Cornford, Frances Crofts Darwin and (Rupert) John

Cornford, Frances Crofts Darwin and (Rupert) John
(1886-1960)
   • Frances Crofts Darwin Cornford, the mother, 1886-1960
   The mother was the only child of Sir Francis Darwin, son of Charles Darwin. She was born in Cambridge (her father was lecturer in botany), educated privately and spent almost all her life there. She married Francis Macdonald Cornford, professor of ancient philosophy at Cambridge University. From the age of seventeen she suffered from bouts of severe depression. She started writing poetry at sixteen and subsequently published a sufficient body of poetry to entitle her to a distinguished place among the minor poets of the "Georgian" period and later years. Rupert Brooke was one of her closest friends and she was always eager to profit by criticism from him and others. One of her early books was a "morality" play, Death and the Princess (1912). Her Collected Poems appeared in 1954, and she was awarded the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 1959. Although best known for her comic poem "To a Fat Lady Seen from the Train," her "A Child's Dream" better conveys her feelings. Some of her other poems: "A Wasted Day," "All Souls' Night," "Autumn Morning at Cambridge," "In France," "Preëxistence," "Spring Morning," "Village before Sunset," "The Watch," "Weekend Stroll."
   • (Rupert) John Cornford, the son, 1915-1936
   John, the eldest son, was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics. He became a member of the Communist Party. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, he was one of the first to enlist against Franco and died at the battle of Lopera soon after he wrote his most famous poem, "Heart of the Heartless World." His body was never recovered. He despised Georgian poetry, which his mother embraced; from an early age his own poetry was influenced by Robert Graves, T.S. Eliot, and W.H. Auden (see entries). His poems and prose pieces were published in John Cornford: A Memoir (edited by Pat Sloan) in 1938. His main poems: "A Letter From Aragon, 1936," "Poems from Spain, 1936," "The Last Mile to Huesca, 1936."
   Sources: Dictionary of National Biography. Electronic Edition, 1.1. Oxford University Press, 1997. John Cornford: A Letter from Aragon (1936) (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/SPcornford.htm). The Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry. 11th ed. The Columbia Granger's World of Poetry, Columbia University Press, 2005 (http://www.columbiagrangers.org). The Home Book of Modern Verse. Burton Egbert Stevenson, ed. Henry Holt, 1953. The National Portrait Gallery (www.npg.org.uk). The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse. Philip Larkin, ed. Oxford University Press, 1973. The Oxford Book of War Poetry. Jon Stallworthy, Oxford University Press, 1984. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 6th edition. Margaret Drabble, ed. Oxford University Press, 2000.

British and Irish poets. A biographical dictionary. . 2015.

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