Does a mentor necessarily have to be a teacher? Of course not. A mentor is someone who offers guidance, support and inspiration, someone we might turn to for advice. Last night, I learnt that someone I regarded as a mentor, and also a friend, had died peacefully at home, surrounded by her family.

I first met Linda Kelly, and her husband Laurence (for whom I worked as a PA for 15 years until I moved out of London) in 2003. At that time, I was rather in awe of her – a published and highly-regarded author, she was doing something I aspired to. During the time I worked for Laurence, Linda completed three books – not slim volumes but carefully-researched tomes whose text sparkled with knowledge, intelligence and good humour.

My office was on the top floor of Laurence and Linda’s house in Notting Hill and her study was across the landing from where I worked. I learnt a lot about being a writer from observing Linda. She clearly had a routine and was at her desk every morning. In addition, it was quite evident that writing was an incredibly significant part of her life (along with her family and friends), and also a place to escape to. She felt that writing also provided an important contrast to family life and running a house, but I don’t think she ever regarded it as something exceptional or special – it was just something that she “did”.

When I started writing this blog and reviewing concerts, she would regularly read my articles and reviews, offering positive commentary on my writing. On my weekly visits to the house, she would always find time to come and chat to me, asking after my family, my son’s progress as a fledgling chef, and my own musical and writerly endeavours. Her view was that it was important to have an outlet, a place to go to, to escape – not necessarily to escape from the exigencies of everyday life, but rather a place where one could exercise and pursue one’s creativity. (In fact, she had experienced a number of complicated family health issues before and during the time I worked for her and Laurence, and I wonder if writing was also a form of therapy for her.) She was very generous and supportive of my writing, and also my musical activities and accomplishments, and to have that endorsement from someone whom I respected as a celebrated professional writer and also a friend was incredibly important to me. In addition, when my husband had to go into hospital in April 2017 for complex cardiac surgery, she simply hugged me and said nothing else – she knew that platitudes like “he’s in good hands” or “he’s in the right place” were not that helpful. Her sensitivity combined with a pragmatism and philosophical attitude to life (particularly in her last year when she was terminally ill) was something to admire, and emulate.

As we resonate with a mentor, we make them our role model, tune into their special qualities, and draw these into ourselves so that we can utilise and be inspired or motivated by them. Linda’s support and kindness will continue to inspire and resonate with me as I remember her with great fondness and gratitude.

Linda Kelly – writer and biographer

‘A sparkling picture of Whig society in the years running up to the Reform Bill – Linda Kelly captures all the fun as well as the political excitement of the best known salon of the age.’ Lady Antonia Fraser

ImageSituated in the heart of London’s Holland Park are the remains of Holland House – the site of what was once England’s most celebrated political salon. In the first thirty years of the nineteenth century – when the Whig party was almost constantly out of office – the home of the third Lord Holland became the unofficial centre of the Opposition. Devoted to the ideals of the prominent Whig statesman Charles James Fox and enriched by the progressive views of a new generation of writers, critics and politicians, the influence of Holland House permeated the political climate. At a time when revolutions threatened to engulf Europe, the Whig tradition of aristocratic liberalism proved to be one of the chief factors in the peaceful achievement of parliamentary reform. Presided over by the beautiful and clever Lady Holland and combining discussion of politics and the arts, the salon attracted the greatest names of the age – Byron, Talleyrand and Madame de Staël were all frequent visitors. In this book, Linda Kelly brings to life the colorful world of Holland House.

Linda Kelly is a writer and biographer specialising in late 18th and early 19th century subjects. She has written for numerous papers including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Times Literary Supplement, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Wordsworth Trust.

£25.00, hardback

Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd

ISBN: 9781780764498
Publication Date: 28 Feb 2013
Number of Pages: 288

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