Is anyone else a fan of this lovely, talented, recently deceased Lady?
Lady Caroline Maureen Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood
– February 14
) was a writer and artist's muse, and the eldest child of Basil Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 4th Marquess of Dufferin and Ava
and the brewery heiress Maureen Guinness.
A well-known figure in the literary world through her journalism and her novels, Caroline Blackwood was equally well-known for her high-profile marriages, first to the artist Lucian Freud
, then to the composer Israel Citkowitz and finally to the poet Robert Lowell
, who described her as "a mermaid who dines upon the bones of her winded lovers". Her novels are known for their wit and intelligence, and one in particular is scathingly autobiographical in describing her unhappy childhood.
She was born at 4 Hans Crescent in Knightsbridge
, her parents' London
house, and was, she admitted, "scantily educated" at Rockport School
in County Down
, at Brilliantmont in Lausanne
, and at Downham
. After a finishing school in Oxford
she was presented as a debutante
in 1949 at a ball held at Londonderry House. Plump, ungainly and lacking in confidence as a teenager, she soon blossomed into a captivating blonde beauty with startlingly large blue eyes.
Blackwood’s first job was with Hulton Press
as a secretary, but she was soon given small reporting jobs by Claud Cockburn
. Ann Fleming, the wife of "James Bond
" author Ian Fleming
, introduced Caroline to Lucian Freud
, and the two eloped to Paris
in 1952. In Paris she met Picasso
(and reportedly refused to wash for three days after he drew on her hands and nails), and after their marriage on December 9, 1953 she became a striking figure in London's bohemian circles; the Gargoyle Club and Colony Room replaced Belgravia
drawing rooms as her haunts. She sat for several of Freud's finest portraits, including Girl In Bed
, which testifies to her alluring beauty. She was impressed by the ruthless vision of Freud and Francis Bacon
and her later fiction was a literary version of their view of humanity.
In the early 1960s Caroline Blackwood began contributing to Encounter
, the London Magazine
, and other periodicals on subjects such as beatniks
, Ulster sectarianism, women's lib theatre and New York free schools. Although these articles were elegant, minutely observed and sometimes wickedly funny, they had, according to Christopher Isherwood
, a persistent flaw: "She is only capable of thinking negatively. Confronted by a phenomenon, she asks herself: what is wrong with it?" During the mid-1960s she had an affair with Bob Silvers, the founder and co-editor of the New York Review of Books
and although her marriage to Israel Citkowitz was over, he continued to live near her and served as a nanny-duenna until his death.
Her third husband Robert Lowell was a crucial influence on her talents as a novelist. He encouraged her to write her first book, For All That I Found There
(1973), which was named after an Ulster Protestant marching song and formed a coruscating memoir of her daughter’s treatment in a burns unit. Blackwood’s first novel The Stepdaughter
(1976) appeared three years later to much acclaim, and is a concise and gripping monologue by a rich, self-pitying woman deserted by her husband in a plush New York apartment and tormented by her fat stepdaughter. It won the David Higham Prize for best first novel. Great Granny Webster
followed in 1977 and was partly derived on her own miserable childhood, and depicted an austere and loveless old woman’s destructive impact on her daughter and granddaughter. It was short-listed for the Booker Prize
In 1980 came The Last of the Duchess
, a study of the relations between the Duchess of Windsor
and her cunning lawyer, Maître Suzanne Blum; it could not be published until after Blum’s death in 1995. Her third novel The Fate of Mary Rose
(1981) describes the effect on a Kent village of the rape and torture of a ten year-old girl named Maureen and is narrated by a selfish historian whose obsessions destroy his domestic life. After this came a collection of five short stories, Good Night Sweet Ladies
(1983) followed by her final novel, Corrigan
(1984), which was the least successful and depicts the effects on a depressed widow of a charming, energetic but sinister cripple who erupts into her life.
Blackwood’s later books were based on interviews and vignettes, including On The Perimeter
(1984) which focused her attentions on the women’s peace encampment at the Greenham Common
air base in Berkshire
, and In The Pink
(1987) which was a reflective, ghoulish book looking at the hunting and the hunt saboteur fraternities and exposed the many obsessive personalities of both fox-hunters and animal rights activists.
 Personal Life and Family
Her marriage to Lucian Freud disintegrated soon after they tied the knot and in 1957 Blackwood moved to New York
where she studied acting at the Stella Adler School. She also went to Hollywood
and appeared in several films. Her marriage to Freud was finally dissolved in Mexico
in 1958. Meeting her in that year, Isherwood noted that "Caroline was round eyed as usual, either dumb or scared". On August 15
she married the pianist Israel Citkowitz (1909-1974), a man who would have been the same age as her father. They had three daughters, although a deathbed admission revealed that the screenwriter Ivan Moffat
was the father of her youngest daughter, Ivana.
Blackwood returned to live in London in 1970 and that April began a relationship with the manic-depressive
poet Robert Lowell. Lowell was at the time a visiting professor at All Souls College
. Their son, Sheridan, was born on September 28
, and after obtaining divorces from their respective spouses, Blackwood and Lowell were married on October 21
. They lived in London and Milgate in Kent
. The sequence of poems in Lowell's The Dolphin
(1973) provides a disrupted narrative of his involvement with Blackwood and the birth of their son. She was distressed and confused in her reactions to Lowell's manic episodes, and felt useless during his attacks and afraid of their effect on her children. Her anxieties, alcohol-related illnesses, and late-night tirades exacerbated his condition. Lowell died clutching one of Freud’s portraits of Blackwood in the back seat of a New York cab, on his way back to his second wife, Elizabeth Hardwick
. This heartache was followed a year later by the death of her daughter Natalya from a drug overdose at the age of 18.