Arguably one of the two greatest twentieth century English writers on food (the other being Elizabeth David), Jane Grigson ( 1928 – 1990) was the subject of this intriguing etching by the artist Jack Daniel, who knew her in the early fifties when she was living in west London as a young picture researcher working for the publisher George Rainbird.
The etching, which is signed by Daniel and dated retrospectively ‘1955’ was given to me by the artist when I met him about 20 years ago at his home. I was researching the life of Jane’s husband, the poet and critic Geoffrey Grigson, and had somehow discovered Daniel’s address. I found him very friendly and forthcoming about Jane and Geoffrey, whom she had met while he was editing the encyclopaedia People, Places, Things and Ideas for George Rainbird. He was particularly informative about their early relationship (they met when Geoffrey was already married) and just before I left, he sought out one of his portfolios and fished out this etching. It must have meant much to him, considering he had kept it for over forty years.
I seem to recall that Daniel shared part of the house with Jane, who is depicted working at a table in her flat, next to a window through which can be seen the rooftops and chimney pots of neighbouring houses. She seems to be writing something—probably nothing to do with gastronomy, for she had yet to specialise in this field. Indeed, it was a chance meeting with an archaeologist living in one of the cave houses at Troo, on the Loir near Vendome, that propelled her into this new career. She took over his research and the book which resulted from it was published in 1966 as the famous Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery. With this her future was assured. [R.M.Healey]