Harry Crosby

From Academic Kids

Harry Crosby (June 4, 1898December 10, 1929) was an American heir, bon vivant, minor poet, and for some, an exemplar of the Lost Generation in American literature.

Born Harry Grew Crosby on June 4, 1898 in Boston's exclusive Back Bay neighborhood, he was the son of one of the richest banking families in New England and the nephew of J.P. Morgan, the financier. As such, he was heir to a substantial family fortune.

During World War I, Harry Crosby said he wanted to escape "the horrors of Boston and particularly of Boston virgins" and volunteered with the American Field Service in France, serving at the Front as a driver in the dangerous ambulance service. On November 22, 1917, a German shell seriously wounded a man standing next to Crosby and as he drove several wounded soldiers to the Medical Corps, his ambulance came under heavy fire. Harry Crosby said that was the night he changed from a boy to a man.

In 1921 Crosby married Mary Phelps Jacob, who took the name Caresse Crosby. Two days after their wedding, they moved to Paris, France, where he worked in his uncle's bank. Drawn to the bohemian lifestyle of the artists gathering in Montparnasse, and desirous of being a poet, Crosby quit his job at his uncle's bank and in April of 1927 he and wife Caresse founded a book publishing company. Originally named Éditions Narcisse, it was later changed to the Black Sun Press. By 1928, Harry Crosby gained some recognition as a poet after the publishing of his Red Skeletons collection said to be heavily indebted to Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe.

The Black Sun Press went on to perform important services to the literary community, publishing fiction by D. H. Lawrence and poetry by Archibald MacLeish as well as works by James Joyce, Kay Boyle, and Hart Crane. It also issued two more volumes of Crosby's poetry, Chariot of the Sun and Transit of Venus, which owed as much to Gertrude Stein as his prior poems did to Baudelaire. In 1929, Crosby published his most interesting volume of verse, Mad Queen, displaying the influence of Surrealism. His postumous work was Torchbearer which displays automatic writing. The four texts were published in a box set, with D. H. Lawrence's intro to Chariot of the Sun, T. S. Eliot's intro to Transit of Venus, Stuart Gilbert's intro to Mad Queen and Ezra Pound's afterward for Torchbearerin 1932.

In the United States, on December 10, 1929, Crosby and Josephine Bigelow, née Rotch, a newly married woman with whom Crosby had been carrying on an affair, committed what was apparently a dual suicide. Crosby's death scandalised the society of the American financial establishment.

Following her husband's death, Caresse Crosby edited his papers and continued the work of the Black Sun Press. She published some of the works of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Dorothy Parker and others.

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