Marie Seton, recipient: Ronald Moody

Incomplete letter from Marie Seton to Ronald Moody, addressed from New Delhi

28–29 May 1964

Created by
Marie Seton 1910–1985
Ronald Moody 1900–1984
Incomplete letter from Marie Seton to Ronald Moody, addressed from New Delhi
28–29 May 1964
Document - correspondence
Tate Archive
Presented to Tate Archive by Cynthia Moody, the sculptor's niece, 1995.
TGA 956/1/2/58/60


This letter was written over the course of two days. The beginning is missing and the letter starts on page 3. It also jumps from page 4 to page 7 halfway through.

28 May 1964
In this letter Marie Seton gives an account of Nehru's body being carried down and tells Moody of her disgust at press photographers, particularly a woman trying to take candid shots of Indira's grief. She tells Moody of the widespread shock at Nehru's death apart from Indira, Mr Metha and Marie who were expecting it. Seton refers to the lack of preparation for the death and gives an account of clearing away the decorations in the house (including Moody's 'Three Heads') for the mourning period. Seton goes on to write about her visits to leading congressmen to plead with them for unity in the light of Nehru's death. She gives a description of an encounter with Menon outside Nehru's bedroom in the course of which he talked of his wrongful belief that Indira had helped to undermine and destroy him in 1962. Seton then reminiscences about past encounters with Menon, jealousies and estrangements, and her memories of Nehru and regard for him. She tells Moody of his efforts as a peacemaker and his attempts in his final days to reach an agreement with Abdullah. She mentions that she had phoned at the exact moment he died and went round there immediately and describes how Nehru looked after death.

At this point the letter jumps from page 4 to page 7.

The letter picks up again with a reference to the purchase of ice to delay decomposition of Nehru's body. Seton mentions her godmother's connection with the Nehru family through Motilal and her [Seton's] adoption by the Nehru family. She tells Moody about her family background, including having been named after her ancestor, the Marie Seton who accompanied Mary Queen of Scots and relays her thoughts on her family's involvement in the Empire. She goes on to discuss her thoughts and feelings about the extinction of her family line, love, and Fromm's 'The Art of Loving' and her thoughts on the sisterhood of women with particular reference to a woman who went to gaol because she believed 'SA' was falsely accused.

Later 6.15 pm: having just returned from burning ghat
Seton gives an account of the experience of the wake and the ceremonies around it. She mentions that Menon was present and tells Moody of the support that she gave him [Menon]. She describes the cortege and crowds surrounding it, the pyre, and watching Nehru's grandson, Sanjay, having to perform the last right of setting fire to his grandfather at the age of only seventeen. She talks of Menon watching the pyre which leads on to her thoughts about her relationship with Menon and her sense that Nehru's death is a crossroads for him.

Later: Seton discusses her reasons for leaving Menon and her sense that Menon has to survive without her support. She also shares her thoughts on Nehru and the basis of her relationship with him.

29 May 1964 (contd)
Seton shares with Moody her memories of the cortege and the shock of Nehru's death which was unexpected to nearly everyone. She tells him of relief that she wept at his bedside which she believes has helped to bear the strain of Nehru's death. She relays rumours that several people had died of shock after hearing the news and how badly affected the people who were closest to Nehru have been (including staff).

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