11 April 2012

Caroline Glyn in Chawton, Hampshire, and Her Great-grandmother Elinor

A plaque on the north wall of St Nicholas Church, Chawton, Hampshire, is dedicated to Caroline Glyn:

'In Loving Memory of
Lived and wrote in this Village.
Died 15th May 1981.
Aged 33 years.
A Member of Poor Clares at the
Convent of St Mary, Stroud.
New South Wales, Australia.'

Her first novel, Don't Knock the Corners Off, was published in 1963 when she was 15, and is concerned with the loss of the self in the process of conformity in the education system. It was followed by Love and Joy in the Mabellon (1965) – about café life among the young in Paris – then The Unicorn Girl (1966), Heights and Depths (1968), The Tree (1969), The Tower and the Rising Tide (1971), and The Peacemaker: A Novel (1973). In Him Was Life (c. 1976) has a Foreword by the Bishop of Lincoln. The last published work in her lifetime was The Mountain at the End of Night: Stories of Dream and Vision (1977), and posthumously two books of poetry were published: Poems from the Dark (1982), and Chawton and Other Poems (2000). The books of poems were published by Outpost Publications and Feather Books (which was run by John Waddinton-Feather of Shrewsbury) respectively, two small businesses which also published Caroline's mother Susan Glyn's poetry.

Caroline's parents led an itinerant life, and her father was Geoffrey Leo Davson, a second baronet who changed his name by deed poll to Anthony Glyn, who was also a writer. His parents were Edward Rae Davson and Margot (née Glyn), who was the daughter of Clayton Louis Glyn and Elinor Glyn (1864–43), his grandmother being a scriptwriter and novelist, particularly infamous for the novel Three Weeks (1907), the sexual content of which caused a scandal at the time. Elinor's husband lived way beyond his means (hiring Brighton public baths for two days for his knee-length red-haired bride to swim naked in, for instance), and she later became the sole family earner.

Caroline led an altogether more restrained life, and a congenital illness led to her death in a convent at 33. A link at the bottom of the page is to an article on Caroline by Robert Temple, probably the only boyfriend she had before becoming a nun.

Grandson Anthony Glyn's Elinor Glyn: A Biography (London: Hutchinson, 1955), with 1927 artwork here by Philip Alexius de László.

Joan Hardwick's Addicted to Romance: The Life and Adventures of Elinor Glyn (London: Deutsch, 1994) is also well worth reading.
Addendum: I've just Googled "Caroline Glyn" and discovered that her
novel Don't Knock the Corners Off (and no other) was translated into French by Francine Le Masson in 1964 as A bas l'école!, which translates literally as 'Down with School!', although this doesn't come anywhere near the subtlety of the English title.
Professor Robert Temple on Caroline Glyn, with links to US Life article and two of Glyn's dustjackets with blurbs.

Sir Anthony Glyn's obituary in the Independent.


Peter said...

Thank you for this - I would like to visit Chawton at some point and see the plaque for myself.

I have read and enjoyed nearly all of Caroline Glyn's writing and have also read her columns in the first issues of the Observer magazine, written (like her first novels) when she was still a teenager.

It would be good to see a renewal of interest in her work.

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Thanks for the comment, Peter. I don't think I knew about the Observer magazine columns.