Monday, April 27, 2015

A Few Red-Haired Poets and Writers :)

Lord Byron

It's been suggested that the English poet Lord Byron was a redhead. However, I've struggled to find out whether this was the case or not. In all his images he appears quite dark haired. I did find this one reference to red hair though. It's from a book titled Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, and it comes from a letter written by Byron to a certain Mr Bankes;
"I forget whether you admire or tolerate red hair, so that I rather dread showing you all that I have about me and around me in this city"
However, I can't really tell exactly who or what he's referring to here. The flowery language of the letter is a little bit too much for me to get my head around xD

The letter can be found in its entirety here for anyone who's more in tune with Romantic poetry and thinks they may be able to make some sense of it.
Letters and Journals

Percy Bysshe Shelley

On the topic of Romantic poets though I did come across this image of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. It shows him as a child with quite vivid red hair.

D. H. Lawrence

It's said that the writer D. H. Lawrence was red-haired. Whilst searching for evidence of this I came across this passage on Google Books from a book titled D.H. Lawrence: A Reference Companion by Paul Poplawski and John Worthen. It illustrates just how difficult it can be to find an accurate description of a persons appearance.
If, however, we draw simply upon memoirs written of Lawrence by people who knew him some extraordinary divergences can be observed. His Croydon headmaster, who met him in 1908, remembered him as having "a shock of dark hair", and at least one other person who knew him when young referred to him as "dark-haired".
Helen Corke, however, who first saw him in 1909, recalled "fair hair," as did Ford Madox Hueffer and Violet Hunt, first seeing him late in 1909, who remembered "sun-shot tawny hair" and "yellow hair". In 1917, Esther Andrews noted "ash-coloured hair," while a Berkshire friend, Cecily Lambert, the following year, saw "mousey blonde hair".
In 1923, Dorothy Brett saw "dark, gold hair"; three years later, Montague Weekley thought Lawrence "sandy-haired". David Garnett, however, who met him in 1912, recalled his hair tint as "bright mud-colour, with a streak of red in it"; Catherine Carswell remembered "thick dust-coloured hair" in 1914, and Richard Aldington, who also met him in 1914, remembered his "bright red hair".
Ottoline Morrell remembered a "mass of red hair," though the writer Douglas Goldring recalled only "a reddish 'quiff'": but Compton Mackenzie (who saw him in 1914 and again in 1920) thought he had "wavy reddish hair", and Rebecca West (1892-1983) described his hair in 1921 as "pale luminous red".
Lawrence himself once remarked that his hair had "got no particular colour at all", but he also responded to someone who remarked that - with red hair like his - of course he would have a temper, "announcing that his hair was not red, that it used to be pure yellow gold and now was brown; his beard might be red, but his hair was golden brown!"

The mention of Lady Ottoline Morrell, who described him with a "mass of red hair", is quite apt as she had flame-red hair herself and was supposedly the inspiration for the character of Hermione Roddice in Lawrence's novel "Women in Love."

George Bernard Shaw

The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was also a redhead. The journalist Frank Harris described him as "thin as a rail, with a long, bony, bearded face," stating "his untrimmed beard was reddish, though his hair was fairer." The essayist and caricaturist Max Beerbohm mentioned the he had pallid pitted skin and red hair like seaweed.

A. C. Swinburne

Another redhead was the poet A. C. Swinburne. I've found two quotes that bear this out. The first is from a volume titled The Yale Edition of the Swinburne Letters and gives this account of him from 1861;
"Swinburne is a strange fellow, young, beardless, with a shock of red hair."
The Yale Edition of the Swinburne Letters

And the following, slightly less heart-warming account, comes from a work titled A.C. Swinburne and the Singing World by a Dr Yisrael Levin. It quotes Sir Osbert Sitwell having a conversation with an old Etonian;
"I remember well when I went to Eton" said the old gentleman, "the head boy called us together, and, pointing to a little fellow with curly red hair, said, 'kick him if you are near enough, and if you are not near enough, throw a stone at him.' I have often wondered what became of him. His name was Swinburne."

Harry Sinclair Lewis

And finally, one last redhead was the American writer Harry Sinclair Lewis. The journalist and critic H.L. Mencken wrote the following of him;
"[If] there was ever a novelist among us with an authentic call to the trade ... it is this red-haired tornado from the Minnesota wilds."

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