Obituary: Susan Lowndes Marques
Thursday 25 February 1993
SUSAN Lowndes Marques was a leading figure in the British community in Lisbon, the author of several books on Portugal, and the guardian of the memory of her mother, the diarist and novelist Marie Belloc Lowndes, and her grandmother Bessie Parkes Belloc, the champion of women's suffrage.
My mother was brought up in inter-war literary London and always surrounded by books and writers. Her father, Frederick Lowndes, worked for the Times, for some years editing the obituaries, while her mother, the elder sister of the poet, historian and polemicist Hilaire Belloc, wrote over 50 books, mostly crime novels and biographies. Marie's novel The Lodger, based on the Jack the Ripper case, sold over one million copies before the First World War and was made into a film by Hitchcock in 1926.
Susan Marques edited, together with her elder sister, Elizabeth, Countess of Iddesleigh, The Diaries and Letters of Marie Belloc Lowndes (1971), which well describe the atmosphere, fun and concerns of the interwar years. The chapter on the Abdication has often been quoted in subsequent books on the subject.
Susan Lowndes was educated at St Mary's Convent, Ascot, where she was very happy. She then did voluntary work, with her sister running a club for working girls in Fulham. At one time she had an antique shop in Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge, specialising in Queen Anne furniture. She never lost her love and knowledge of art and architecture and her 'eye' for excellence (or not) was queried at one's peril.
In 1938 she married at Westminster Cathedral Luiz Marques, a Portuguese journalist who himself had been educated in England, and went to live in Lisbon. He was the editor (and eventually the owner) of the Anglo-Portuguese News and the Lisbon correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Times and the New York Times. Books and writers were at the centre of their lives, and as a boy I recall visits from Evelyn Waugh, Cyril Connolly, Aldous Huxley and Graham Greene.
During the war years Lisbon was a fascinating place and both my parents worked hard at the paper and also in the Press section of the British Embassy. For the darkest years of the war the APN was the only English-language paper on the Continent and once had the honour of being insulted by Goebbels. Luiz and Susan were on the special embassy list for immediate evacuation should Portugal have been invaded and a large sum of cash was always kept at home (wrapped in fire-proof material) just in case.
The war years in Lisbon also saw floods of refugees coming from war-torn Europe and Susan Marques' flat was a haven for many she and her husband succoured.
After the war, together with Ann Bridge (Lady O'Malley, wife of the then British ambassador in Lisbon) she wrote a book, The Selective Traveller in Portugal (1949), which became a classic in travel writing on Portugal and which is still quoted by practically all subsequent books on the country. Susan Marques had forthright views on art and was especially angry with less than sensitive restoration work. She was particularly incensed with that school of restoration which considers that one must restore a monument to its original aspect (very often mere supposition) destroying all subsequent centuries' additions, however valuable and good they might be.
She was appointed OBE in 1975 for services to the British community in Lisbon. After Luiz's death in 1976 she edited the Anglo-Portuguese News until 1980. She also wrote a Traveller's Guide to Portugal, Good Food from Spain and Portugal and the Thornton Cox guide to Portugal; she annually revised Fodor's Guide to Portugal. In 1991 she wrote an introduction for an edition of Rose Macaulay's They Came to Portugal Too. At the time of her death she was the Lisbon correspondent of the Catholic Herald and the US news agency NCWC and was involved in producing a book on English art in Portugal which it is hoped will be published soon.
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