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Viola Gerard Garvin (1 January 1898[1] – 1969) was an English poet and literary editor at The Observer.

Life and careerEdit

Viola Garvin was born at Benwell, the eldest daughter of J. L. Garvin, later the long-time editor of The Observer; her older brother Gerard was killed in the First World War. She was named for Francis Thompson's "The Making of Viola" and for Viola Meynell, the subject of the poem.[2][3] She was educated at South Hampstead High School[4] and at Somerville College, Oxford,[5][6] and then became assistant literary editor at The Observer in 1926; she later became literary editor,[7] but was let go when her father's contract was not renewed in 1942.[8][9][10][11] She also worked as a translator from the French: for example in 1930 of Jacques Chardonne's Eva[12] and after leaving The Observer, of Romain Gary's Forest of Anger (1944),[13] Rémy's The Messenger (1954)[14] and Constantin de Grunwald's Peter the Great (1956).[15]

In the 1920s and 1930s, she repeatedly went into debt. In the early 1930s she was in a relationship with Humbert Wolfe, a poet who also reviewed for The Observer, but he was married.[16] She died in January 1969.[5]


Garvin published three books: As You See It (1922), Corn in Egypt (1926) and Dedication (1928).[17]

Robert E. Howard used lines from her "The House of Cæsar" for his suicide note.[18]


  1. ^ According to Katharine Garvin, J. L. Garvin: A Memoir, London: Heinemann, 1948, OCLC 186300723, p. 60, of J. L. Garvin's second, third, and fourth children, two were born on 1 January and one on 2 January; she herself, the fourth, was born on 1 January (p. 44) and her older sister Una on 2 January (p. 41); therefore Viola, the second child, must be the other who was born on 1 January.
  2. ^ Katharine Garvin, p. 36.
  3. ^ David Ayerst, Garvin of the Observer, London / Sydney: Croom Helm, 1985, ISBN 9780709905608, p. 26.
  4. ^ Katharine Garvin, p. 71.
  5. ^ a b Constance Savery, "Work Diary. 2nd-4th February 1969". Manuscript collection, Knight Library, University of Oregon. Savery remembered Garvin's "dark haunting eyes" and recalled that "she shone like a planet at Somerville. No glitter, just 'the soft journey that a planet goes'".
  6. ^ Giles Brindley, Oxford: Crime, Death and Debauchery, Stroud: Sutton, 2006, ISBN 9780750938204n. p..
  7. ^ Katharine Garvin, pp. 58, 62.
  8. ^ Ayerst, pp. 219, 280.
  9. ^ "Briefs", The Bookseller, 30 June 1979, p. 2946.
  10. ^ Jeremy Lewis, David Astor: A Life in Print, London: Jonathan Cape, ISBN 9780224090902, p. 123.
  11. ^ Stephen E. Koss, The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain, Volume 2 The Twentieth Century, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1984, ISBN 9780241105610, p. 612.
  12. ^ Carlos Peacock, Painters and Writers: An Anthology, London: Tate Gallery, 1949, OCLC 869923636, p. 18.
  13. ^ David Bellos, Romain Gary: A Tall Story, London: Harvill Secker, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84343-170-1, p. 102.
  14. ^ Publishers Weekly 166.14 (1954) p. 2361.
  15. ^ C. Bickford O'Brien, "Review: Peter the Great by Constantin de Grunwald, Viola Garvin", The American Slavic and East European Review 16.1 (February 1957), 91–92, doi:10.2307/3001346.
  16. ^ Ayerst, pp. 232–34.
  17. ^ Jane Dowson and Alice Entwistle, A History of Twentieth-Century British Women's Poetry, Cambridge / New York: Cambridge University, 2005, ISBN 9780521819466, p. 318.
  18. ^ M. J. Elliott, "Introduction", R. E. Howard, The Right Hand of Doom and Other Tales of Solomon Kane, Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 2007, ISBN 978-1-84022-611-9, pp. 7–11, p. 7.