Geoffrey Edward West Household was born Edward West on November 30, 1900, in Bristol, England, into an upper-middle-class family. His father, Horace West, was a prominent lawyer; his mother, Beatrice Noton, encouraged his interests in classical literature. During the war years, from 1914 to 1919, Geoffrey attended Bristol’s famed Clifton College, from which he moved on to Oxford’s Magdalen College. In 1922, he emerged from Magdalen with first-class honors in English literature.
He did not undertake full-time writing, however, until the mid-1930’s. A friend who happened to be the son of the manager of the huge Anglo-Austrian, Romanian, and Greek financial consortium known as the Bank of Romania helped land him a post as an assistant confidential secretary. He subsequently spent four of what he described as delightful years learning Romanian and French and enjoying Romanian culture. In 1926, he took a post with the European branch of the United Fruit Company marketing bananas in Spain. In the process, he not only became fluent in Spanish but also found a setting for his children’s story The Spanish Cave (1936)—or The Terror of Villadonga as it was first published—and for numerous other tales.
From Spain, Household (with his first wife, Elisaveta Kopelanoff, to whom he was married from 1930 to 1939) came to the United States with the intention of supporting his family by writing. The Great Depression, however,...
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