A Mannered Grace (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
Laura Riding Jackson rode one of the most mercurial careers in twentieth century literary history. The formative Fugitive poets called her the “discovery of the year” in 1924, when she was only twenty-three. In the following twenty years, she published more than two dozen books of poetry and criticism, often in collaboration with the English writer Robert Graves, with whom she lived in the 1930’s in Deya, Mallorca. In the 1940’s, she moved back to the United States, married and settled in Florida, and renounced poetry but continued her work on language. As the reputation of Graves grew, Riding’s fame shrank, until she was omitted from the literary histories. In the last twenty years of her lifeGraves died in 1985, Riding in 1991the tide was reversed. Readers began to rediscover her earlier poetry, and critics began to reassess her role in twentieth century Anglo-American literature and criticism.
Elizabeth Friedmann’s biography A Mannered Grace is clearly part of this latter effort. Researched and written over a period of ten years, the book draws on a number of literary archives and Riding’s voluminous correspondence. (“According to her record-keeping, from early 1974 through mid-July 1986,” Friedmann notes at one point, “Laura wrote more than eight thousand letters.”) Friedmann herself began corresponding with Riding in 1980, began visiting her in 1985, and during Riding’s final years worked with her and kept notes on...
(The entire section is 1656 words.)
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