Miss Lloyd was my English Literature mistress. For five years she taught us Chaucer, Shakespeare, Thackeray, Eliot (both George and T. S.), the Brontes, Jane Austen and the War Poets. She was a tall, beaky woman, with fiery black eyes, her hair looped up and always escaping from its pins. She wore tweed suits, and over the top a tattered academic gown which fluttered from her shoulders like black wings. She would sweep into the room and quell us with a single look, before launching into a lesson guaranteed to absorb and enthral us – well most of us, anyway. If one of us produced a howler, which happened quite frequently, she would cry out in distress: “Child of the wilderness, prairie flower!! How can you??” I still remember her horror when we had been told to read one of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Sophie Comyns-Carr, always known to Miss Lloyd as “Sophie Tucker”, (where are you now, Sophie, I wonder?), chose to read The Miller’s Tale. Anyone who knows Chaucer knows that The Miller’s Tale is not suitable for young ladies, but we didn’t then and were fascinated when Sophie started to describe the action, to be rapidly cut short by Miss Lloyd.
She was not the first person to instil in me my love of poetry and English literature – that was my father. But she certainly encouraged and nurtured it and presided over those all-important years of reading and learning by heart. Dear Miss Lloyd! She died only a few years ago, and I remember her with great affection. She was an inspiration.