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Annie Winnifred Ellerman
(September 2, 1894 - January 28, 1983) U.K.

Annie Winnifred Ellerman

Novelist, poet, and critic


Annie Winnifred Ellerman was born in Margate, Kent. Her father was the shipowner and financier John Ellerman, who at the time of his death in 1933 was the richest Englishman who had ever lived. He lived with her mother Hannah Glover, but did not marry her until 1908.

She travelled in Europe as a child, to France, Italy and Egypt. At the age of fourteen she was enrolled in a traditional English boarding school and at around this time her mother and father married. On one of her travels, Ellerman journeyed to the Isles of Scilly off the southwestern coast of Great Britain and acquired her future pseudonym from her favourite island, Bryher.

During the 1920s, Bryher was an unconventional figure in Paris. Among her circle of friends were Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach and Berenice Abbott. Her wealth enabled her to give financial support to struggling writers, including Joyce and Edith Sitwell. She also helped with finance for the Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company (started by Sylvia Beach), and certain publishing ventures, and started a film company POOL Productions. She also helped provide funds to purchase a flat in Paris for struggling artist Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.

She was also a cofounder and coeditor of Close-Up, an authoritative journal on silent motion pictures. Although Bryher wrote some poetry and nonfiction, among which was Film Problems of Soviet Russia (1929), it was her historical novels that brought her critical acclaim. These works include Beowulf (1948), The Fourteenth of October (1952), The Player's Boy (1953), and Ruan (1960), all set in Britain at various historical eras; and The Roman Wall (1954) and The Coin of Carthage (1963), which are set in the Roman Empire. Bryher was notable for the vivid artistry with which she accurately re-created ancient cultures during periods of change, disorder, and conflict.

Bryher knew from an early age that she was lesbian. In 1918 she met and became involved in a lesbian relationship with poet Hilda Doolittle (better known by her initials, H.D.). The relationship was an open one, with both taking other partners. In 1921 she entered into a marriage of convenience with the American author Robert McAlmon, whom she divorced in 1927.

That same year she married Kenneth Macpherson. Macpherson was H.D.'s lover, and the marriage served to hide their affair from H.D.'s husband, Richard Aldington. In 1928, Doolittle became pregnant with Macpherson's child, but chose to abort the pregnancy.

Bryher divorced MacPherson in 1947. She and Doolittle no longer lived together after 1946, but continued their relationship until Doolittle's death in 1961.

Acclaimed in her own time, her historical novels have now fallen out of print. Since 2000, Visa for Avalon, her early semi-autobiographical novels Development and Two Selves, her memoir The Heart to Artemis, and her historical novel The Player's Boy have all been republished.

She died in Vevey, Switzerland.


Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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