C. K. Scott-Moncrieff
Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff MC
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

 (25 September 1889 – 28 February 1930) was a Scottish
Scottish people
The Scottish people , or Scots, are a nation and ethnic group native to Scotland. Historically they emerged from an amalgamation of the Picts and Gaels, incorporating neighbouring Britons to the south as well as invading Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse.In modern use,...

 writer, most famous for his English translation of most of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, which he published under the Shakespearean title Remembrance of Things Past
In Search of Lost Time
In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past is a novel in seven volumes by Marcel Proust. His most prominent work, it is popularly known for its considerable length and the notion of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the "episode of the madeleine." The novel is widely...


Early life

Scott Moncrieff was born in Stirlingshire
Stirlingshire or the County of Stirling is a registration county of Scotland, based around Stirling, the former county town. It borders Perthshire to the north, Clackmannanshire and West Lothian to the east, Lanarkshire to the south, and Dunbartonshire to the south-west.Until 1975 it was a county...

, the youngest of three sons. Because his brothers, Colin Scott Moncrieff and John Irving Scott Moncrieff, were several years older, the young "Charlie" spent much of his childhood playing alone or lost in books. From the age of seven he attended a local day school, where he displayed an uncommon genius for languages.

Winchester College

He attended Winchester College
Winchester College
Winchester College is an independent school for boys in the British public school tradition, situated in Winchester, Hampshire, the former capital of England. It has existed in its present location for over 600 years and claims the longest unbroken history of any school in England...

 and while still a schoolboy, became associated with the Wildean circles of Robert Ross
Robert Baldwin Ross
Robert Baldwin "Robbie" Ross was a Canadian journalist and art critic. He is best known as the executor of the estate of Oscar Wilde, to whom he had been a lifelong friend. He was also responsible for bringing together several great literary figures, such as Siegfried Sassoon, and acting as their...

 and Christopher Millard. Millard was Ross' sometime secretary and author of the first bibliography of Wilde's works, he was also well known for his pandering to young boys and may well have had a relationship with Scott Moncrieff. There is, however, no proof of this.

In 1907, he published a short story, "Evensong and Morwe Song", in the pageant issue of New Field, the literary magazine that he edited, while at Winchester College. The story deals implicitly with fellatio between boys at public schools. The magazine was hastily suppressed, although not before copies of the offending edition had been mailed to parents. The story was republished in 1923 in an edition of fifty copies for private circulation only. It was never published again in the author's lifetime. Although it is commonly claimed that Scott Moncrieff was expelled for this act of rebellion, there are no records of expulsion in Winchester College Archives and there are letters in the archive which mention his returning there before the war as an "old boy", which would have been unlikely had he left in disgrace.

Edinburgh University

After Winchester, Scott Moncrieff attended Edinburgh University, where he undertook two degrees, one in Law and then one in English Literature, an obvious choice for the son of an eminent magistrate who had also been a published author. Thereafter, he began an MA in Anglo-Saxon under the supervision of the respected man of letters, George Saintsbury
George Saintsbury
George Edward Bateman Saintsbury , was an English writer, literary historian, scholar and critic.-Biography:...

. He graduated in 1914 with first class honours, winning a prestigious prize, The Patterson Bursary in Anglo Saxon. This stood him in good stead for his translation of Beowulf
Beowulf , but modern scholars agree in naming it after the hero whose life is its subject." of an Old English heroic epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines, set in Scandinavia, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature.It survives in a single...

four years later.

During his time at Edinburgh, Scott Moncrieff made the acquaintance of Philip Bainbrigge, a schoolmaster at Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire, in the West Midlands region of England. Lying on the River Severn, it is a civil parish home to some 70,000 inhabitants, and is the primary settlement and headquarters of Shropshire Council...

 and the author of miscellaneous homoerotic odes to Uranian Love. He was also a close friend of Vyvyan Holland
Vyvyan Holland
Vyvyan Holland, OBE , born Vyvyan Oscar Beresford Wilde in London, was a British author and translator. He was the second son of Oscar Wilde and Constance Lloyd, after his brother Cyril.-Biography:...

, younger son of Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

.{"Son of Oscar Wilde" autobiography of Vyvyan Holland 1954}

Later life

He fought in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, serving on the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 from 1914 until 1917, when he was seriously wounded in the right leg after being thrown into the air by a shell explosion from behind. He walked with a limp for the rest of his days. He made a conversion to Catholicism while at the Front in 1915.

While convalescing in London in 1918, Scott Moncrieff worked in the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 in Whitehall
Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...

. He supplemented his income by writing reviews for the New Witness, a literary magazine edited by the great man of letters G. K. Chesterton
G. K. Chesterton
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG was an English writer. His prolific and diverse output included philosophy, ontology, poetry, plays, journalism, public lectures and debates, literary and art criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction, including fantasy and detective fiction....

. During this time he befriended the young poet Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

. He also succeeded, inadvertently, in earning the life-long enmity of Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon CBE MC was an English poet, author and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon's...

 whose The Old Huntsman
The Old Huntsman
The Old Huntsman is a 1917 collection of poems by Siegfried Sassoon and the name of the first poem in the collection....

he had given a mixed review.

It was at the wedding of Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

 in January 1918 that Scott Moncrieff met another poet, Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC was an English poet and soldier, one of the leading poets of the First World War...

, with whom he maintained a difficult relationship for several months. Biographers of Owen disagree over whether or not this relationship was sexual. Coded sonnets by Scott Moncrieff, addressed to a "Mr. W. O.," suggest that his love for Owen was unrequited. However, rumours of an affair were enough for Graves to cut off correspondence with both men.

On the day of Graves' wedding Scott Moncrieff testified as a character witness at the trial of his possible sometime lover, Millard, at great personal risk to himself.

The last months of the war dealt a cruel blow. His closest friend, Bainbrigge, was killed in September 1918, and another possible ex-lover, the poet Ian Mackenzie, died of pneumonia the following month. Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918, Scott Moncrieff arriving at the Front too late to be reunited with his beloved.

After Owen's death, Scott Moncrieff's failure to secure a "safe" posting for Owen was viewed with suspicion by his friends, including Osbert Sitwell
Osbert Sitwell
Sir Francis Osbert Sacheverell Sitwell, 5th Baronet, was an English writer. His elder sister was Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell and his younger brother was Sir Sacheverell Sitwell; like them he devoted his life to art and literature....

 and Sassoon. Sitwell reportedly told one biographer that Scott Moncrieff had "as good as murdered" Owen. Scott Moncrieff was subsequently cut out from the attempt by Edith Sitwell
Edith Sitwell
Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell DBE was a British poet and critic.-Background:Edith Sitwell was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, the oldest child and only daughter of Sir George Sitwell, 4th Baronet, of Renishaw Hall; he was an expert on genealogy and landscaping...

 and Sassoon to publish Owen's poetry, despite being in possession of some original drafts. During the 1920s, Scott Moncrieff maintained a rancorous rivalry with Sitwell, who depicted him unflatteringly as "Mr. X" in All At Sea
All at Sea
All at Sea is a naval ruleset for Games Workshop's miniature wargame The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. The official rules were a modified version of the Warhammer Boat rules, adapted by Nick Davis and first presented in Games Workshop's White Dwarf magazine .The game's mechanics centred...


In 1919, Scott Moncrieff published a translation of The Song of Roland
The Song of Roland
The Song of Roland is the oldest surviving major work of French literature. It exists in various manuscript versions which testify to its enormous and enduring popularity in the 12th to 14th centuries...

, dedicating it to his three fallen friends. The poem addressed to Owen, the last in his series of sonnets, expresses a hope that their "two ghosts" will "together lie" in the next life.

Through his friendship with the young Noel Coward, he made the acquaintance of Lady Astley Cooper and became a frequent house guest at her home Hambleton
Hambleton, Rutland
Hambleton is a village and civil parish in Rutland, England. It is located about two miles east of Oakham. In 2001 it had a population of 140...

. He dedicated the first volume of his translation of Proust to Lady Cooper.

After the war, Scott Moncrieff worked as private secretary to the press Baron, Alfred Harmsworth or Lord Northcliffe, owner of The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

, until Northcliffe's death in 1922. Soon after, his health compelled him to move to Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, where he divided his time between Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 and Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...

, and later, Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...


He subsequently supported himself with literary work, notably translations from medieval and modern French.

Remembrance of Things Past

Scott Moncrieff published the first volume of his Proust translation in 1922, and continued until his death in January 1930, at which time he was working on the final volume of the novel. His choice of the title Remembrance of Things Past, by which Proust's novel was known in English for many years, is not a literal translation of the original French. It is, in fact, taken from the second line of Shakespeare's Sonnet 30
Sonnet 30
Shakespeare's Sonnet 30, one of his most famous, is a reflection on sad memories reconciled by the realization of the gift he has in his friend. A phrase from the second line of this sonnet has achieved a worldwide circulation in the literature of the twentieth century, with its concern with time:...

 ("When to the sessions of sweet silent thought / I summon up remembrance of things past..."). In a letter written on his deathbed in 1922,Proust congratulated Scott Moncrieff on his remarkable translation, but objected to the lack of ambiguity in the title: "Temps Perdu" meaning, in French both Lost Time and Wasted Time. However he apologised warmly for scarcely understanding English himself.(Letter from Proust to Scott Moncrieff dated 10th October 1922 in National Library, Edinburgh)

Death and after

The original French text of the Remembrance was re-edited in later years, in two successive editions, and these additions and revisions were subsequently incorporated in later English translations. Thus, Terence Kilmartin
Terence Kilmartin
Terence Kilmartin CBE was an Irish translator who served as the literary editor of The Observer between 1952 and 1986. The most well-known and popular of his translations is his 1981 revision of C. K...

 revised the Scott Moncrieff translation in 1981, and an additional revision was made by D.J. Enright in 1992. The work in these later versions is given the more literal title of In Search of Lost Time
In Search of Lost Time
In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past is a novel in seven volumes by Marcel Proust. His most prominent work, it is popularly known for its considerable length and the notion of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the "episode of the madeleine." The novel is widely...

. To what extent these revisions (and revisions of revisions) have improved Scott Moncrieff's text has been discussed and evaluated differently by different people.

Scott Moncrieff died of cancer at Calvary Hospital in Rome in 1930 and was buried in the Verano Cemetery. His remains lie in a small communal ossuary with those who died in the same month in the same convent. The exact place can be located by doing a search with name and date of death at the gate.

The Translators Association administers the annual award of a Scott Moncrieff Prize for French Translation
Scott Moncrieff Prize
The Scott Moncrieff Prize, named after the translator C. K. Scott Moncrieff, is an annual £2,000 literary prize for French to English translation, awarded to one or more translators every year for a full-length work deemed by the Translators Association to have "literary merit"...


External links

  • http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/heloise1.asp
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