Laurence Hope Biography

Adela Florence Nicolson (née Cory) (9 April 1865-4 October 1904) was an English poet who wrote under the pseudonym Laurence Hope.

She was born on 9 April 1865 at Stoke Bishop, Gloucestershire, the second of three daughters to Colonel Arthur Cory and Fanny Elizabeth Griffin. Her father was employed in the British army at Lahore, and thus she was raised by her relatives back in England. She left for India in 1881 to join her father. Her father was editor of the Lahore arm of The Civil and Military Gazette, and it was he who in all probability gave Rudyard Kipling (a contemporary of his daughter) his first employment as a journalist. Her sisters Annie Sophie Cory and Isabel Cory also pursued writing careers: Annie wrote popular, racy novels under the pseudonym "Victoria Cross," while Isabel assisted and then succeeded their father as editor of the Sind Gazette.

Adela married Colonel Malcolm Hassels Nicolson, who was then twice her age and commandant of the 3rd Baluchi Regiment in April 1889. A talented linguist, he introduced her to his love of India and native customs and food, which she began to share. This widely gave the couple a reputation for being eccentric. They lived in Mhow for nearly ten years. After he died in a prostate operation, Adela, who had been prone to depression since childhood, committed suicide by poisoning herself and died at the age of 39 on 4 October 1904 in Madras. Her son Malcolm published her Selected Poems posthumously in 1922.

In 1901, she published Garden of Kama, which was published a year later in America under the title India's Love Lyrics. She attempted to pass these off as translations of various poets, but this claim soon fell under suspicion. Somerset Maugham published a story called The Colonel's Lady loosely based on the ensuing scandal. Her poems often used imagery and symbols from the poets of the North-West Frontier of India and the Sufi poets of Persia. She was among the most popular romantic poets of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Her poems are typically about unrequited love and loss and often, the death that followed such an unhappy state of affairs. Many of them have an air of autobiography or confession. Her poetry was extremely popular during the Edwardian period, being hailed by such men as Thomas Hardy, and having two films as well as some musical adaptions of her poetry made, but since then her reputation has faded into near-obscurity. British composer Amy Woodforde-Finden set four of her lyrics from The Garden of Kama to music, the most popular of which was Kashmiri Song; and after these proved a critical success, set four more lyrics from Stars of the Desert (published in 1903) to music as well.

Details on her life are not easy to find due to her relative lack of letters, but Lesley Blanch in her book, Under A Lilac-Bleeding Star, included some biographical information that drew on unpublished memoirs written by her son. In Diaries and Letters from India, Violet Jacob provided some information about the Nicolsons and their milieu, although most of what is known of Violet, as she came to be known, had to be gleaned through her poetry. It is tempting to read much of her own life into her poems, but one must be careful in doing this, yet her dedication to her husband in this verse:

I, who of lighter love wrote many a verse,

Made public never words inspired by thee,

Lest strangers' lips should carelessly rehearse

Things that were sacred and too dear to me.

Thy soul was noble; through these fifteen years

Mine eyes familiar, found no fleck nor flaw,

Stern to thyself, thy comrades' faults and fears

Proved generosity thine only law.

Small joy was I to thee; before we met

Sorrow had left thee all too sad to save.

Useless my love----as vain as this regret

That pours my hopeless life across thy grave.

shortly before her suicide makes it hard for people to avoid this.

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