|Elizabeth Taylor was educated at The Abbey School in Reading and then worked as a governess, tutor, and librarian. She married John William Kendall Taylor, owner of a confectionery company, in 1936. They lived in Penn, Buckinghamshire, for almost all their married life. She was briefly a member of the Communist Party, then a lifelong Labour Party supporter. |
Taylor's first novel, At Mrs. Lippincote's, was published in 1945 and was followed by eleven more. Her short stories were published in magazines and collected in four volumes. She also wrote a children's book. The British critic Philip Hensher called The Soul of Kindness a novel "so expert that it seems effortless. As it progresses, it seems as if the cast are so fully rounded that all the novelist had to do was place them, successively, in one setting after another and observe how they reacted to each other.... The plot... never feels as if it were organised in advance; it feels as if it arises from her characters' mutual responses."
Taylor's work is mainly concerned with the nuances of everyday life and situations, which she writes about with dexterity. Her shrewd but affectionate portrayals of middle class and upper middle class English life won her an audience of discriminating readers, as well as loyal friends in the world of letters. She was a friend of the novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett and of the novelist and critic Robert Liddell. Her long correspondence with the latter forms the subject of one of her short stories, "The Letter Writers" (published in The Blush, 1951), but the letters were unfortunately destroyed, in line with her general policy of keeping her private life private. A horror of publicity is the subject of another celebrated short story, "Sisters", written in 1969.
Anne Tyler once compared Taylor to Jane Austen, Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Bowen -- "soul sisters all," in Tyler's words.