placed with force because it kept falling out? With love because it was much used and needed to be near?) Was there anything to be read in the couplings of subjects, the bracketing of archaeology with other arts and sciences? Was there a narrative concealed in the non-alphabetical order? And the dedications to Jacquetta from Christopher, or from Jack - the names of her two husbands Christopher Hawkes and JB Priestley - were self-evident, whose were the other names written with love? What was the tale behind a book which was never returned to a Baghdad library? And of Christopher and Jack's own books on her shelves, were these choices made in a move from former, larger libraries in previous homes, or misplaced escapees from other sortings, or books at last returned by borrowers from years back?
But there was evidence more tantalising than words. In Jacquetta's bedroom, I found some of her finely-tailored clothes still hanging in the wardrobe. And I took out her in her familiar long, black, cape to sense its owner's height, and found a single silver hair still clinging there. On her large, formal dressing table, costume jewellery still lay in bowls, anticipating the mirror's reflection.
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