Ivy Compton-Burnett was born in Pinner, Middlesex, on 5 June 1884, as the seventh of twelve children of the well-known homeopathic physician Dr James Compton-Burnett (pronounced 'Cumpton-Burnit'), by his second wife, Katharine (1855–1911), daughter of Rowland Rees, civil engineer. She grew up in Hove and London. She was educated at home with two brothers until the age of 14. She attended Addiscombe College, Hove, in 1898–1901, then boarded for two terms in 1901–2 at Howard College, Bedford, before embarking on a university degree in Classics. After graduating she in turn tutored four younger sisters at home.
Ivy's mother sent all her stepchildren away to boarding school as soon as possible. According to the scholar Patrick Lyons, "In widowhood Compton-Burnett's mother provided her with an early model for the line of outrageous domestic bullies that appear in her novels, anticipating the grief-stricken and over-demanding Sophia Stace (Brothers and Sisters, 1929) and the more shamelessly lucid Harriet Haslem (Men and Wives, 1931), who declares candidly: 'I see my children's faces, and am urged by the hurt in them to go further, and driven on to the worse.' Four of Ivy's sisters rebelled against home life in 1915 and moved up to London to live in a flat with the pianist Myra Hess. Ivy successfully managed the considerable family fortune after her mother's death.
In the author blurb of the old Penguin editions of her novels there was a paragraph written by Compton-Burnett herself: "I have had such an uneventful life that there is little information to give. I was educated with my brothers in the country as a child, and later went to Holloway College, and took a degree in Classics. I lived with my family when I was quite young but for most of my life have had my own flat in London. I see a good deal of a good many friends, not all of them writing people. And there is really no more to say." This omits the fact that her favourite brother, Guy, died of pneumonia; another, Noel, was killed on the Somme, and her two youngest sisters, Stephanie Primrose and Catharine (called "Baby" and "Topsy"), died in a suicide pact by taking veronal in their locked bedroom on Christmas Day, 1917. Not one of the twelve siblings had children, and all eight girls remained unmarried.
Compton-Burnett was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1967.
Ivy Compton-Burnett held no religious beliefs. She died at her Kensington home on 27 August 1969 and was cremated at Putney Vale Crematorium.
Apart from Dolores (1911), a traditional novel she later rejected as something "one wrote as a girl", Compton-Burnett's fiction deals with domestic situations in large households which, to all intents and purposes, invariably seem Edwardian. The description of human weaknesses and foibles of all sorts pervades her work, and the family that emerges from each of her novels must be seen as dysfunctional in one way or another. Starting with Pastors and Masters (1925), Compton-Burnett developed a highly individualistic style. Her fiction relies heavily on dialogue and demands constant attention on the reader's part: there are instances in her work where important information is casually mentioned in a half sentence. Her use of punctuation is deliberately perfunctory: there are no colons or semi-colons, no exclamation marks, no italics.
Of Pastors and Masters, the New Statesman wrote: "It is astonishing, amazing. It is like nothing else in the world. It is a work of genius." In her essay collection L'Ère du soupçon (1956), an early manifesto for the French nouveau roman, Nathalie Sarraute hails Compton-Burnett as an "one of the greatest novelists England has ever had". Elizabeth Bowen said of the wartime Parents and Children, "To read in these days a page of Compton-Burnett dialogue is to think of the sound of glass being swept up, one of these London mornings after a blitz." Lyons has written more recently, "These are witty and often demanding novels, peopled with alert sceptics who are devoted to epigrammatic talk and edgily precise analysis of talk."
Burial: Putney Vale Cemetery and Crematorium, Wimbledon, Greater London, England. Plot: Cremated
Margaret Jourdain (c. 1876 – April 7, 1951) was a prominent writer on English furniture and decoration. She began her career ghost-writing as Francis Lenygon for the firm of Lenygon & Morant, dealers in furnishings with a royal appointment, who were also the fabricators of carefully crafted reproductions, especially of Kentian furnishings, some of which have been displayed in public collections for decades.
The finely-honed writing that distinguishes Jourdain's work must be partly credited to careful pre-editing by her lifelong friend and domestic partner, the novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett. Ivy and Margaret Jourdain lived together from 1918 until Margaret's death in 1951. Members of their circle might speculate on whether they were lovers: Ivy referred to herself and Margaret as "neutrals". Margaret Jourdain's papers are archived at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, but some of her unpublished translations of poems by Jose Maria de Heredia, Pontus de Tyard and Gérard de Nerval are among Ivy Compton-Burnett's papers at King's College, Cambridge.
Margaret Jourdain teamed with Ralph Edwards, keeper of Furniture & Woodwork, the Victoria and Albert Museum, to produce Georgian Cabinet-Makers (1944, 1951), a series of biographies of the major London furniture-makers from the Restoration of Charles II to 1800, supported by archival work, which had not been a strong feature of previous connoisseurship. As revised by Edwards, it remained the essential standard in the field for several decades until superseded by work by Peter Ward-Jackson, Christopher Gilbert, Helena Hayward, and members of the Furniture History Society.
Her Regency Furniture (1931) covered new ground in extending the classic period of English furniture design forward to 1830.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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