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Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff (September 25, 1889 – February 28, 1930)

Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff MC (25 September 1889 – 28 February 1930) was a Scottish writer, most famous for his English translation of most of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, which he published under the Shakespearean title Remembrance of Things Past. (Picture: C.K. Scott Moncrieff painted by Edward Stanley Mercer (1889–1932))

Scott Moncrieff was born in Stirlingshire, the youngest of three sons. Because his brothers, Colin Scott Moncrieff and John Irving Scott Moncrieff, were several years older, the young "Charlie" spent much of his childhood playing alone or lost in books. From the age of seven he attended a local day school, where he displayed an uncommon genius for languages.

He attended Winchester College and while still a schoolboy, became associated with the Wildean circles of Robert Ross and Christopher Millard, Ross' sometime secretary and author of the first bibliography of Wilde's works. Millard was also known for his pandering to younger boys and may well have had a relationship with Scott Moncrieff. There is, however, no proof of this.

In 1907, he published a short story, 'Evensong and Morwe Song', in the pageant issue of New Field, the literary magazine that he edited, while at Winchester College. The story deals with sex between two boys at a public school. The magazine was hastily suppressed, although not before copies of the offending edition had been mailed to parents. The story was republished in 1923 in an edition of fifty copies for private circulation only. It was never published again in the author's lifetime. Although it is commonly claimed that Scott Moncrieff was expelled for this act of rebellion, there are no records of expulsion in Winchester College Archives and there are letters in the archive which mention his returning there before the war as an "old boy", which would have been unlikely had he left in disgrace. (Picture: Robert Ross)

After Winchester, Scott Moncrieff attended Edinburgh University, where he undertook two degrees, one in Law and then one in English Literature, an obvious choice for the son of an eminent magistrate who had also been a published author. Thereafter, he began an MA in Anglo-Saxon under the supervision of the respected man of letters, George Saintsbury. He graduated in 1914 with first class honours, winning a prestigious prize, The Patterson Bursary in Anglo Saxon. This stood him in good stead for his translation of Beowulf four years later. (Picture: Christopher Millard)

During his time at Edinburgh, Scott Moncrieff made the acquaintance of Philip Bainbrigge, a schoolmaster at Shrewsbury and the author of miscellaneous homoerotic odes to Uranian Love. He was also a close friend of Vyvyan Holland, younger son of Oscar Wilde.{"Son of Oscar Wilde" autobiography of Vyvyan Holland 1954} (Picture: Vyvyan Holland with his mother Constance)

He fought in World War I, serving on the Western Front from 1914 until 1917, when he was seriously wounded in the right leg after being thrown into the air by a shell explosion from behind. He walked with a limp for the rest of his days. He made a conversion to Catholicism while at the Front in 1915.

While convalescing in London in 1918, Scott Moncrieff worked in the War Office in Whitehall. He supplemented his income by writing reviews for the New Witness, a literary magazine edited by the great man of letters G. K. Chesterton. During this time he befriended the young poet Robert Graves. He also succeeded, inadvertently, in earning the life-long enmity of Siegfried Sassoon whose The Old Huntsman he had given a mixed review.

It was at the wedding of Robert Graves in January 1918 that Scott Moncrieff met another poet, Wilfred Owen, with whom he maintained a difficult relationship for several months. Biographers of Owen disagree over whether or not this relationship was sexual. Coded sonnets by Scott Moncrieff, addressed to a "Mr. W. O.," suggest that his love for Owen was unrequited. However, rumours of an affair were enough for Graves to cut off correspondence with both men.

On the day of Graves' wedding Scott Moncrieff testified as a character witness at the trial of his possible sometime lover, Millard, at great personal risk to himself.

The last months of the war dealt a cruel blow. His closest friend, Bainbrigge, was killed in September 1918, and another possible ex-lover, the poet Ian Mackenzie, died of pneumonia the following month. Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918, Scott Moncrieff arriving at the Front too late to be reunited with his beloved.

After Owen's death, Scott Moncrieff's failure to secure a "safe" posting for Owen was viewed with suspicion by his friends, including Osbert Sitwell and Sassoon. Sitwell reportedly told one biographer that Scott Moncrieff had "as good as murdered" Owen. Scott Moncrieff was subsequently cut out from the attempt by Edith Sitwell and Sassoon to publish Owen's poetry, despite being in possession of some original drafts. During the 1920s, Scott Moncrieff maintained a rancorous rivalry with Sitwell, who depicted him unflatteringly as "Mr. X" in All At Sea.

In 1919, Scott Moncrieff published a translation of The Song of Roland, dedicating it to his three fallen friends. The poem addressed to Owen, the last in his series of sonnets, expresses a hope that their "two ghosts" will "together lie" in the next life.

Through his friendship with the young Noel Coward, he made the acquaintance of Lady Astley Cooper and became a frequent house guest at her home Hambleton. He dedicated the first volume of his translation of Proust to Lady Cooper.

After the war, Scott Moncrieff worked as private secretary to the press Baron, Alfred Harmsworth or Lord Northcliffe, owner of The Times, until Northcliffe's death in 1922. Soon after, his health compelled him to move to Tuscany, Italy, where he divided his time between Florence and Pisa, and later, Rome.

He subsequently supported himself with literary work, notably translations from medieval and modern French.

Scott Moncrieff published the first volume of his Proust translation in 1922, and continued until his death in January 1930, at which time he was working on the final volume of the novel. His choice of the title Remembrance of Things Past, by which Proust's novel was known in English for many years, is not a literal translation of the original French. It is, in fact, taken from the second line of Shakespeare's Sonnet 30 ("When to the sessions of sweet silent thought / I summon up remembrance of things past..."). In a letter written on his deathbed in 1922,Proust congratulated Scott Moncrieff on his remarkable translation, but objected to the lack of ambiguity in the title: "Temps Perdu" meaning, in French both Lost Time and Wasted Time. However he apologised warmly for scarcely understanding English himself.(Letter from Proust to Scott Moncrieff dated 10th October 1922 in National Library, Edinburgh)

The original French text of the Remembrance was re-edited in later years, in two successive editions, and these additions and revisions were subsequently incorporated in later English translations. Thus, Terence Kilmartin revised the Scott Moncrieff translation in 1981, and an additional revision was made by D.J. Enright in 1992. The work in these later versions is given the more literal title of In Search of Lost Time. To what extent these revisions (and revisions of revisions) have improved Scott Moncrieff's text has been discussed and evaluated differently by different people.

Scott Moncrieff died of cancer at Calvary Hospital in Rome in 1930 and was buried in the Verano Cemetery. His remains lie in a small communal ossuary with those who died in the same month in the same convent. The exact place can be located by doing a search with name and date of death at the gate.

The Translators Association administers the annual award of a Scott Moncrieff Prize for French Translation.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Kenneth_Scott_Moncrieff

Further Readings:

Queering the Underworld: Slumming, Literature, and the Undoing of Lesbian and Gay History by Scott Herring
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (December 30, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0226327914
ISBN-13: 978-0226327914
Amazon: Queering the Underworld: Slumming, Literature, and the Undoing of Lesbian and Gay History

At the start of the twentieth century, tales of “how the other half lives” experienced a surge in popularity. People looking to go slumming without leaving home turned to these narratives for spectacular revelations of the underworld and sordid details about the deviants who populated it.

In this major rethinking of American literature and culture, Scott Herring explores how a key group of authors manipulated this genre to paradoxically evade the confines of sexual identification. Queering the Underworld examines a range of writers, from Jane Addams and Willa Cather to Carl Van Vechten and Djuna Barnes, revealing how they fulfilled the conventions of slumming literature but undermined its goals, and in the process, queered the genre itself. Their work frustrated the reader’s desire for sexual knowledge, restored the inscrutability of sexual identity, and cast doubt on the value of a homosexual subculture made visible and therefore subject to official control.

Herring is persuasive and polemical in connecting these writers to ongoing debates about lesbian and gay history and politics, and Queering the Underworld will be widely read by students and scholars of literature, history, and sexuality.

Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century by Graham Robb
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (February 17, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0393326497
ISBN-13: 978-0393326499
Amazon: Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century

"A brilliant work of social archaeology....A major historical contribution."—Adam Goodheart, The New York Times Book Review

The nineteenth century was a golden age for those people known variously as sodomites, Uranians, monosexuals, and homosexuals. Long before Stonewall and Gay Pride, there was such a thing as gay culture, and it was recognized throughout Europe and America. Graham Robb, brilliant biographer of Balzac, Hugo, and Rimbaud, examines how homosexuals were treated by society and finds a tale of surprising tolerance. He describes the lives of gay men and women: how they discovered their sexuality and accepted or disguised it; how they came out; how they made contact with like-minded people. He also includes a fascinating investigation of the encrypted homosexuality of such famous nineteenth-century sleuths as Edgar Allan Poe's Auguste Dupin and Sherlock Holmes himself (with glances forward in time to Batman and J. Edgar Hoover). Finally, Strangers addresses crucial questions of gay culture, including the riddle of its relationship to religion: Why were homosexuals created with feelings that the Creator supposedly condemns? This is a landmark work, full of tolerant wisdom, fresh research, and surprises.

Florence, A Delicate Case (The Writer and the City) by David Leavitt
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury; First edition. edition (June 1, 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1582342393
ISBN-13: 978-1582342399
Amazon: Florence, A Delicate Case (The Writer and the City)

David Leavitt brings the wonders and mysteries of Florence alive, illuminating why it is, and always has been, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

The third in the critically-acclaimed Writer and the City Series-in which some of the world's finest novelists reveal the secrets of the cities they know best-Florence is a lively account of expatriate life in the 'city of the lily'.

Why has Florence always drawn so many English and American visitors? (At the turn of the century, the Anglo-American population numbered more than thirty thousand.) Why have men and women fleeing sex scandals traditionally settled here? What is it about Florence that has made it so fascinating-and so repellent-to artists and writers over the years?

Moving fleetly between present and past and exploring characters both real and fictional, Leavitt's narrative limns the history of the foreign colony from its origins in the middle of the nineteenth century until its demise under Mussolini, and considers the appeal of Florence to figures as diverse as Tchaikovsky, E.M. Forster, Ronald Firbank, and Mary McCarthy. Lesser-known episodes in Florentine history-the moving of Michelangelo's David, and the construction of temporary bridges by black American soldiers in the wake of the Second World War-are contrasted with images of Florence today (its vast pizza parlors and tourist culture). Leavitt also examines the city's portrayal in such novels and films as A Room with a View, The Portrait of a Lady and Tea with Mussolini.

More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Gay Classics


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