Betty Clark’s long dead. She wanted to be a published writer and with my support and inspiration, she succeeded: her poems were published in papers and magazines and one included in Scottish Poetry 1; a book of her plays was postumously published and Alasdair Gray broadcast a eulogy of her. Ian Hamilton Finlay had been her lover. Iain Crichton Smith wrote to her. She was much appreciated. Such appreciation wasn’t buoyancy enough, however. She sank. This was understandable. She was a good writer but hadn’t written anything big. She couldn’t. She could only write something big if made up of small albeit exquisite pieces. My obligation to give her what she’d given her life for felt unfinished on her death.
I had, though, had her correspond with me. Sometimes letters passed between us twice a week over eight years, making up a correspondence of considerable magnitude, a magnum opus for her if it was being artistioally directed overall in life that when condensed to novel length it should have coherence and shape. I was, as she lived, having her supply the material towards the end she devoutly wished for. What I supplied was that longer breath during her life to provide a memorial to her afterwards, a mosaic of her tesserae with a few of mine and some grouting, a structure for her words that would finally give what she’d wanted. She would not at all mind that I am, of necessity, memorialised with her. We were after all unconscious collaborators in the fulfilment of her wish. She could therefore trust me with her letters to do as I wished with. Betty? It’s almost done.