‘Cazalet’ author recalled memories spent in Sussex

Elizabeth Jane Howard
Elizabeth Jane Howard

Elizabeth Jane Howard, 90, whose literary best-sellers ‘The Cazalet Chronicles’ charting a wealthy family living in the shadow of war enchanted readers a generation ahead of “Downton Abbey,” died last Thursday in Suffolk. No cause was given.

Elizabeth spent her childhood holidays at Home Place in Staplecross, where her grandfather - called the Brig, because he’d not been in the army - lived and, from 1939, at the Beacon, three miles down the road.

Elizabeth wrote in her autobiography that the Brig cut a terrifying figure to the young girl, in a house filled with wood, stuffed animals and grandfather clocks he would growl and pace around wearing a monocle, which she imagined pulled his eye out when removed. In fact he was widely regarded as very affable and created an instant rapport with the people he met.

In a life lived to the full, Howard wrote 15 novels, left three marriages, modeled, acted, and worked as a broadcaster among other things. Many of her books were critical successes, but she was best known for “The Cazalet Chronicles,” which followed the tangled lives and loves of several generations of an aristocratic household in the run-up to World War II and beyond.

Born March 26, 1923, in London, Howard had little in the way of formal education, but she read voraciously. At 19 she married Peter Scott, the son of Capt. Scott, the famous polar explorer. She married three times — to Scott, and to writers Jim Douglas-Henry and Kingsley Amis.

Howard’s legacy lives on through her stepson, author Martin Amis, who credits her with steering him into literature.