Friday, January 18, 2019

Viola Garvin (Viola Taylor; Mrs. J. L. Garvin)

Viola Garvin (b. Gilbraltar c.1883; d. reg. Oxford, Jul-Sep 1959)

Viola Lucy Taylor was the elder of two children, both daughters, of Captain Harry Ashworth Taylor (1855-1907), a royal Foreign Service Messenger, and his wife Minna Gordon Handcock (1861-1947). Viola's younger sister was Una Troubridge (1887-1963), whose lesbian relationship with the poet and novelist Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943) was widely (and disapprovingly) publicized in the 1920s. Viola's paternal grandfather was the poet Sir Henry Taylor (1800-1886).

In late 1908, Viola married Maurice Henry Woods (1882-1929), a 1905 graduate of Oxford University who became private secretary to Lord Beaverbrook, and their sole child was Oliver Woods (1911-1972). Maurice Woods left Viola in 1918, and their divorce went through a few years later. On 21 August 1921, Viola married James Louis Garvin (1868-1947), the famous editor of the London newspaper The Observer.  J.L. Garvin had four surviving daughters from his first marriage, including the eldest, Viola, who was a poet and translator.  This fact of two writers named Viola Garvin has caused some problems in the attributions of their respective works.

Viola's first book was The Story of Amaryllis and Other Verses (1908), as by Viola Taylor.  Her second book was a collection of sketches and poems entitled As You See It (1922), signed as by "V" with "Mrs. J.L. Garvin" underneath "V" on the title page.  Another miscellany of stories and poems was Corn in Egypt (1926), as by Mrs. J.L. Garvin (an early page of acknowledgements is signed "Viola Garvin").  A final book, a novel, was Child of Light (1937), which was published as by Mrs. J.L. Garvin. 

A line from Viola's 1906 poem "The House of Cæsar" was famously used by Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) in a verse couplet found after his suicide. For more, see here.

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