Harry Crosby  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Harry Crosby (June 4, 1898December 10, 1929) was an American heir, bon vivant, poet, an exemplar of the Lost Generation in American literature.

Born Henry Sturgis Crosby (his parents later changed his middle name to "Grew") in Boston's exclusive Back Bay neighborhood, he was the son of one of the richest banking families in New England and the nephew of the son of J.P. Morgan, the financier. As such, he was heir to a substantial family fortune.

During World War I, Harry Crosby said he wanted to escape "the horrors of Boston and particularly of Boston virgins" and volunteered with the American Field Service in France, serving at the Front as a driver in the dangerous ambulance service. On November 22, 1917, a German shell seriously wounded a man standing next to Crosby and as he drove several wounded soldiers to the Medical Corps, his ambulance came under heavy fire. Harry Crosby said that was the night he changed from a boy to a man.

In 1921 Crosby married Mary Phelps Jacob, who later took the name "Caresse" Crosby. Two days after their wedding, they moved to Paris, France, where he worked in his uncle's bank. Uninterested in a respectable banker's life and desiring to pursue life as a poet, Crosby quit his job at the Morton Harjes Bank and in April of 1927 he and wife Caresse founded a book publishing company. Originally named Éditions Narcisse, it was later changed to the Black Sun Press. By 1928, Harry Crosby gained some recognition as a poet after the publishing of his Red Skeletons collection said to be heavily indebted to Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe.

The Black Sun Press produced finely crafted books in small editions, including works by, among others, D. H. Lawrence, Archibald MacLeish, James Joyce, Kay Boyle, and Hart Crane. It also issued two more volumes of Crosby's poetry, Chariot of the Sun and Transit of Venus. In 1929, Crosby published Mad Queen, collection of verse influenced by Surrealism. Torchbearer, a collection of his poetry with an afterward by Ezra Pound, and Aphrodite in Flight, a meditation on love and the principles of aeronautics, were both published posthumously. A boxed set containing Chariot of the Sun with D. H. Lawrence's intro, Transit of Venus with T. S. Eliot's intro, Mad Queen with Stuart Gilbert's intro and Torchbearer was brought out in 1932.

On December 10, 1929, Crosby and Josephine Bigelow, née Rotch, a newly married woman with whom Crosby had been carrying on an affair, committed dual suicide. Crosby's death scandalised Boston's Back Bay society.

Following her husband's death, Caresse Crosby edited his papers and continued the work of the Black Sun Press. She published and translated some of the works of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Dorothy Parker and others, as well as volumes of poetry (Crosses of Gold (Léon Pichon, 1935), Painted Shores (Black Sun Press, 1927), Poems for Harry Crosby (Black Sun Press, 1931)). Alvin Redman published her autobiography, Passionate Years, in 1955.



Minkoff, George Robert. A Bibliography of the Black Sun Press ... With an introduction by Caresse Crosby. (Great Neck, N.Y.: G. R. Minkoff, 1970)

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