Treasure Island

Frances Darwin Cornford

(30 March 1886 - 19 August 1960 / Cambridge, England)

Biography of Frances Darwin Cornford

Frances Darwin Cornford poet

Frances Cornford should not be confused with her husband Francis Cornford.

Frances Crofts Cornford (née Darwin) was an English poet.

She was the daughter of the botanist Francis Darwin and Ellen Crofts, born into the Darwin — Wedgwood family. She was a granddaughter of the British naturalist Charles Darwin. Her elder half-brother was the golf writer Bernard Darwin. She was raised in Cambridge, among a dense social network of aunts, uncles, and cousins, and was educated privately.

In 1909, Frances Darwin married Francis Cornford, a classicist and poet. They had 5 children: Helena (b. 1913), John (1915-1936), a poet and Communist who was killed in the Spanish Civil War. Christopher (1917-1993), an artist and writer

Clare, who became the mother of Matthew Chapman Hugh

Frances Cornford published several books of verse, including Poems (1910), Spring Morning (1915), Autumn Midnight (1923), and Different Days (1928). Mountains and Molehills (1935) was illustrated with woodcuts by Cornford's cousin Gwen Raverat.

She wrote poems including The Guitarist Tunes Up:

With what attentive courtesy he bent
Over his instrument;
Not as a lordly conqueror who could
Command both wire and wood,
But as a man with a loved woman might,
Inquiring with delight
What slight essential things she had to say
Before they started, he and she, to play.


One of Frances Cornford's poems was a favourite of the late Philip Larkin and his lover Maeve Brennan. All Souls' Night uses the superstition that a dead lover will appear to a still faithful partner on that November date. Maev, many years after Larkin's death, would re-read the poem on All Souls:

My love came back to me
Under the November tree
Shelterless and dim.
He put his hand upon my shoulder,
He did not think me strange or older,
Nor I him.


Although the myth enhances the poem - it can be read as the meeting of older, former lovers.

She is buried at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge.

Frances Darwin Cornford's Works:

Poems (1910)
Spring Morning (1915)
Autumn Midnight (1923)
Different Days (1928)
Mountains and Molehills (1935)
Poems from the Russian (1943)
Travelling Home & Other Poems (1948)
Collected Poems (1954)
On a Calm Shore (1960)
Fifteen Poems from the French (1976)
Frances Cornford: Selected Poems (1996)

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PoemHunter.com Updates

The Coast: Norfolk

As on the highway's quiet edge
He mows the grass beside the hedge,
The old man has for company
The distant, grey, salt-smelling sea,
A poppied field, a cow and calf,
The finches on the telegraph.
Across his faded back a hone,
He slowly, slowly scythes alone
In silence of the wind-soft air,

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