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Crosby, Caresse (1891-1970) | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: Crosby, Caresse (1891-1970)


Historical Note: Caresse Crosby was born Mary Phelps Jacob on April 30, 1891 in New Rochelle, New York, daughter of a prominent New England family. After a brief marriage to Richard Rogers Peabody, she married Harry Crosby in 1922 and soon after moved to France. In April, 1927, they founded a publishing company soon to become The Black Sun Press. The publications included a Hindu Love Book, The Fall of the House of Usher, and letters by Harry's cousin, Henry James, to Walter Berry. Other contributors to the Black Sun Press included D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Kay Boyle, Ernest Hemingway, Hart Crane, Rene Crevel, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound among others. Caresse wrote a book of poetry, Crosses of Gold, which they also published. In 1928, Harry met Josephine Noyes Rotch with whom he had an ongoing affair. On December 10, 1929, in an apparent suicide pact, Harry and Josephine were found dead in a hotel room. After Harry Crosby's suicide, Caresse kept the Black Sun Press going. She also established, with Jacques Porel, a side venture, Crosby Continental Editions, that published paperback books by Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and Dorothy Parker, among others. Ahead of her time, her paperback books did not sell well, and the press closed in 1933. The Black Sun Press, however, continued publishing into the 1950s. In 1936 Caresse and her new husband Selbert Saffold moved to Bowling Green, Virginia where she kept company with Salvador Dali, Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin. By 1941, having divorced Saffold, Caresse moved to Washington D.C., where she opened the city's only modern art gallery. She also started Portfolio: An Intercontinental Quarterly, a magazine that sought to continue her work with young and avant-garde writers and artists. She published six editions before she ran out of funds and sponsors. This was her last major publishing effort. She became politically active and founded the organizations Women Against War and Citizens of the World, which embraced the concept of a "world community" which other activists like Buckminster Fuller also supported. In 1953, Caresse published her autobiography, The Passionate Years. She died in relative obscurity from complications from pneumonia in Rome on January 24, 1970, aged 78.





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