Nancy Cunard and Hugh Ford letters to David Garnett

Biographical and Historical Notes

Nancy Cunard

Nancy Cunard (1896-1965) daughter of Sir Bache Cunard, of the shipping family, and Lady Emerald Cunard, was brought up in England. In 1920 she moved to Paris and became acquainted with many of the writers and artists living there. Inspired by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, who published her poem Parallax at their Hogarth Press, she learned printing and operated the Hours Press in France from 1928 to 1931, publishing work by Walter Lowenfels, Laura Riding, Robert Graves, Alvaro Guevara, Richard Aldington, and others. The Hours Press produced the first published work of Samuel Beckett (the poem Whoroscope, 1930) and the first publication of Ezra Pound's Cantos (A Draft of XXX Cantos, 1930).

In addition to the Hours Press, Cunard's most notable projects include an anthology of Negro literature, Negro (1934), and GM: Memories of George Moore (1956), a memoir of the artist and literary figure who was Nancy's mother's lover and frequent houseguest. Nancy's relationship with the African-American musician Henry Crowder caused a scandal when she traveled openly with him in London and New York and resulted in estrangement from her mother. In 1931 Nancy published the pamphlet Black Man and White Ladyship, a public attack on the racist attitudes of Lady Emerald and her friends. Nancy Cunard was a life-long political activist who advocated communism as a solution to oppression based on race and class prejudice. An early opponent of fascism, she went to Spain to support the Republicans against the Fascists, and reported on the Spanish Civil War for the Manchester Guardian.

Sources

Cunard, Nancy. These Were The Hours. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1969.

Robinson, Lillian S. Modern Women Writers. New York: Continuum Publishing, 1996.

Hugh Ford

Hugh Ford edited a memorial volume on Nancy Cunard's life and writing, Nancy Cunard: Brave Poet, Indomitable Rebel 1896-1965 (1968). The book consisted of reminiscences by friends and acquaintances of Cunard, and David Garnett was one of the contributors.

Sources

Ford, Hugh. Nancy Cunard: Brave Poet, Indomitable Rebel 1896-1965. Philadelphia: Chilton, 1968.

David Garnett

English author David Garnett (1892-1981), sometimes known by his childhood nickname Bunny, was the son of Edward Garnett, an influential publisher's reader, and Constance Garnett, a translator of Russian classics. He grew up among writers, including the Bloomsbury set. He was married to illustrator Rachel Alice Marshall, who died in 1940, and then to Angelica Bell, daughter of Clive Bell and Vanessa Stephen Bell, sister of novelist Virginia Woolf. David Garnett operated a bookstore in Soho and wrote a number of novels, including Lady into Fox (1922), The Sailor's Return (1925), and Aspects of Love (1955). His works also include an edition of the letters of T. E. Lawrence (1938), and three autobiographical volumes: The Golden Echo (1953), The Flowers of the Forest (1955), and The Familiar Faces (1962).

Sources

Ousby, Ian. "Garnett, David." Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993.

Scope and Contents

The eight letters in this small collection are together as a result of Hugh Ford's 1968 volume Nancy Cunard: Brave Poet, Indomitable Rebel. Two letters are from Ford to David Garnett regarding Nancy Cunard, and six letters from Cunard to Garnett are apparently those which Garnett shared with Ford for the project. Cunard's letters span from the early days of her friendship with Garnett in 1928 until just before her death in 1965, and Ford's letters to Garnett date from 1968 and 1970.

Three letters from Nancy Cunard written to her friend David Garnett in 1928 and 1930 describe her literary and printing activities with the Hours Press and invite him to submit work to be printed. She refers to her relationship with African-American musician Henry Crowder and requests an inscribed copy of Garnett's novel about an interracial couple, The Sailor's Return (1925), for him. In the 1930 letter she invites Garnett to write something for "the book on Color," an anthology (Negro, 1934) undertaken by Cunard after her relationship with Crowder put her in touch with the culture and concerns of the "coloured people" of Paris. Her enthusiasm for her life and friends in Paris is apparent as she urges Garnett to visit.

In a letter to Garnett written in 1956 Cunard expresses her opinions about literary criticism. She also writes about George Moore and the influence of her publisher, Rupert Hart-Davis, on her book GM: Memories of George Moore, published the same year. She recalls a lunch with Garnett and Crowder, and writes of Crowder's importance to her, both personally and intellectually. There are also references to other shared memories and mutual acquaintances.

Letters from 1964 and 1965 document a recent visit by Garnett and the effects of ill health on herself and others. The 1964 letter contains a draft of a poem titled "Sonnet on Pain." The 1965 letter, which she wrote while bedridden with a broken hip, contains references to some of her own (unidentified) work in translation and poetry.

The 1965 letter from Hugh Ford to David Garnett explains Ford's project to edit a memorial book on Cunard and requests a contribution from Garnett. Ford's 1970 letter to Garnett thanks him for "letters," and refers to others from friends of Nancy, presumably used in compiling his book.