Cornford, (Rupert) John (1915 - 1936)

Biography: 
  • De-la-Noy, Michael. “Cornford, (Rupert) John (1915–1936).” Rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004.
  • Cornford, John. Collected Writings. Ed. by Jonathan Galassi. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1986. HX246 .C78 A2 1986 Robarts Library

Born Rupert John Cornford in Cambridge on 27 December 1915, the eldest son of Francis Macdonald Cornford, a professor of ancient philosophy, and his wife Frances Crofts Cornford, a poet and granddaughter of Charles Darwin. Although he was initially educated as a day boy at Campbridge, he was sent to be a border to Copthorne Preparatory School in Sussex at the age of nine. At age fourteen he received a scholarship to Stowe School. At fifteen, Cornford was already writing poetry under the influence Robert Graves, T. S. Eliot, and especially W. H. Auden. Meanwhile, his political views were being shaped by his reading of Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto.

After Stowe, Cornford enrolled in the London School of Economics, where his interest in politics increased. In between lectures, he spend his time in London deepening his commitment to eliminating poverty and establishing communism in England. The following year he entered Trinity College, Cambridge. Due to his increasing involvement in politics, Cornford had little time to write and only published nine poems during his three years at Cambridge. In March 1935 he became a full member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. In 1936 Trinity College awarded Cornford a scholarship, which the young poet turned down due to the breakout of the Spanish Civil War. A lover of military history since childhood as well as a strong opponent to Fascism, Cornford fled for Dieppe without saying goodbye to his family. By 8 August 1936 he was in Barcelona. It is thought that Cornford was the first Englishman to enlist in the International Brigades. After he participated in the battle for Madrid (which began on 7 November 1936), the young man regained his poetic inspiration and wrote some of his finest work in the coming weeks, including his best known poem "Heart of the Heartless World". Cornford was killed at the battle near Lopera in late December 1936. Hid body was never recovered.

Given Name: 
(Rupert) John
Family Name: 
Cornford
Birth Date: 
December 27, 1915
Death Date: 
December1936
Nationality: 
Family Relations: 
father : Francis Macdonald Cornford
mother : Frances Crofts Cornford
brother : Christopher Cornford
Literary Period: 
Literary Movement: 
Cause of Death: 
First RPO Edition: 
2009