Douglas Garman, the son of Walter Garman, the medical officer for Wednesbury, was born in 1903. His mother, Margaret Magill, who was nearly twenty years younger than her husband, had eight other children: Mary (1898), Sylvia (1899), Kathleen (1901), Rosalind (1904), Helen (1906), Mavin (1907), Ruth (1909) and Lorna (1911). The family lived at Oakeswell Hall, Wednesbury.
Garman attended prep school in Rugby and in 1916 was sent to Denstone College, a public school in Staffordshire, where he distinguished himself in English and rugby football. Cressida Connolly, the author of The Rare and the Beautiful: The Lives of the Garmans (2004), has argued: "Even as a young man he was intellectual and highly serious, although the poetry that he wrote speaks of a very romantic disposition. He was also handsome, especially in profile, when he looked rather like Rudolph Valentino. He had a sweet, lopsided smile, and he was dark and tall - six foot two or three - with a characteristic long stride and an easy elegance."
Garman won a place at Cambridge University to study Classics but during the course he switched to the recently established Faculty of English Literature. Inspired by the teaching of Ivor Armstrong Richards, he decided he wanted to be a writer. His parents and grandparents wanted him to join one of the professions. When he refused, all financial support was withdrawn. He later recalled that he had been brought up to live as a gentleman, but had been deprived of the means to do so.
In 1921 Garman met Edgell Rickword through Roy Campbell, the husband of his sister Mary Garman. Rickword had been one of the trench poets of the First World War. Serving as an infantry officer, he had lost an eye through wounds. As Cressida Connolly has pointed out: "He (Rickword) was slight and fair-haired, with a very quiet manner and a soft voice. His post-war lyrics - the erotic poems in particular - show a debt to Donne and the metaphysical poets as well as to Baudelaire and the symbolists."
At university he became friends with Ernest Wishart, the and future heir of Sir Sidney Wishart, a successful insurance broker and the sheriff of the City of London. In the summer of 1925 he took Wishart to meet his family. This included his fourteen-year-old sister, Lorna Garman. According to Cressida Connolly: "Ahead of her years, and wild, she seduced the much older Wishart in a hayrick."
After leaving university Ernest Wishart established a new publishing house, Wishart & Company. Garman went to work for his friend and in March 1925, along with Edgell Rickword, began publishing a quarterly literary review, Calendar of Modern Letters. It included the work of Robert Graves, E. M. Forster, Aldous Huxley, A. E. Coppard, L. P. Hartley, Cecil Gray, Hart Crane, John Holms, T. F. Powys, Allen Tate, Roy Campbell, Edmund Blunden, Percy Wyndham Lewis, Siegfried Sassoon, D. H. Lawrence, Bertrand Russell and Edwin Muir.
Garman was assistant editor of the Calendar of Modern Letters. He also contributed several poems and wrote several articles on writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Arlen and Aldous Huxley. He also gave a good review of Where is Britain Going?, a book written by Leon Trotsky. By this time Garman was a socialist and he wrote: "A regeneration of intelligent sensibility may only be possible after a devastating and bloody revolt against the sickly, bourgeois, animal consciousness of our age."
Wishart & Company also published Negro, an anthology of pieces by 150 writers on black politics and culture, collected and edited by Nancy Cunard. As Edgell Rickword said later: "We all three felt to some degree that literature must be understood and practised as a part of a culture wider and deeper than any single art form, because culture was the essence of the way in which people lived and thought and felt."
During this period Garman met and fell in love with Jeanne Hewitt. They married and moved to a flat in Milman Street in Bloomsbury. Their first and only child, Deborah, was born on 5th January 1926. Soon afterwards, Garman decided to move to Penybont. His best friend, Edgell Rickword, and his girlfriend, Thomasina, went with them to their new home in Wales.
Douglas Garman and Edgell Rickword were both socialists and in 1926 attempted to support the miners during the General Strike. Garman was very disappointed when the Trade Union Congress called off the strike. In November, 1926, the Garmans decided to travel to the Soviet Union. For the next six months Garman gave English lessons in Leningrad.
Garman arrived back in England in April 1927. Mary Campbell wrote a letter to William Plomer where she argued: "My brother suddenly arrived on the doorstep last night. He has just come back from Russia and is very nice, much more amusing than he used to be. We were surprised to see him as he and Roy (Campbell) never liked each other... We all sat up talking all night. It was awfully interesting."
He returned as assistant editor of Calendar of Modern Letters. However, the journal folded three months later. Garman and Edgell Rickword now did editorial work for Wishart & Company. Later that year Garman published a book of poems, The Jaded Hero.
Garman's relationship with Jeanne Hewitt Garman became very difficult. In 1932 Jeanne and her sister Lisa, visited Mary Campbell and Roy Campbell in Martigues. According to Cressida Connolly, the author of The Rare and the Beautiful: The Lives of the Garmans (2004): "It seems that Mary and Jeanne became lovers at this time, and Mary's letters attest to a brief romance... It was during the same visit that Campbell began an affair with Jeanne's sister Lisa... who like her sister, was a considerable beauty."
In March 1933 Garman became a director of Wishart & Company. Once again he was back working with Ernest Wishart and Edgell Rickword. Soon afterwards he was contacted by his old friend, John Holms, about publishing Ryder, a novel written by his friend, Djuna Barnes. Garman met Holms and his partner, Peggy Guggenheim, in the Chandos pub in Trafalgar Square. In her autobiography, Out of this Century (1979), Guggenheim commented: "Douglas Garman never published Ryder. I believe he did not like it, but he asked us if he could come to stay with us in Paris at Easter time. When he came, I fell in love with him." However, she continued to live with Holms.
That summer John Holms fractured his wrist, riding on Dartmoor with Peggy Guggenheim. Despite being reset, the bones had never realigned correctly, and he had been advised to have a simple operation. Holms was a heavy drinker and on the morning of the operation on 19th January, 1934, he had a terrible hangover. Holms died under the anaesthetic. Garman wrote Guggenheim a letter of condolence. The couple had dinner in March and soon afterwards they became lovers. The couple set up home at Yew Tree Cottage in South Harting.
In her autobiography, Out of the Century (1979) Guggenheim argued: "Garman was a straightforward, honest person with a wonderful sense of humor, and a fine mimic. He was simple, and disapproved of all snobbishness and chi-chi. He was a puritan and a frustrated poet. He was a revolutionary at heart, but all his habits and tastes belonged to the class in which he was born. He spoke beautiful English as well as excellent Russian, French and Italian. He was well educated. His tempo was quite different from mine. I moved about ten times faster than he did, and almost went mad waiting for him to finish sentences. He was five years younger than I which made me self-conscious. He found me very sloppy and would have liked me to dress much better than I did. He did not like me to have any gray hair."
Guggenheim, who was an extremely wealthy woman, persuaded him to give up his job in order to concentrate on his writing career. During this period Garman became increasingly interested in politics. For many years he had been a member of the Labour Party. However, in 1934, he decided to join the Communist Party of Great Britain. His two closest friends, Ernest Wishart and Edgell Rickword, also joined. Instead of staying at home with Peggy Guggenheim, he became a travelling lecturer. He also helped establish the Marxist journal, Left Review.
In 1935 Ernest Wishart merged his company with another publishing house to form Lawrence and Wishart. The new company moved to offices in Red Lion Square and became the press of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Despite the objections of Guggenheim, Garman joined the new venture. The company concentrated on publishing books on economics, working-class history and the classics of Marxism. Wishart also published New Writing, a twice-yearly anthology, that included the work of W.H.Auden, Ralph Fox, Christopher Isherwood and Cecil Day Lewis.
Garman's friend, Alick West commented: "He loved life with a humour which ranged from the exuberant to the sardonic, and with an intelligence which knew its heights and depths and faced them with courage. He strove to live with all his consuming energy and to make others live. He could not endure that anyone should exist in indifference. Where he was, he quickened the life around him into pleasure and gaiety, laughter and wit, and with honesty that went to the very heart. In his friendship was the unsparing generosity of truth."
In October 1936 Garman joined the 500 men on the Welsh Miners' Hunger March from South Wales to London. He reported on the event for the CPGB newspaper, The Daily Worker. According to Cressida Connolly: "Douglas Garman's moving handwritten journal of the Welsh miners' march deserves to find a publisher."
On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Garman wanted to join the International Brigade. However, as Peggy Guggenheim explained in her autobiography, Out of the Century (1979): "Garman went around the country in a second-hand car he had bought for the purpose, giving lectures and trying to recruit new members. I saw him less and less as he was so busy. I was more and more alone, and became more and more unhappy. It was during the period of the Spanish War and he was very excited about it. I was afraid he was going to join the International Brigade, but his health would not permit."
In 1936 it was agreed that Jeanne Hewitt Garman would have responsibility for her daughter Deborah during term-times but she would stay with Douglas and Peggy during holidays. This worked well as Peggy had a daughter, Pegeen, of the same age: "Garman and Debbie moved into Yew Tree Cottage, and I found myself once again the mother of two children. I loved Debbie. She was just the opposite of any child I had ever known. She was so mature, calm, sensible, self contained and well behaved, and so little trouble. She was intellectual like her father and loved to read and to be read to. She had a wonderful influence over Pegeen, and Pegeen over her. She became less priggish in our home. They got on marvelously and were soon like sisters."
Jeanne Hewitt Garman began an affair with a young actor and asked Garman for a divorce. According to Peggy Guggenheim: "Garman said I would have to be co-respondent. I protested violently because Mrs. Garman had left Garman long before I met him, and I considered this most unfair. But Garman said I was living with him, and there was no other way to do it, since he would not divorce his wife. The whole thing was very silly. We had to be found in a room together, Garman in a dressing gown and I in bed. A detective came down from London early in the morning, so that the children would not know about it. After that he wanted to come again, but Garman said he would not go through it a second time, it must suffice."
Guggenheim wrote to her friend, Emily Coleman: "If I followed my instinct I would leave him. Though I do love him I don't think we should be together. But I haven't the courage to go." Coleman then wrote to their mutual friend, Djuna Barnes: "She is madly in love with him (Garman). She wants him far more than he does her; this is the first time that's happened to Peggy."
In 1937 Garman spent a lot of time working with Lewis Jones, the Welsh organiser of the National Unemployed Workers' Movement. Garman and Arthur Horner, the President of the South Wales Miners' Federation, suggested that Jones wrote about his experiences in the form of a novel. Garman believed that Jones had a vitally important role in breaking down the division between workers and intellectuals. Jones' novel, Cwmardy, was published in 1937. It is claimed by Hywel Francis that the main character in the novel is based on Will Paynter.
Roy Campbell and Mary Campbell went to stay with Ernest Wishart and Lorna Wishart for Christmas. The Wisharts organised a dinner party that including Garman, Peggy Guggenheim and Edgell Rickword. A discussion on the Spanish Civil War caused a major rift in the family. Rickword later commented: "He (Campbell) was very good fun, by no means a fool. But where he got this crappy, hysterical sort of fascism from, I don't know." Campbell responded by describing Wishart's home as "Bolshevik Binsted".
Guggenheim even joined the Communist Party of Great Britain in an attempt to please Garman. She recalled in her autobiography: "Garman wanted me to join the Communist party but he said that they would not accept me unless I did a job for them. I wrote a letter to Harry Pollitt, the head of the Party, and said that I wanted to join, but that I could not take a job as I lived in the country, took care of two little girls and had no free time. Of course I was accepted. Which was what I wanted to prove."
Djuna Barnes, Ernest Wishart, Edgell Rickword, Bertrand Russell and William Gerhardi, all visited Peggy Guggenheim at Yew Tree Cottage. However, Guggenheim, who had previously had a very busy social life complained about her "extremely lonely life, getting more and more depressed". She also argued that Garman was now only interested in members of the CPGB: "The only people he now wanted to invite to Yew Tree Cottage were Communists, and it didn't matter what other qualifications they had: if they were Communists they were welcome. I found myself entertaining the strangest guests. Any person from the working class became a sort of god to Garman."
Garman's relationship with Guggenheim continued to deteriorate. She wrote to Emily Coleman: "Garman and I seem to drift further and further apart spiritually and mentally though the physical is overwhelming still." Peggy Guggenheim admitted: "After I had been with Garman about a year and a half I began to get the idea of running away from him. I tried it on various occasions, but he always got me back. I didn't want to live with him and I didn't want to live without him. He still loved me very much, though I did everything to destroy it. I don't see how he could have endured me so long."
Garman became especially interested in Jessie "Paddy" Ayriss, the wife of George Hardy, a leading figure in the CPGB. Guggenheim noted: "She was very attractive. She looked rather American, with a tip-tilted nose and a smart figure... Garman was very upset about his new love affair because Paddy had a husband... Garman did not want to interfere and break up their marriage, and anyway Paddy wasn't quite ready to leave her husband, who was much older than she was, and whom she rarely saw." In the end Douglas moved to Hampstead with Paddy and they were married.
Lewis Jones died of a heart-attack on 27th January 1939. He had recently addressed 30 meetings supporting the fight against fascism in Spain. Some of his friends later claimed that he died of a broken-heart because he knew that communism had lost its fight with fascism. Jones' second novel, We Live, was unfinished. It is believed that Garman persuaded his partner, Mavis Llewellyn, to write the last two chapters, "A Party Decision" and "A Letter from Spain". The book was published by Lawrence and Wishart later that year.
Garman became an education officer for the Communist Party of Great Britain during the Second World War. He also lectured at trade union branches and at meetings of the Left Book Club. He wrote to Paddy: "Teaching is really my work... the fact of teaching, of being able to get over to other comrades what I know to be exciting and important, stimulates me enormously.... Keep loving me as much as I do you and we'll be invulnerable.... Believe me, this work does help to bring about what we both try to live for." His friend, Liz West, remarked: "He had the effect of making you want to live.. I think this is why he was an exceptional person."
After the war Douglas Garman found himself in disagreement with Harry Pollitt and the leadership of the CPGB and he decided to withdraw from party activities: "In 1950 I decided that, if I could now write, in such a way as to give expression to the far greater understanding of the class struggle and my much deepened conviction of its necessity, my participation through writing would be more effective."
Garman began writing a semi-autobiographical novel which dealt with political issues through the changing beliefs of a large family and a polemic entitled The Necessity of Revolution. However, both books were never completed. He suffered from depression and in one poem he wrote: "I cannot sing, for my throat is hoarse with slogans."
Garman became a farmer in Sussex. He also wrote the text for some of the Shell Guides to England. He remained a Marxist. His friend, Alick West commented: "He made himself a Marxist because in Marxism and revolution he saw the same promise of life as in poetry. In the Party schools which he created he enabled others to see it also. There are men and women throughout the land who will never forget him."
Douglas Garman died in 1969.
Douglas Garman was not a bad choice, if security and devotion were what she sought. Born in 1903 to a wealthy doctor and his wife (she was said to be half-Gypsy), he grew up in an Elizabethan manor house called Oakeswell Hall in Wednesbury, near Birmingham in Staffordshire. Garman had a brother, Mavin, a farmer in Hampshire, and seven remarkable sisters, several of whom would figure in Peggy's life in the future. The beautiful Garman girls carried on a dizzying, decades-spanning roundelay of marriages and affairs with prominent men that would have left Alma Mahler envious. They included Mary, who married the fascist South African poet Roy Campbell and had an affair with Vita Sackville-West; Sylvia, who was said to have had an affair with the elusive T. E. Lawrence; Kathleen, the muse and mistress of Sir Jacob Epstein, the sculptor, who became his wife only after bearing him three children; Rosalind, who prosaically married a garage owner and had two children; Helen, who married a half-Norwegian fisherman in France and had a daughter, Kathy, who married the much-loved poet and memoirist Laurie Lee (whose Cider with Rosie was published in 1959); Ruth, who lived in Herefordshire and had several children by different men; and Lorna, perhaps the most beautiful of all, who married Ernest Wishart, the publisher who employed Douglas Garman, and bore him a child at seventeen, later had an illegitimate daughter with Laurie Lee (afterward her niece Kathy's husband), and later still had an affair with the painter Lucian Freud (who, in turn, later married and had a child with Kitty Epstein, another of Lorna's nieces, the daughter of Kathleen). Peggy was to consider all these Garmans as a kind of honorary family.
Douglas Garman had gone to Cambridge but then veered from a conventional course, announcing to his grandfather, also a doctor, that he wanted to be a writer. The grandfather, livid, brushed his wishes aside and told him there were four professions open to a gentleman: the church, the army, law, and medicine. When Garman ignored this advice, his grandfather cut him out of his will.
While a student at Cambridge, he had switched from the study of the classics to that of English literature. Books and politics became his greatest interests. Even as a young man lie was intellectual and highly serious, although the poetry that he wrote speaks of a very romantic disposition. He was also handsome, especially in profile, when lie looked rather like Rudolph Valentino. He had a sweet, lopsided smile, and he was dark and tall - six foot two or three - with a characteristic long stride and an easy elegance. He never had any difficulty in striking up a conversation, whether at a parry, in a railway carriage or across a garden fence. His interests were academic, but humour was essential to his nature. In common with his siblings he was a brilliant, merciless mimic, and lie enjoyed teasing, although he could be prickly. "He teased everybody, but hee didn't like to be teased," his step-daughter remembered. Having grown up in a big family, Douglas was used to ragging, but he could seem harsh to other people. Some found him sardonic - especially, in later life, when he was sometimes to be engulfed by disappointment - but he was essentially kind.
Douglas wanted to be a writer, despite the disapproval of his paternal grandfather, who urged him to join one of the professions. There were only five paths open to a man, old Dr Garman pronounced: the army, the navy, the law, the Church or medicine. When his grandson said that he was not planning to follow any of them, he was cut off without a penny and the promised support for his younger brother Mavin's university education was withdrawn. In later life Douglas used to sigh that he had been brought up to live as a gentleman, but had been deprived of the means to do so.
Garman was a straightforward, honest person with a wonderful sense of humor, and a fine mimic. He was simple, and disapproved of all snobbishness and chi-chi. He was a puritan and a frustrated poet. He was a revolutionary at heart, but all his habits and tastes belonged to the class in which he was born. He spoke beautiful English as well as excellent Russian, French and Italian. He was well educated. His tempo was quite different from mine. I moved about ten times faster than he did, and almost went mad waiting
for him to finish sentences. He was five years younger than I which made me self-conscious. He found me very sloppy and would have liked me to dress much better than I did. He did not like me to have any gray hair.
He loved life with a humour which ranged from the exuberant to the sardonic, and with an intelligence which knew its heights and depths and faced them with courage. He strove to live with all his consuming energy and to make others live. He could not endure that anyone should exist in indifference. Where he was, he quickened the life around him into pleasure and gaiety, laughter and wit, and with honesty that went to the very heart. In his friendship was the unsparing generosity of truth. Poetry inspired him. He made himself a Marxist because in Marxism and revolution he saw the same promise of life as in poetry. In the Party schools which he created he enabled others to see it also. There are men and women throughout the land who will never forget him.
By degrees Garman got more and more interested in Karl Marx and fell more and more under his spell. He began applying Marx's theories to everything. He gave a course of lectures to prove that all the great writers were revolutionary. He lost all sense of proportion and criticism and saw everything in one light. I went to these lectures and asked questions to embarrass and confuse him. After John's brilliant mind and detachment, all this was too silly for me to endure.
Garman got more and more involved and finally joined the Communist Party. All the money I gave him, which formerly went to paying for the building he had done on the house and on other things, now went to the Communist Party. I had no objection to that at all. I merely got bored listening to the latest orders from Moscow, which I was supposed to obey. Garman wanted me to join the Communist party but he said that they would not accept me unless I did a job for them. I wrote a letter to Harry Pollitt, the head of the Party, and said that I wanted to join, but that I could not take a job as I lived in the country, took care of two little girls and had no free time. Of course I was accepted. Which was what I wanted to prove.
Garman went around the country in a second-hand car he had bought for the purpose, giving lectures and trying to recruit new members. I saw him less and less as he was so busy. I was more and more alone, and became more and more unhappy. It was during the period of the Spanish War and he was very excited about it. I was afraid he was going to join the International Brigade, but his health would not permit.
The only people he now wanted to invite to Yew Tree Cottage were Communists, and it didn't matter what other qualifications they had: if they were Communists they were welcome. I found myself entertaining the strangest guests. Any person from the working class became a sort of god to Garman. As I got more and more bored I fought more and more with Garman. Not that I was against Communism as a principle. I just found it difficult suddenly to have my whole life directed by Garman's new religion, I for it had certainly become that. He was like Sir Galahad after he had seen the Holy Grail. During the time of the Moscow purges I was upset because I thought Stalin had gone rather far, but Garman explained it all away. He had a marvelous way of convincing me that everything the Communists did was right. I must say they are pretty clever.