Laura riding

Laura Riding Jackson (1901-1991). Courtesy Czwórkowe spotkania z poezją i sztuką.

Laura (Riding) Jackson
Born January 16 1901(1901-Template:MONTHNUMBER-16)
New York City
Died September 2 1991(1991-Template:MONTHNUMBER-02) (aged 90)
Wabasso, Florida, U.S.
Pen name Laura Riding
Occupation Poet, critic, essayist, novelist
Nationality United States American
Genres poetry
Literary movement Modernism, Fugitives
Spouse(s) Louis R. Gottschalk (1920–1925)
Schuyler B. Jackson (1941–1968)(
Partner(s) Robert Graves (1929–1936)

Laura Riding Jackson (January 16, 1901 – September 2, 1991) was an American poet, critic, novelist, essayist and short story writer.


Youth Edit

Jackson was born Laura Reichenthal in New York to a family of Austrian Jewish immigrants, and educated at Cornell University, where she began to write poetry, publishing first (1923–26) under the name Laura Riding Gottschalk. She became associated with the Fugitives through Allen Tate, and they published her poems in The Fugitive magazine. Her first marriage, to historian Louis R. Gottschalk (1899–1975), ended in divorce in 1925, at the end of which year she went to England at the invitation of Robert Graves and his wife Nancy Nicholson. She would remain in Europe for nearly 14 years.[1]

Poetry: association with Robert Graves Edit

The excitement stirred by Laura Riding's poems is hinted at in Sonia Raiziss' later description: "When The Fugitive (1922–1925) flashed down the new sky of American poetry, it left a brilliant scatter of names: Ransom, Tate, Warren, Riding, Crane.... Among them, the inner circle and those tangent to it as contributors, there was no one quite like Laura Riding".[2] Riding's first collection of poetry, The Close Chaplet, was published in 1926, and during the following year she assumed the surname Riding.[3] By this time the originality of her poetry was becoming ever more evident: generally she favoured a distinctive form of free verse over conventional meters.

Riding, Robert Graves, and Nancy Nicholson were based in London until Riding's failed suicide-attempt in 1929. It is generally agreed that this episode was a major cause of the break-up of Graves's first marriage: the whole affair caused a famous literary scandal. Thereafter, until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Riding and Graves lived in Deià, Majorca, where they were visited by writers and artists including James Reeves, Norman Cameron, John Aldridge, Len Lye, Jacob Bronowski, and Honor Wyatt. The house is now a museum.[4]

Progress of Stories (1935) would later be highly esteemed by, among others, John Ashbery and Harry Mathews.[5] Between 1936 and 1939 Riding and Graves lived in England, France, and Switzerland; Graves accompanied Riding on her return to the USA in 1939.

Riding and Graves were highly productive from the start of their association, though after they moved to Majorca they became even more so. While still in London they had set up (1927) a private press (the Seizin Press), collaborated on A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927) (which inspired Empson to write Seven Types of Ambiguity and was in some respects the seed of the New Criticism), A Pamphlet Against Anthologies (1928), and other works. In Majorca the Seizin Press was enlarged to become a publishing imprint, producing inter alia the substantial hardbound critical magazine Epilogue (1935–1938), edited by Riding with Graves as associate editor. Throughout their association both of them steadily produced volumes of major poetry, culminating for each with a Collected Poems in 1938.

Graves and Riding left Majorca in 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, they moved to the United States and took lodging in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Their changing relationship is described by Elizabeth Friedmann in A Mannered Grace, by Richard Perceval Graves in Robert Graves: 1927–1940, The Years with Laura and by T.S. Matthews in Jacks or Better (1977), and also was the basis for Miranda Seymour's novel The Summer of '39 (1998).

In 1939 Riding and Graves parted, and in 1941 she married Schuyler B. Jackson, eventually settling in Wabasso, Florida, where she lived quietly and simply until her death in 1991 (Schuyler having died in 1968). The vernacular "cracker" house in which they lived has been renovated and preserved by the Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation.

According to Graves' biographer Richard Perceval Graves, Riding played a crucial role in the development of Graves' thoughts when writing his book The White Goddess, despite the fact the two were estranged at that point. However, on reviewing the book after publication Riding was furious, saying: "Where once I reigned, now a whorish abomination has sprung to life, a Frankenstein pieced together from the shards of my life and thoughts."[6]

Renunciation of poetry; later writings Edit

In about 1941 Riding renounced poetry, though it would be 15 to 20 years before she would feel able to begin explaining her reasons and exploring her unfolding findings.[7] She withdrew from public literary life, working with Schuyler Jackson on a dictionary (published posthumously in 1997) that would lead them into an exploration of the foundations of meaning and language.

In April 1962 she read "Introduction for a Broadcast", her first formal statement of her reasons for renouncing poetry (there had been a brief reference book entry in 1955), for the BBC Third Programme. An expanded version of the piece was published that year in the New York magazine Chelsea, which also published "Further on Poetry" in 1964, writings on the theme of women-and-men in 1965 and 1974, and in 1967, "The Telling". The 62 numbered passages of "The Telling", a "personal evangel", formed the "core part" of a book of the same title,[8] thought by some to be her most important book alongside Collected Poems.

Writings and publications continued to flow throughout the 60, 70s, and 80s, as Laura (Riding) Jackson (her authorial name from 1963–64 onwards) explored what she regarded as the truth-potential of language free from the artificial restrictions of poetic art. 'My faith in poetry was at heart a faith in language as the elementary wisdom', she had written in 1976 ('The Road To, In, And Away From, Poetry', Reader 251). Her later writings attest to what she regarded as the truth-potential contained in language and in the human mind. She might be regarded as a spiritual teacher whose unusually high valuation of language led her to choose literature as the locus of her work.

Two entire issues of Chelsea were given over to new writings by her, It Has Taken Long (1976) and The Sufficient Difference (2001). Publication of her work has continued since her death in 1991, including First Awakenings (her early poems) (1992), Rational Meaning: A New Foundation for the Definition of Words (1997), The Poems of Laura Riding, A Newly Revised Edition of the 1938/1980 Collection (2001), and Under The Mind's Watch (2004). The most recent books to appear are The Failure of Poetry, The Promise of Language (2007), and On the Continuing of the Continuing (2008). Her works have been published in France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Poland, and Brazil. The Laura (Riding) Jackson Board of Literary Management are her literary executors.



as Laura Riding Gottschalk
  • The Close Chaplet. New York: Adelphi, 1926.
  • Voltaire: A biographical fantasy. London: Hogarth Press, 1927; Folcroft, PA: Folcroft, 1969.
as Laura Riding
  • Love as Love, Death as Death. London: Seizin Press, 1928.
  • Poems: A joking word. London: Jonathan Cape, 1930.
  • Twenty Poems Less. Paris: Hours Press, 1930.
  • Though Gently. Majorca: Seizin Press, 1930.
  • Laura and FranciscaMajorca: Seizin Press, 1931.
  • The Life of the Dead (in French and English; illustrated by John Aldridge). London: Barker, 1933.
  • The First Leaf. Majorca: Seizin Press, 1933.
  • Poet: A lying word. Barker, 1933.
  • Americans. Los Angeles: Primavera, 1934.
  • The Second Leaf. Majorca: Seizin Press, 1935.
  • The Collected Poems of Laura Riding. London: Cassell, 1938; New York: Random House, 1938.
    • revised edition (as Laura (Riding) Jackson) The Poems of Laura Riding: A new edition of the 1938 collection. New York: Persea Books, 1980.
  • Selected Poems: In five sets. London: Faber, 1970; New York: Norton 1973,
    • as Laura Riding: Selected poems in five sets. New York: Persea Books, 1993.
as Laura (Riding) Jackson
  • The Poems of Laura Riding. Manchester, UK: Carcanet, 1986.
  • First Awakenings: The early poems of Laura Riding. New York: Persea Books, 1992.
  • A Selection of the Poems of Laura Riding. New York: Persea Books, 1997.


  • 14A (as Laura Riding, with George Ellidge). Barker, 1934.
  • Convalescent Conversations(as "Madeleine Vara"). Majorca: Seizin Press, 1936.
  • A Trojan Ending (as Laura Riding). New York: Random House, 1937; Manchester, UK: Carcanet, 1984.

Short fictionEdit

as Laura Riding
  • Experts Are Puzzled (essays and short stories). London: J. Cape, 1930.
  • Progress of Stories(short stories), Seizin Press (Majorca), 1935, Books for Libraries (Freeport, NY), 1971, revised edition, Dial (New York City), 1982.
  • Lives of Wives (historical fiction). New York: Random House, 1939.


as Laura Riding
  • A Survey of Modernist Poetry (with Robert Graves). London: Heinemann, 1927; Doubleday, 1928.
  • A Pamphlet against Anthologies (with Robert Graves). New York: Doubleday, 1928.
  • Contemporaries and Snobs. London: J. Cape, 1928.
  • Anarchism Is Not Enough. New York: Doubleday, 1928.
  • Four Unposted Letters to Catherine. Hours Press, 1930
    • (with afterword by Elizabeth Friedman & Alan J. Clark). New York: Persea Books, 1993.
  • Pictures. London, 1933.
  • Len Lye and the Problem of Popular Films. London: Seizin Press, 1938.
  • The Covenant of Literal Morality. London: Seizin Press, 1938.
  • The Left Heresy in Literature and Life (with Harry Kemp & others), London: Methuen, 1939.
as Laura Riding Jackson
  • The Telling. London: Athlone Press, 1972; New York: Harper, 1973.
  • From the Chapter "Truth" in "Rational Meaning: A New Foundation for the Definition of Words" (Not Yet Published) (With husband, Schuyler B. Jackson). Berkhamsted, England, UK: Priapus, 1975.
  • It Has Taken Long: From the writings of Laura (Riding) Jackson. New York: Chelsea Associates, 1976.
  • How a Poem Comes to Be. Northridge, CA: Lord John Press, 1980.
  • Description of Life. New York: Targ Editions, 1980.
  • Some Communications of Broad Reference. Lord John Press, 1983.
  • The Word Woman, and other related writings (edited by Elizabeth Friedman & Alan J. Clark). Persea Books, 1993.
  • Rational Meaning: A new foundation for the definition of words; and supplementary Essays. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1997.


  • Marcel le Goff, Anatole France at Home (translated as Laura Riding Gottschalk). Adelphi, 1926.
  • Georg Schwarz, Almost Forgotten Germany (translated as Laura Riding, with Robert Graves). New York: Random House, 1936.


as Laura Riding
  • Everybody's Letters. Barker, 1933.
  • Epilogue: A critical summary (3 volumes). Majorca: Seizin Press, 1935-1937.
  • The World and Ourselves. London: Chatto & Windus (London), 1938.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[9]

See also Edit

References Edit

  • Friedmann, Elizabeth (2005). A Mannered Grace: the life of Laura (Riding) Jackson. New York: Persea Books
  • Nolan, John (2007). 'Poetry, Language, Truth-Speaking', editor's introduction to The Failure of Poetry, The Promise of Language by Laura (Riding) Jackson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
  • Clark, Alan J. (2000). 'Laura (Riding) Jackson: a revised check-list March 1923 – Jan 2001', pp. 147 – 79 in The Sufficient Difference: A centenary celebration of Laura (Riding) Jackson. (Chelsea 69). New York: Chelsea Associates, 2000. ISSN 0009-2185
  • Elizabeth Friedmann, A Mannered Grace: the Life of Laura (Riding) Jackson. Persea Books, 2005. ISBN 0-89255-300-6
  • Elizabeth Friedmann (ed), The Laura (Riding) Jackson Reader. Persea Books, 2005. ISBN 0-89255-263-8
  • Paul Auster, Truth, Beauty, Silence. Picador, 2005. ISBN 0-312-42468-X


  1. Friedman 2005
  2. "An Appreciation", Chelsea 12 1962, 28.
  3. Clark 2000
  4. <>
  5. See his 'Queen Story' in Immeasurable Distances: The Collected Essays, Venice, CA: The Lapis Press, 1991
  6. Lindop, Grevel, ed. 1997. Robert Graves: The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. Carcanet Press.
  7. Nolan 2007
  8. Athlone 1972, Harper & Row 1973, Carcanet 2005
  9. Laura Riding Jackson 1901-1991, Poetry Foundation, Web, Nov. 22, 2012.

External linksEdit


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