Author's engraved pen on show at Somerset House

19th March 2013 - Fine Cut

The Royal Society of Literature made use of TS Eliot's fountain pen yesterday (18 March) for the first time since the playwright and poet's death, reports.

An evening of poetry hosted by the Royal Society at Somerset House was of interest not only for the featured readings by Alice Oswald and Robin Robertson, but also for the fact that the society was welcoming another member.

Novelist James Wood was inducted into the society as a fellow and was given the honour of signing the roll using TS Eliot's pen, which had been bequeathed by his widow, Valerie. This was the first time the pen had been used since Eliot's death in 1965.

The gold band on the fountain pen had been engraved with the small, unassuming initials: 'TSE' - today that result might have been achieved using laser engraving techniques.

The society had previously inducted new fellows with a signature produced by a far older instrument: a quill owned by Charles Dickens. However, after nearly fifty years of use, the quill was starting to exhibit signs of wear and tear, reports, thus retired. The society has retained a pen owned by Lord Byron, said still to be in 'excellent condition'.

Wood - who was incidentally born in the same year that Eliot died - now joins the ranks of previous fellows Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Gardy and WB Yeats.

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