Obituary: Claire L’Enfant

Obituary: Claire L’Enfant

Talia Rodgers, publishing director at Digital Theatre, remembers editor and publisher Claire L'Enfant:

Claire L’Enfant, who has died aged 67, was an editor and publisher whose work with authors and colleagues set a kind of gold standard for how to get the best out of people. Her quiet intelligence, warmth and sensitivity belied a steely core that enabled her to thrive in corporate environments.

Claire’s early editorial career was at Hutchinson Education and Unwin Hyman, but it was at Routledge, which she joined as senior commissioning editor for history, that she built her reputation, as editorial director for humanities during the 1990s. Passing on the large history list to an editor enabled Claire to focus solely on “bringing on” her younger editorial colleagues, working within Routledge’s parent company, Taylor & Francis/ Informa, and liaising with its New York operation.

She did all of this with consummate grace and charm, employing her notorious twinkly-eyed smile of bemusement when needed. Claire’s ”thousand-yard stare” across the table at editorial meetings was legendary—no histrionics were needed to communicate her silent disapproval. Her editors were somewhat in awe of her and wanted her approval—but had no fear, so were able to be adventurous and ambitious for their publishing, safe in the knowledge that she trusted and supported them.

Claire oversaw numerous acquisitions, notably of Focal Press in the US, and managed the maddening bureaucracy involved in corporate life efficiently. In 2008 she won the Mother@Work award for Best People Manager, which recognised managers who were particularly supportive of working mothers, an area in which she excelled—and to which all her female editors can testify. The award was presented at 11 Downing St (Sarah Brown was a supporter of the charity), an event Claire enjoyed hugely—while refusing to let it go to her head. Claire’s love of art and music was well-known, her dress style much admired, and her devotion to her family unequalled.

Claire’s inherent modesty was part of her charm. But it hid her wisdom, unerring judgement and courage in the face of all manner of trials, both personal and professional. She leaves her husband Nick, two children Daniel and Miranda, a grandchild and a legion of editors and publishers to continue her legacy.