Janet Maxtone Graham Rance
Janet Maxtone Graham Rance was born in 1928. Her mother was the poet and essayist, Jan Struther, who created the Miniver family for wartime London's "The Times". In 1940, Jan Struther arrived in the United States of America to undertake a gruelling series of lecture tours and to help MGM make the film, "Mrs Miniver". Her father, Anthony (Tony) Maxtone Graham, had rejoined his regiment from the reserve. He was later taken prisoner of war in North Africa in 1942.
Janet and her younger brother accompanied their mother to America. Both Roosevelt and Churchill highly valued her mother's contribution towards America's understanding of - and sympathy with - the British stand against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy after the fall of the Low Countries and France.
After some curious educational experiences, Janet landed up at George School, Pennsylvania and revelled in it. She revered all her life Mr Mohr and her headmaster "the Pope" and the Quaker ethos. Janet loved George School and thrived there, qualifying for Smith in 1945, before she returned to England and her re-united family. Unfortunately, her father refused to finance her for Smith but grudgingly paid for an excellent secretarial course.
She began contributing a column to "Good Housekeeping". In the late 1940s Janet enjoyed "Wanderjahre" in Europe, including service as "mousse" (cabin boy) on a month long barge trip from Paris to Marseille. The captain was the notorious anarchist-artist Bilbo, descended from a hanged pirate on the paternal side and Spinoza on the other. This refreshed her after two discouraging office experiences in Paris. She had fled high-paying UNESCO after a soul-destroying two days typing dismissal notices, and left the stuffy and less profitable British Embassy after refusing to alter minutes of a meeting for an official who wished he had said something more apposite. For much of this period Janet was still submitting her column to "Good Housekeeping".
In 1951 Janet married Patrick Rance, a close friend of her elder brother, Jamie. Patrick Rance was at that time a public opinion analyst having retired from the army. Their happy marriage produced seven children, fed by the shop they took over in 1954, set in a small village in the English countryside. In this enterprise, Janet played her part until she resumed writing.
Initially she wrote for the American market that she knew so well. In 1968 "Holiday" commissioned a series of articles on Eastern Europe which saw Janet arriving in Slovakia shortly after the Russians. Later, she experienced a Kangaroo Court in Albania. Among other projects, she tickled Ray Cave at "Sports Illustrated" into accepting as sports: hitchhiking - her mastery of which had greatly stretched her purse and range during her Wanderjahren - and ballooning, which she and her husband both experienced, producing " ... spells of blissful beauty interrupted by moments of stark terror". When Janet was published by the American "Reader's Digest", the London Digest became interested. For thirty years Janet was one of their mainstays on art, architecture and travel and was sometimes 'allowed' to work for the European Digest, then based in Paris.
In her last years she wrote about the Gothic Revival pioneer, Pugin (1994) and the great art and craft revivalist, William Morris (1995) when each was celebrated in a fine commemorative exhibition in London's Victoria and Albert Museum. In 1996 the museum hoped she would do the same for the Queen's Raphael Cartoons, newly restored, re-hung and re-lit. She did considerable research and paid two private visits to them in a wheelchair but died in December of 1996 before she could finish the article.
Janet loved America, the home of so many of her family and friends. Most of her surviving cousins are American citizens. Her mother's second husband was Dolf Placzek, Professor Emeritus, sometime Avery Architectural Librarian at Columbia. The doyen of American architectural historians, he was the initiating editor of the great publishing project, "The Buildings of the United States". Janet found him a perpetual source of love, learning and stimulation in her writing; and he was an impeccable authority to consult during her deep research into art and architectural subjects.
Janet inherited her mother's love of good English and wrote beautifully herself both in prose and in her private poetry. She understood editing and enjoyed happy relations with those who edited her work. She was independent, determined, forever learning something new or relearning something old. In her last years she took piano lessons again so that she could perform, not just listen to, her beloved Bach; and her husband's 1996 birthday present to her was a flute to help her in her final student venture - at a local all-age woodwind class.
Janet encouraged and delighted on the artistic, the musical and the professional fulfilment of her family and friends. Grandchildren's visits, full of picture making and affection, gave her particular joy. She was a wonderful calmer of other peoples' ill-judged passions and vendettas and gave motherly support to a number of younger friends.
As a professional herself, she commanded the respect of her professional colleagues and the trust of her readers. She had an irrepressible zest for life; above all she was full of love and, in return, was deeply loved by friends and family alike.
Text by Patrick Rance. © Rance family 1997
The information below is placed here by courtesy of Janet's brother, Robert Maxtone Graham - who writes (August 2003)
"I came across the attached photograph of Janet and Pat's wedding group, at Cultoquhey. The list of those attending (260) runs to five pages in my father's handwriting, of which I attach only the first page as it identified the ten people in the photograph."
Details below ...