Catherine Carswell

Emma Garman at The Paris Review:

The life and career of the gifted Glaswegian writer Catherine Carswell was marked by such alarming and recurrent notoriety that her present obscurity is baffling. In 1908, still in her twenties and working as a newspaper critic, Carswell made headlines when a judge ruled that her husband, who suffered from murderous paranoid delusions, was of unsound mind at the time of their wedding. Although the couple had a daughter, Carswell got the marriage annulment she’d fought for and an enduring legal precedent was set. In 1930, she became a pariah in Scotland thanks to her sexually frank biography of national poet-hero Robert Burns, which offended zealous keepers of the Burns myth. One reader saw fit to send the author a letter containing a bullet, with the suggestion that she “leave the world a better, brighter, cleaner place.” Then, in 1932, Carswell’s biography of her friend D.H. Lawrence, The Savage Pilgrimage, was sensationally withdrawn from stores amid accusations of libel—not from the subject, who died in 1930, but from John Middleton Murry, the writer and critic. Murry, Lawrence’s posthumous biographer and the widower of Katherine Mansfield, had a tangled and volatile history with the late novelist and his wife, Frieda. An angry Lawrence once told Murry he was “an obscene bug sucking my life away.”

more here.

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