||Born in 1896, Nancy Clara Cunard was the only child of the middle aged English baronet
Sir Bache Cunard and his young American wife Maud Alice Burke. Though raised largely
servants and governesses, Nancy was not excluded when her mother, filling her role
society hostess, filled the house with the most prominent writers, artists, musicians,
and politicians of the day. A special friend of her mother, George Moore, took a
particular interest in Nancy, encouraging her education and interest in literature
||When Nancy was fourteen, her mother left Sir Bache, and taking Nancy, established
separate residence in London. Nancy attended private schools in London, Germany, and
Paris, where she became friends with Iris Tree, Dianna Manners, Osbert Sitwell, Augustus
John, and Ezra Pound. In 1914, referring to themselves as the "Corrupt Coterie", the group spent evenings in Parisian cafes discussing
politics and poetry rather than attending to the coventional social milieu. About
time Nancy also began writing poetry, and though not an exceptional poet, published
several poems in 1915 and 1916.
||In 1916, Nancy had returned to London from school and became engaged to Sydney
Fairbairn, much to the surprise of her family and friends. Fairbairn, while a socially
acceptable young man, was very conventional, especially when compared to Nancy's usual
choice of companions. The marriage ended in a formal separation after about 20 months,
though the divorce was not final until 1925.
||In 1920 Cunard moved to Paris where she became associated with the Dada and Modernist
movements, and though she never formally joined, the Communist party. It is generally
agreed that at this point in her life Cunard developed a strong dependence on alcohol
and she may have experimented with other drugs. She also published her first volumes
poetry, starting with Outlaws in 1921, followed by Sublunary (1923), and Parallax
||1927 found Cunard moving into an old farmhouse in Reanville, outside Paris, and setting
up the Hours Press. Here she printed works by new and established writers, including
Ezra Pound, Norman Douglas, Laura Riding, and Samuel Beckett. In 1928 Cunard met and
became involved with Henry Crowder, a black American jazz musician playing with a
in a local night club. Through Crowder, Cunard became aware of the American civil
movement. Over the next several years Cunard worked on a volume which was meant to
create a record of the history of blacks in America. She solicited contributions for
volume from black and white artists in America and Europe and in 1934 to moderate
fanfare and some controversy, Negro was published at her
||Cunard took a strong interest in other civil rights issues for the rest of her life.
was a free-lance correspondent in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and then agitated
for better treatment for the Spanish refugees in France after Franco's forces had
prevailed. She traveled widely in South America, the Caribbean, and Tunisia, writing
about the effects of colonialism as she went, and she frequently raised the issue
color bar in her home country of England.
||After World War II, Cunard traveled extensively and almost constantly. Her farmhouse
Reanville had been looted and vandalized during the Occupation and, because much of
damage had been done by locals, she did not feel able to return. She wrote memoirs
Norman Douglas and George Moore which were well received, and visited her friends.
Deteriorating health, both physical and mental, caused her to alienate even her oldest
and closest friends so that she died alone in a Parisian charity hospital in 1965.