So whose cook did Elgar get pregnant?

So whose cook did Elgar get pregnant?


norman lebrecht

January 09, 2015

Ismene Brown relates a fascinating memoir on the Spectator site of a wild gooseberry chase she went on after the late Michael Kennedy dropped hints in her direction that the great composer had a love child with another man’s cook. Ah, but there were two cooks with the same name.

It’s a fabulous, tangled tale of journalistic derring-do and a wonderful read for the weekend. Click here.

What it called to mind was the tip-off I received, some 30 years ago, from a godson of Elgar’s, that led me to track down the missing person in the Enigma Variations to the conservatoire in Leipzig, and later to New Zealand. It made the front page of the Sunday Times.

Name of Helen Weaver. Here she is.

helen weaver elgar1

picture (c) LebrechtMusic&Arts


  • Robert Padgett says:

    The friend of Variation XIII identified only by three asterisks has remained a secret for over a century, yet that secret friend’s initials are openly concealed by the Roman numerals. X is the number 10, and the tenth letter in the alphabet is J. III is the number 3, and the third letter is C. The identity of Elgar’s hidden friend is not a lady, but a lord – the Lord whose initials are J.C. To learn more, visit

  • Matthew B. Tepper says:

    Well, that was one Enigma solved!

  • Ismene Brown says:

    Not a wild goose chase, Norman! Michael reckoned Andrew has cracked it, using the work I’d done on the red herring Mrs Nelson. Clark’s letter was the crucial documentary starting point. Elgar’s mistress ergo was Lilian Nelson, their daughter was the suicide Mignon. Sad stories with both Mrs Nelsons. We (and I speak for Michael too, I know) await further discoveries to nail this &, if so, rewrite Sir Edward’s biog officially.