The themes Harry Crosby wrote about
Harry Crosby was an American heir, a bon vivant, poet, publisher, and for some, epitomized the Lost Generation in American literature. He was the son of one of the richest banking families in New England, a member of the Boston Brahmin, and the nephew of Jane Norton Grew, the wife of financier J. P. Morgan, Jr.. As such, he was heir to a portion of a substantial family fortune. He was a volunteer in the American Field Service during World War I, and later served in the U.S. Ambulance Corps. He narrowly escaped with his life.
Profoundly affected by his experience in World War I, Crosby vowed to live life on his own terms and abandoned all pretense of living the expected life of a privileged Bostonian. He had his father's eye for women, and in 1920 met Mrs. Richard Peabody (née Mary Phelps Jacob), six years his senior. They had sex within two weeks, and their open affair was the source of scandal and gossip among blue-blood Boston.
Mary (or Polly as she was called) divorced her alcoholic husband and to her family's dismay married Crosby. Two days later they left for Europe, where they devoted themselves to art and poetry. Both enjoyed a decadent lifestyle, drinking, smoking opium regularly, traveling frequently, and having an open marriage. Crosby maintained a coterie of young ladies that he frequently bedded, and wrote and published poetry that dwelled on the symbolism of the sun and explored themes of death and suicide.
Crosby's life in Paris was at the crossroads of early 20th century Paris literary and cultural life. He numbered among his friends some of the most famous individuals of the early 20th century, including Salvador Dalí, Ernest Hemingway, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 1927 Polly took the name Caresse, and she and Harry founded the Black Sun Press. It was the first to publish works by a number of struggling authors who later became famous, including James Joyce, Kay Boyle, Ernest Hemingway, Hart Crane, D. H. Lawrence, René Crevel, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound. Crosby died scandalously at age 31 as part of a murder–suicide or suicide pact.
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