University of Cambride, 4 Mill Ln, Cambridge CB2 1RZ, UK
(Helen) Hope Mirrlees (8 April 1887 – 1 August 1978) was a British translator, poet and novelist. She is best known for the 1926 Lud-in-the-Mist, a fantasy novel and influential classic, and for Paris: A Poem, a modernist poem that critic Julia Briggs deemed "modernism's lost masterpiece, a work of extraordinary energy and intensity, scope and ambition."
Born in Chislehurst, Kent and raised in Scotland and South Africa, Mirrlees attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before going up to Newnham College, Cambridge to study Greek. While at Cambridge, Mirrlees developed a close relationship with famous classicist Jane Ellen Harrison, Mirrlees' tutor and later her friend and collaborator.
Mirrlees and Harrison lived together from 1913 until the elder's death in 1928. Although they divided their time mainly between the United Kingdom and France, often returning to Paris to continue Harrison's medical treatments, their travels also took them to other European countries. Both of them studied Russian, Mirrlees earning a Diploma in Russian from the École des Langues Orientales of Paris, and went on to collaborate on translations from the Russian. Mirrlees and Harrison visited Spain in 1920, and there took Spanish lessons.
After Harrison's death, Mirrlees converted to Catholicism. In 1948, Mirrlees moved to South Africa and remained there until 1963, when the first volume of her "extravagant biography" of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton was published (the second volume is unpublished). Two volumes of poetry, Poems and Moods and Tensions, were also privately published.
Mirrlees was a friend of Virginia Woolf, who described her in a letter as "her own heroine – capricious, exacting, exquisite, very learned, and beautifully dressed." Her circle of celebrity friends also included T. S. Eliot; Gertrude Stein, who mentions Mirrlees in Everybody's Autobiography; Bertrand Russell; and Lady Ottoline Morrell.
Mirrlees died in Thames Bank, Goring, England, in 1978, aged 91.
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