Winchester College, College St, Winchester SO23 9NA, United Kingdom
University of Edinburgh, Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL, Regno Unito
Campo Verano, Piazzale del Verano, 1, 00185 Roma RM, Italia
Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff, MC (25 September 1889 – 28 February 1930) was a Scottish writer, most famous for his English translation of most of Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, which he published under the Shakespearean title Remembrance of Things Past. His family name is the double-barrelled name "Scott Moncrieff". The headmaster in Scott Moncrieff’s ‘Evensong and Morwe Song’ (1908) punishes boys for sins he had committed in his own youth. Scott Moncrieff himself was expelled from Winchester for publishing the story.
Charles Kenneth Michael Scott Moncrieff was born at Weedingshall, Stirlingshire, in 1889, the youngest son of William George (1846–1927), Advocate, Sheriff Substitute, and Jessie Margaret Scott Moncrieff (1858–1936). He had two elder brothers Colin William (1879–1943), the father of the Scottish author and playwright George Scott Moncrieff, and John Irving (1881–1920).
In 1903, Scott Moncrieff was accepted as a scholar to Winchester College.
In 1907, while a scholar at Winchester College, Scott Moncrieff met Christopher Sclater Millard, bibliographer of Wildeana and private secretary to Oscar Wilde's literary executor and friend Robbie Ross.
In 1908, he published a short story, 'Evensong and Morwe Song', in the pageant issue of New Field, a literary magazine of which he was the editor. The story's sensational opening implies fellatio between two boys at a fictional public school 'Gainsborough' but its action principally concerns the hypocrisy of William Carruthers, the elder of the boys, who as headmaster of 'Cheddar' school, goes on to expel, for the same offence, the son of the boy he seduced. The story was republished in 1923 by Uranian publisher John Murray in an edition of fifty copies for private circulation only. The magazine was hastily suppressed, but it is unclear whether Scott Moncrieff was himself expelled.
After Winchester, Scott Moncrieff attended Edinburgh University, where he undertook two degrees, one in Law and then one in English Literature. Thereafter, he began an MA in Anglo-Saxon under the supervision of the respected man of letters, George Saintsbury. In 1913 he won The Patterson Bursary in Anglo Saxon and graduated in 1914 with first class honours. This stood him in good stead for his translation of Beowulf five years later.
During his time at Edinburgh, Scott Moncrieff met Philip Bainbrigge, then an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge, later a schoolmaster at Shrewsbury and the author of miscellaneous homoerotic odes to Uranian Love. Bainbrigge was killed in action at Épehy in September 1918.
In August 1914 Scott Moncrieff was given a commission in the Kings Own Scottish Borderers and served with the 2nd Battalion on the Western Front from 1914 to 1917. He made a conversion to Catholicism while at the Front in 1915. On 23 April 1917, while leading the 1st Battalion in the Battle of Arras he was seriously wounded by a shell explosion which tore into his left leg. Although he avoided amputation, his injuries disqualified him from further active service and left him permanently lame.
After his release from hospital in March 1918, Scott Moncrieff worked in the War Office in Whitehall. He supplemented his income by writing reviews for the New Witness, a literary magazine edited by G. K. Chesterton.
At the January 1918 wedding of Robert Graves, Scott Moncrieff met the war poet Wilfred Owen in whose work he took a keen interest. Through his role at the War Office Scott Moncrieff attempted to secure Owen a Home posting which would have prevented his return to the Front. According to Owen's biographer the evidence suggests a 'brief sexual relationship that somehow failed'.
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 and Siegfried Sassoon. During the 1920s, Scott Moncrieff maintained a rancorous rivalry with Sitwell, who depicted him unflatteringly as "Mr. X" in All At Sea. Scott Moncrieff responded with the pamphlet "The Strange and Striking Adventure of Four Authors in Search of a Character, 1926.", a satire on the Sitwell family.
Through his friendship with the young Noël Coward, he made the acquaintance of Mrs Astley Cooper and became a frequent house guest at her home Hambleton Hall. He dedicated the first volume of his translation of Proust to Cooper.
After the war, Scott Moncrieff worked for a year as private secretary to the press Baron, Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, owner of The Times, thereafter transferring to the editorial staff in Printing House Square. In 1923 his health compelled him to move to Italy, where he divided his time between Florence and Pisa, and later, Rome.
He subsequently supported himself with literary work, notably translations from medieval and modern French.
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 revised the Scott Moncrieff translation in 1981, and an additional revision was made by D.J. Enright in 1992. The work in the Enright edition is given the more literal title of In Search of Lost Time. Most recently, and under the same overall title, Yale University Press has begun to publish a new version of Scott Moncrieff's translation, edited and annotated by William C. Carter, with the first two volumes published in 2013 and 2015.
Scott Moncrieff died of cancer at Calvary Hospital in Rome in 1930. He was buried in the Campo Verano. His remains lie in a small communal ossuary with those who died in the same month at the same convent. The exact place can be located by doing a search by name and date of death at the gate.
The Society of Authors administers the annual award of a Scott Moncrieff Prize for French Translation.
Chasing Lost Time: the Life of C K Scott Moncrieff, Soldier, Spy and Translator by his great-great-niece Jean Findlay was published in 2014.
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