Harry Grew Crosby

Harry Grew Crosby

Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 10 Dec 1929 (aged 31)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Boulogne, Departement de la Vendée, Pays de la Loire, France
Memorial ID 40058554 · View Source
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Publisher. Along with his wife, Caresse Crosby, he published and promoted many of the early modernist writers. Their Black Sun Press produced works by D.H. Lawrence, Kay Boyle, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Hart Crane, among others. Two days after their marriage on September 9, 1922, they moved to France. At first they lived in Paris, then they bought a restored mill in the suburb of Ermenonville. They later founded The Black Sun Press which is famous for having published lavishly bound, typographically impeccable versions of unusual books. They began to publish the works of their Parisian literary friends. This included D. H. Lawrence's The Sun and Escaped Cock (sometimes reprinted under the title The Man Who Died); James Joyce's Tales Told of Shem and Shaun (work — later incorporated into Finnegans Wake; and short stories by Kay Boyle. In 1929, their best year, they published fourteen works by James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound, among others. Harry and Caresse were known to have an open marriage with many affairs, and on December 10, 1929, he committed murder/suicide involving a young woman with whom he'd had an affair.
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. He lived a very showy life and he was certain, that he was going to die at the age of 30 years, because of his lifestyle (consumption of opium, etc.)

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.

In 1921 Crosby married Mary Phelps Jacob, whom he later persuaded to change her name to Caresse. 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 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 had 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 suicide (Harry apparently shot Josephine and then, according to the coroner, several hours later, he shot himself). 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.

Crosby evolved a bizarre personal religion, based on a conventional sun-worship coupled with his own idea of a prepared, not random death. These two themes were fused in his image of a black sun, a sun of madness and death, which demanded a "sun-death" at a specified time so that the soul might ascend into the sun.

In 1926 Harry had ordered a white marble gravestone and had it delivered to a cemetery he liked but also asked that his ashes be dumped over New York from an airplane. The funerals of both, in New York, were private.

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  • Maintained by: CMWJR
  • Originally Created by: Always with Love
  • Added: 30 Jul 2009
  • Find a Grave Memorial 40058554
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Harry Grew Crosby (4 Jun 1898–10 Dec 1929), Find a Grave Memorial no. 40058554, citing Cimetiere de l'Abbaye de Longchamp, Boulogne, Departement de la Vendée, Pays de la Loire, France ; Maintained by CMWJR (contributor 50059520) .