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The Cramoisy Queen

A lLife of Caresse Crosby

Linda Hamalian

Publication Year: 2009

Considering the literary and social contexts of Crosby’s life, Linda Hamalian details Crosby’s professional accomplishments and personal struggles. The Cramoisy Queen: also measures the impact of small presses on modernist literature and draws connections between key writers and artists of the era. 

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Book Title

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pp. iii


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pp. iv


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pp. vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

Caresse Crosby (1892–1970) and her husband Harry Crosby (1898-1929) founded the Black Sun Press in Paris in 1924. As patrons of expatriate writers, they befriended and published such influential figures as D. H. Lawrence, Hart Crane, Kay Boyle, Ernest...

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1. Spunky Little Rich Girl

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pp. 1-12

Caresse Crosby was born at home in New York City on April 20, 1892, and christened Mary Phelps Jacob. Polly, as she was called by her family, was a headstrong little girl with large blue eyes set far apart, brown hair, a square forehead, a full chin, and a mouth that smiled halfway. She was the oldest of three children, the only daughter, and...

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2. Polly Meets Harry

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pp. 13-26

To all concerned, Polly appeared to be a solid member of Boston society. Her years at Miss Chapin’s and Rosemary Hall were put to good use on Beacon Hill. Even though her modish short haircut and pink nail polish gave away her allegiance to New York City...

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3. How Polly Became Caresse

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pp. 27-37

In the spring of 1923, Polly replaced the children’s American nursemaid with a French governess, Mme. Doursenaud, and sent them all off to live in a Versailles pension. Billy was seven years old, and Polleen not yet six. Polly and Harry moved out of their...

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4. A Woman of Many Trades

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pp. 38-49

In October 1925, Caresse and Harry rented an apartment that suited them perfectly: three spacious stories in 19 rue de Lille, an elegant eighteenth-century townhouse in the Faubourg St.-Germain. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, delicate wood...

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5. Treasures for the Black Sun Press

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pp. 50-65

Eugene Jolas introduced Kay Boyle to the Crosbys on May 19, 1928, at the Bal N

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6. The Death of Harry Crosby

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pp. 66-81

The Crosbys may have worked well and played well together, but their marriage was troubled. Despite Harry’s impassioned declarations of love and commitment to Caresse, he carried on love affairs and casual sexual liaisons from the beginning of their days in...

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7. Business or Pleasure

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pp. 82-100

There was something manic about Caresse’s determination to conduct business as usual in the months that followed Harry’s death. She kept her despair at bay by carefully supervising the publication of Harry’s oeuvre, and her own poetry, testaments to her...

Gallery [Image Plates]

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pp. G1-G28

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8. Atlantic Crossings

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pp. 101-107

Over the next few years, Caresse cultivated the friendships of many remarkable artists, writers, and musicians. She collected adventures with Max Ernst, Paul Eluard, and Elsa Schiaparelli, who would be the first designer to open a boutique, below her...

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9. Mind Over Matter

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pp. 108-120

In the summer of 1936, Caresse told her longtime friend Constance Crowninshield Coolidge, Harry’s “Lady of the Golden Horse,” about two important changes in her life: she had set her future in the United States, and, to her delight, her heart had been....

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10. Old Friends, New Friends

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pp. 121-131

Caresse had been leading a fairly secluded life for the past four years. Yes, she had played host to Salvador and Gala Dal

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11. A Woman of Influence

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pp. 132-142

After a dreary winter in Washington in 1942, Caresse realized that she would never land a position with a government agency to help the war effort. Wanting a change of scene to lift her spirits, she drove cross-county with Salar, her Afghan hound, to the S-Bar-S Ranch in the desert, north of Reno, and to Virginia City, back to her....

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12. Back in the Avant-Garde

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pp. 143-157

Towards the end of the war, Caresse found herself in a peculiar position. During a period of great, worldwide disaster, she had done very well for herself. She had put an end to a destructive marriage, made a fresh start in a new city, cultivated friendships and romances, and established a reputation as a patron of contemporary art and...

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13. Mondialization

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pp. 158-169

By the end of May 1947, Caresse had gathered all the material that she needed for Portfolio 6. She flew to Paris to visit Billy and Josette, now married. The threesome spent the better part of June together and motored down the Loire Valley to view the chateaux and....

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14. Fame

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pp. 170-180

The 1950s for Caresse then were hardly a silent decade. Indeed, her rallying efforts on behalf of Women Against War and Citizens of the World did not consume all of her energy. Caresse had started writing a six-part memoir that began with her “crystal chandelier” childhood; following...

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15. A Thirty-Year Plan

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pp. 181-190

Upon her return in 1959 to Roccasinibalda as owner outright, Caresse initiated her “Thirty Year Plan,” based on the program she had mapped out nearly a decade earlier. Trepidation was never part of her temperament; so be it that she would have to live to 107 if she...

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16. How to Run a Castle

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pp. 191-199

Caresse had been able to call many places home—New York City, Boston, Paris, Ermenonville, Fredericksburg, Washington, D.C., Delphi, and now Roccasinibalda. With the exception of Delphi, she had demonstrated a remarkable ability to nest well. The several flats...

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17. Keeping the Faith

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pp. 200-210

The castle, however, continued to serve as home base. Caresse would visit friends like Roloff Beny in Rome and Peggy Guggenheim in Venice. She took small motor trips to Spoleto, where she enjoyed the annual summer festival that attracted so many artists, writers, and musicians from around the world. She looked forward to...


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pp. 213-234


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pp. 235-238


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pp. 239-247

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Author Bio

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pp. 249

Linda Hamalian is a professor of English at William Paterson University of New Jersey, where she teaches twentieth-century literature and serves as the director of the Graduate Program in....

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809386468
E-ISBN-10: 0809386461
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809329014
Print-ISBN-10: 0809329018

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 32 b/w halftones
Publication Year: 2009