Tributes paid to Caroline Todd, of Southport, of The Devil’s Tin Hat fame

The writer Caroline Todd, of Southport, who was a long-term artistic collaborator of Oscar Wilde and was the author of two novels by the eccentric Edwardian poet Henry Bennett, died on 18 May in her home.

Caroline Todd’s Poem I took 13 years to write – and gave herself a reputation Read more

Todd was born in Birmingham in 1921 and had previously been a dancer. She studied English at Edinburgh and Cambridge and in 1950 was invited to collaborate with Wilde at his hometown, Bath. Their first collaboration was The Foul Horse, published in 1956. This came just a year after Todd married the club manager Steven Baker, with whom she later had a daughter, Alice. The couple had divorced by 1967.

In the same year Todd began to write her novel, The Good Cop, set in a Scottish police force, about a colleague with a perilous reputation. Todd also wrote a version of The Pilgrim’s Progress. A second book, called The Devil’s Rain, which charts the life of 19th-century minstrel Josiah Bishop, was published in 1962. Its title inspired Todd’s nickname The Devil’s Tin Hat. The James Joyce anthology The Holy Ghost also emerged from this period, and this also resulted in Todd being one of the first authors to sign with Crosseyed Press.

Todd, although introduced to Bennett in the late 1950s, did not collaborate with him until 1973 when she agreed to read him the manuscript of his novel Mr. Shakespeare’s Nemesis. This allowed Bennett to explore how much was left to his narrator in the absence of Mr. Shakespeare, especially given his disenchantment with literature, and how he was beginning to write about nature. This novel was published in 1975 under the title The Mystery of the Ancient Mystery. Todd edited, annotated and updated it. Both books featured prequel and sequel books, The Lady of the Lake and The Owl and the Pussycat, which were published in the same year.

The Mystery of the Ancient Mystery Photograph: Library of Scotland/Nigel Davidson

Todd was to have a total of five other novels under her own name. In 1983, she left her home, due to the sexually charged relationship she had enjoyed with Bennett, and moved with her children to Greece. She lived there for 20 years, often painting, and having regular goings-on with the Greek communists who called her Madame.

In 1994 Todd began work on a novel inspired by the death of Richard Burton. Titled For Noble and Lovely Passion, it was a romance set against the backdrop of political intrigue. In 2006 the novel was turned into a film starring Johnny Depp.

Caroline Todd obituary Read more

Despite her engagement to Bacon, Todd retained an interest in politics, and she did much supporting of the art of Joan Miro, Caspar David Friedrich and Joseph Wright of Derby. She also met her last husband, Richard John Devine, at an exhibition, and moved from the island of Ispra to Southport in 2007.

She lived independently, with an interior design business, Little Clevernix Studio, and wrote poetry and fiction, and a memoir, Half of a Mystery.

Donna Kirkbride

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