Chatwin thought it Jamesian and intended to write an epic saga inspired by it.
She is a descendant, on her father's side, of John Jacob Astor, the first multi-millionaire in America, and she was brought up in a big family home in Geneseo, a place Chatwin describes in one letter as 'the back of beyond in New York State, near the Canadian border'.
While his father, Charles, a lawyer, was away at sea with the Navy, he and his mother, Margharita, stayed with a series of elderly relations in and around Birmingham.
Shakespeare knew Bruce towards the end of his life and was himself a recipient of a few Chatwin letters, the last of which is dated December 1988 and sent from Seillans, near Cannes.
'We are here till mid-March with a trip for medication in Paris at some stage,' Chatwin writes. He had Aids, and he never did get back to this wooden house, dying less than a month later, on January 18 1989, there in France, in the house of his and Elizabeth's friend the novelist Shirley Conran.
Cape is publishing a new book, Under the Sun – The Letters of Bruce Chatwin.
Elizabeth is co-editor along with Nicholas Shakespeare, the author of Chatwin's 1999 biography.
The Chanlers had eight children and Elizabeth was, according to her mother, 'difficult, precocious, with a good mind'.