University of Texas at Austin

Nancy Cunard:

An Inventory of Her Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Cunard, Nancy, 1896-1965
Title: Nancy Cunard Collection
Dates: 1895-1965 (bulk 1908-1965)
Extent: 35 boxes (14.58 linear feet), 2 oversize files
Abstract: The papers of British poet and publisher Nancy Cunard contain drafts of many of her novels, articles, and poems, extensive correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, and manuscripts written by friends and associates. Particularly well represented are her G.M.: Memories of George Moore and Negro: An Anthology.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-01010
Language: English.
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchases, 1969-1977 (R3520, R5001, R5180, R5122, R5193, R5291, R7049, R7622)
Processed by Chelsea Jones, 1999

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

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 by servants and governesses, Nancy was not excluded when her mother, filling her role as a 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 and poetry.
When Nancy was fourteen, her mother left Sir Bache, and taking Nancy, established a 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 this 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 of poetry, starting with Outlaws in 1921, followed by Sublunary (1923), and Parallax (1925).
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 band in a local night club. Through Crowder, Cunard became aware of the American civil rights 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 the volume from black and white artists in America and Europe and in 1934 to moderate fanfare and some controversy, Negro was published at her own expense.
Cunard took a strong interest in other civil rights issues for the rest of her life. She 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 of the color bar in her home country of England.
After World War II, Cunard traveled extensively and almost constantly. Her farmhouse in Reanville had been looted and vandalized during the Occupation and, because much of the damage had been done by locals, she did not feel able to return. She wrote memoirs of 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.


Blain, Virginia, Isobel Grundy, & Patricia Clements, editors. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English. (Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1990).
Chisholm, Anne. Nancy Cunard: A Biography. (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1979).
Schlueter, Paul & June Schlueer, editors. An Encyclopedia of British Women Writers (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1988).

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents

Holograph and typescript works, personal papers, and incoming correspondence make up the bulk of the Nancy Cunard Collection, 1895-1965 (bulk 1908-1965), supplemented by correspondence from Cunard and poems and essays by her friends and acquaintances. The collection is organized into four series with materials arranged alphabetically by title or author and chronologically where possible: I. Works, 1913-1965 (9 boxes); II. Correspondence, 1908-1965 (11.5 boxes); III. Personal Papers, 1895-1964 (bulk 1909-1964) (8.5 boxes); and IV. Works by other Authors, 1920-1964 (15 boxes). This collection was previously accessible through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.
The Works Series is composed of holograph and typescript drafts and final versions of books, articles, and poems written by Cunard over the course of her life. Of particular note are groupings of articles written for various news organizations, and research notes and drafts of her memoir of Norman Douglas, Grand Man. Individual titles are indexed in the Index of Works at the end of this guide.
The Correspondence Series contains letters to and from Nancy Cunard and her friends and acquaintances and between people associated with Cunard. Many of the letters are personal, but some have to do with the Hours Press, the creation and publication of Negro: An Anthology, and other legal and financial matters. All correspondents can be identified using the Index of Correspondents at the end of this guide.
The Personal Papers Series contains financial documents, medical records, address books, diaries, and scrapbooks, as well as a variety of lists and notes regarding Cunard's travels and causes, including the Scottsboro Case.
The Works by other Authors Series is composed of holograph and typescript poems, essays, and books drafted by friends, admirers, aspiring writers, and customers of Hours Press. Titles are indexed in the Index of Works by Other Authors at the end of this guide.
Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are 30 Vertical Files of newspaper clippings of press releases and printed articles by Cunard as well as a few personal items. Also present are more than 1500 photographs of Cunard, her friends, and landscapes located in the Literary Files of the Photography Collection. A number of copper printing blocks from the Hours Press and a few medical x-rays of Cunard are also located in this collection, along with 23 photo albums.
73 drawings, paintings, and photographs of and related to Cunard and including work by John Banting, Augustus John, Wyndham Lewis, and Harry Bright are located in the Art Collection. Subjects of the portraits include Cunard, Norman Douglas, George Moore, and Abraham Lincoln, as well as landscape and abstract drawings.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Works, 1913-1965 (9 boxes)
The Works Series includes manuscript material, including holograph and typescript drafts, for all of Cunard's books. Particularly well represented are G.M.: Memories of George Moore and Negro: An Anthology, as well as the beginnings of an epic on Spain and an unfinished work on Ivories of Ancient Africa. Cunard's journalistic efforts are also generously represented by articles written about the Spanish Revolution, racism in America, life in colonial Barbados, and politics in France. A small amount of original poetry by Cunard is also present, including what is thought to have been her first conscious effort at poetry, titled "The First Sonnet." The Series is arranged in one alphabetical sequence regardless of genre.
Series II. Correspondence, 1908-1965 (11.5 boxes)
The Correspondence Series is organized into three subseries: Subseries A. Outgoing Correspondence, 1931-1965 (1 box); Subseries B. Incoming Correspondence, 1909-1965 (9.5 boxes); and Subseries C. Third-party Correspondence, 1908-1965 (.5 box).
The small Outgoing Correspondence Subseries largely comprises personal letters from Cunard to friends, as well as a few business letters. Of particular note are her letters to John Davenport, Jean Lambert, and Clyde Robinson.
In contrast, the Incoming Correspondence Subseries provides a broad spectrum of letters written to Cunard. Ranging from personal to business correspondence, there are examples of hate mail received from Americans outraged at her open relationship with a black man and letters of congratulation on the publication of her various books. Of particular note among Cunard's correspondents are Valentine Ackland, Géraldine Balayé, John Banting, Morris Gilbert, Rupert Hart-Davis, Langston Hughes, Irene Rathbone, Otto Theis, Sylvia Warner, as well as others. A section of this Subseries is devoted to groupings of letters Cunard created around various subjects, including letters of comment on Negro, Poems for France, and responses to a series of questionnaires she sent out about the Spanish Civil War. A list of the correspondents included in these groupings is included after the Index of Correspondence at the end of this finding aid.
Third-party Correspondence provides a few letters between people associated with Cunard, and are generally about Cunard or her work. An exception to this are the chatty letters from George Moore to Cunard's mother, Lady Maud Cunard.
Series III. Personal Papers, 1895-1964 (8.5 boxes)
The Personal Papers series is composed of documents that Cunard had some part in creating but which are not considered creative works. They are organized into four subseries based on the type of material present: Subseries A. Legal and Medical Documents, 1936-1956 (.5 box); Subseries B. Address and Guest Books, 1895-1956 (.5 box); Subseries C. Commonplace Books, Diaries, and Scrapbooks 1909-1959 (6 boxes); and Subseries D. Lists and Notes, 1911-1958 (2 boxes).
The Legal and Medical Documents Subseries contains memoranda of agreement, passports and registration papers, check stubs, income and property records, and medical records. Additional medical materials, in the form of x-rays of Cunard, can be found in the Literary Files of the Photography Collection.
The Address and Guest Book Subseries contains a variety of address books as well as guest books from both Cunard's parent's estate, Nevill Holt, and one of her own homes in France. The Commonplace Books, Diaries, and Scrapbooks Subseries contains a variety of journals and notebooks with favorite poems copied out of books or papers, records of daily activities, and home-made scrapbooks with photographs, newspaper clippings, theater programs, letters, book reviews, and other items.
The Lists and Notes Subseries is composed of notebooks and loose pages with ideas and notes jotted on them, in addition to organized groups of notes on various topics, particularly the Scottsboro arrest case. Additionally there are a large number of travel notes taken by Cunard in Italy, Mallorca, Spain, the West Indies, and other locales.
Series IV. Works by other Authors, 1920-1964 (15 boxes)
The Works by other Authors Series, arranged alphabetically by author, contains holograph and typescript drafts of Antonio Aparicio's Los Hombres de Piedrabirena, Louis Aragon's Le défence de l'Infini, Andrés Cañaberal's Manuel y el Pirulin cuento pera Mayores and Tristes Palabras:Introduction, Henry Crowder's memoir As Wonderful as That?, Ramon del Valle-Inclán's Blood-Bond, and many others.

Related Material

Other materials associated with Cunard may be found in the following collections at the Ransom Center:
  • Armstrong, Terence Ian Fytton
  • Church, Richard
  • Contempo
  • Fitzgibbon, Constantine
  • Grieve, Christopher Murray
  • Hutchinson, Mary
  • Lehmann, John
  • Lindsay, Philip
  • Lowndes, Marie Adelaide
  • Nehls, Edward
  • Palmer, Herbert Edward
  • Patmore, Derek
  • PEN
  • Pound, Ezra Loomis
  • Tomlinson, Henry Major
  • Trewin, J.C.
  • Waugh, Alec

Index Terms


Ackland, Valentine.
Aparicio, Antonio.
Aragon, Louis, 1897- .
Balaye, Geraldine.
Beckett, Samuel, 1906- .
Benkovitz, Miriam J.
Douglas, Norman, 1868-1952.
Duff, Charles.
Ford, Hugh D., 1925- .
Gilbert, Morris, 1894- .
Hart-Davis, Rupert, 1907- .
Jameson, Storm, 1897- .
Lowenfels, Walter, 1897-1976.
MacPherson, Kenneth, 1903?-1971.
Moore, George, 1852-1933.
Morgan, Louise, d. 1964.
Pound, Ezra, 1885-1972.
Rathbone, Irene, 1892-1980.
Robinson, Clyde.
Roma, Juan-Miguel.
Senhouse, Roger.
Solano, Solita.
Spender, Stephen, 1909- .
Thorne, Anthony.
Warner, Sylvia Townsend, 1893- .
Woolf, Cecil.


Authors--20th century.


Spain--Civil war--1936-1939.

Document Types

Commonplace books.

Nancy Cunard Collection--Folder List