Francis Scarfe

(1911-1986 / South Shields, England)

Biography of Francis Scarfe

Francis Scarfe was an English poet, critic and novelist, who became an academic, translator and Director of the British Institute in Paris.

He was born in South Shields; he was brought up from a young age at the Royal Merchant Seaman's Orphanage. He was educated at Durham University and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. He then studied at the Sorbonne.

While in Paris he wrote surrealist verse, and dabbled in communism, from which he then retreated. He taught at the University of Glasgow briefly before the outbreak of World War II, in which he worked in the British Army's Education Corps. He was posted to Orkney, and the Faroe Islands. While in the Orkneys he lodged with the family of the young George Mackay Brown, on whom he was a major influence.

His book from 1942 was one of the first to engage critically with the Auden Group, if superficially; he returned to Auden in a post-war book of greater depth. After the war he held a number of academic positions.

Francis Scarfe's Works:

Inscapes (1940) poems
Forty Poems and Ballads (1941)
Auden & After: The Liberation Of Poetry, 1930-41 (1942) criticism
Promises (?) first novel
W. H. Auden (1948) criticism
Underworlds (1950) poems
Single Blessedness (1951) novel
The Unfinished Woman (1954) novel
The Art of Paul Valéry (1954)
Picasso by Frank Elgar and Robert Maillard (1956) translator
Baudelaire (1961, Penguin Books) editor
Conversations on the Dresden Gallery, by Louis Aragon and Jean Cocteau (1982) translator
Complete Verse of Charles P. Baudelaire (1986 Anvil Press Poetry) translator
Baudelaire: the Poems in Prose (1989, Anvil Press Poetry) translator

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Those who love cats which do not even purr
Or which are thin and tired and very old,
Bend down to them in the street and stroke their fur
And rub their ears, and smooth their breast, and hold
Them carefully, and gaze into their eyes of gold.

For how can they pass what does not ask for love
But draws it out of those who have too much,
Frustrated souls who cannot use it all, who have

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