Sunday, 1 January 2012

Locked Up: ‘Patients’ and their Gaolers. 9. Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough. Hugo Vickers conducts Inner Circle Seminar 182 (14 October 2012)

Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough

Locked Up: ‘Patients’ and their Gaolers

9. Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough
(1881 –1977)

Hugo Vickers
Inner Circle Seminar No. 182
introduced by
Anthony Stadlen
Sunday 14 October 2012
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jean-Paul Sartre insisted that there is no ‘psychology’ but that ‘one can improve the biography of a person’. Hugo Vickers exemplifies this, as we saw in his seminar on the incarceration of Princess Alice (the Duke of Edinburgh’s mother, the Queen’s mother-in-law). His fascination (when 16) with Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough (7 February 1881 – 13 October 1977), whose beauty and intelligence had dazzled Rodin and Proust among others, led him to trace her and visit her for hours on end in St Andrew’s Hospital, formerly Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, where she, like John Clare before her and Lucia Joyce still, was imprisoned.

‘She invited me to have a cup of tea and we began the slow process of making friends. She was all but stone deaf, but with good eyesight. Every question I asked her was written on a piece of paper in large black capital letters. These she read and when it suited her, she answered. I visited her 65 times over a period of over two years. I loved going to talk to her and she changed the course of my life.’

So began his lifelong biographical quest. Hugo Vickers will help us make socially intelligible how Gladys ended her days as a psychiatric prisoner. He will draw parallels with the incarceration in her own home of the similarly American-born Duchess of Windsor, the subject of his latest, masterly biography, Behind Closed Doors.

We are particularly fortunate that Hugo Vickers has invited us to hold the seminar in his London home. He will be in a position to show us many documents, albums and other mementoes from his distinguished career as a biographer. He will discuss, in counterpoint to the story of Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough, the nature of biography and the work of a biographer, including the story of his own development as a biographer, and the dialectic between his quest to make sense of the relationships in his own family of origin and his similar quest with the families of his subjects. This has obvious interest for psychotherapists and family therapists, among others. This will be an intimate seminar, and numbers are limited.   

Venue: 62 Lexham Gardens, London W8 5JA  

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £116, others £145, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, dried fruit and mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled

Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857 E-mail:  

For further information on seminars, visit:

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and colleges.

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