This article, written by Olive Cook, first appeared in Matrix 18, published by The Whittington Press in Winter 1998. It is reproduced here with permission.
Olive Cook was married to Edwin Smith and a published author, academic and artist in her own right. She did not suffer those whom she considered to be ‘artistic fools’ gladly and some of the tone of that dislike for the pretentious comes across in this article. She was however a staunch believer in the power of photography to capture ‘the genius of place’ and she devoted much of her life after Edwin’s early death to promoting his work as a photographer.
In Matrix 23, where the article by Lucy Archer about Olive Cook appears, John Randle wrote a short note about his long association with her as a contributor to the journal.
John and Rosemary Randle are owner/founders of The Whittington Press, publisher of The Matrix (‘by far the finest periodical of the book arts of the twentieth century, surpassing even the seven-volume Fleuron issued in the 1920s’), which is now in its thirtieth year.
Edwin Smith’s wife and immensely important in his life and work.
It is apt, and perhaps inevitable, that Olive Cook’s first book was Cambridgeshire: Aspects of a County, for she was born, brought up and educated in Cambridge. In Cambridgeshire she wrote, ‘It is not easy to give an impression of a place to which one has never been a stranger’; and ‘Every native of the town and all the men and women who have spent three years of their lives among those images of splendour and repose must forever cherish memories of Cambridge.‘ Olive’s parents and grandparents were Cambridge people too.=
This article, written by Lucy Archer and originally published in Matrix 23, is an evocative and moving tribute to Olive Cook. I recognise so much of my own experience in working with – and being good friends with – Olive for many of the years. It is testament to Olive’s character that Lucy experienced the same convivial hospitality and enthusiasm that I remembered from my time spent with Olive.