Partner Luis Cernuda

Queer Places:
University of Cambridge, 4 Mill Ln, Cambridge CB2 1RZ

John Stanley Richardson (March 25, 1911 - March 8, 1941) was an English poet. In 1935 at a salon hosted by Carlos Morla Lynch, a diplomat, diarist, amateur musician and closet homosexual working in the Chilean Embassy in Madrid, Luis Cernuda met Richardson, nine years younger than him, who was making a brief visit to the country. He had already met Altolaguirre and Concha Méndez in London. They enjoyed some kind of intense but short-lived relationship, commemorated in a poem dated 20-22 March 1935 and included in Invocaciones, before Richardson returned home. In February 1938, Richardson arranged for him to give a series of lectures in Oxford and Cambridge. At the time, Cernuda thought that he would be away from Spain for one or two months, however this was to be the start of an exile that would last for the rest of his life. The lectures never took place. Richardson was well-connected, however, and arranged a party for him, attended by celebrities such as the Duchess of Atholl, Gavin Henderson, 2nd Baron Faringdon, the Chinese ambassador, Rebecca West and Rose Macaulay. Even by then, the situation in Spain meant that it was not advisable for Cernuda to return and so Richardson suggested that he should join a colony of evacuated Basque children at Eaton Hastings on Faringdon's estate.

John Stanley Richardson was born on March 25, 1911, the son of a Lincolnshire farmer. Educated at the local Grammar School in Horncastle, in October 1929 he went up to St John's College, Cambridge with a scholarship. Richardson graduated from St. John’s College, Cambridge in 1932 with first-class honours in modern languages. At the University he was active as an actor and dancer and poet. He founded the Merry Meeting Poetry Club, edited the student magazine, and published a collection of his verse, Road to Emmaus (1934). He began graduate work on the Poema de Mío Cid but did not complete his thesis. Time Magazine (1940) called him the “young Cambridge poet Stanley Richardson, protégé of the Archbishop of York.”

In London in late 1933 Richardson met the Spanish poet Manuel Altolaguirre and his wife and fellow poet Concha Méndez. The Spanish couple prepared a bilingual poetry review, 1616 (the review published ten numbers) which counted among its contributors: Rafael Alberti, Luis Cernuda, T.S. Eliot, Federico García Lorca, A.E. Housman, and Ramón Pérez de Ayala. John Stanley Richardson’s work appeared in most of the ten issues of the review, with several of his own poems and his translations from the Spanish of poems by Alberti, Altolaguirre, Méndez and García Lorca. He also translated English poems to Spanish (see, for example, the versions of A.E. Housman translated to Spanish by Altolaguirre and Richardson in issue number 3, 1934).

In February 1935, Richardson went to Spain where he hoped to meet many of the Spanish contemporary poets whose work appeared in 1616. He carried a letter of introduction from Manuel Altolaguirre to Carlos Morla Lynch, the Chilean consul in Madrid who was a friend of many of the young Spanish poets of the time. In his written memoirs, Morla Lynch recalls that on the 16th of February 1935 he had as a house guest García Lorca, the poet ill with a fever, and that Richardson appeared at the door. From Morla Lynch’s memoirs, we learn that on March 12 he took Stanley Richardson to a special performance of Yerma. The next day, accompanied by Cernuda, Richardson attended a lecture recital by Pablo Neruda at the University of Madrid. In his memoirs, Carlos Morla Lynch writes that Stanley Richardson left Spain in mid March, two days after the special Yerma performance.

Was this camaraderie in large part caused by shared homosexuality? José Teruel suggests that Richardson was gay when he writes that the Englishman had a “pequeño idilio” with Luis Cernuda and Rivero Taravillo calls Richardson Cernuda’s “antiguo amor inglés.” Both Lorca and Cernuda’s homosexuality has never been in doubt and we know that Cernuda briefly had a lover, Serafín Fernández Ferro, whom he met through García Lorca and to whom he dedicated the poem “Como leve sonido” in 1931, while Martínez Nadal hints openly that Cernuda had a sexual relationship with a “joven escocés” in Glasgow. Román Gubern writes about the gay group which surrounded Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca (among them, Luis Cernuda, Benjamín Palencia, Juan Gil-Albert, Vicente Aleixandre, Gustavo Durán and Eduardo Blanco Amor) men who were “compañeros de [la] constelación cultural de García Lorca”.

Soon after returning to England, Richardson published his essay, “Spanish Poetry,” in which he praised Cernuda (Cernuda, the “poet of unhappy love,” “is his poetry” and “will inevitably reach greatness”) and he offered in his essay translations of, among others, Cernuda, Altolaguirre, Méndez and García Lorca. In 1936 Richardson assisted the Spanish Aid Committee and briefly returned to Spain as a volunteer translator. Testimony by his collaborator Kenneth Sinclair Loutit (1913- 2003) is explicit in its reference to Richardson’s open homosexuality during that second visit to Spain: Stores and staff were beginning to arrive. Among the first new faces were those of Peter Spencer, Viscount Churchill and of Stanley Richardson. It is impossible to remember these two without remembering also some of their more outrageous goings-on. I had known Stanley at Cambridge. Without question he was a talented poet. He was also wildly gay and oddly innocent. Indeed I believe him to be unique in that he really and truly was once afraid that he was going to have a baby after a series of country walks he had been taking with a Rugby blue. Stanley Richardson I had not seen since Cambridge where he had been a brilliant Spanish scholar and had since become a superb interpreter. Despite their talents I doubted whether, either separately or together, they were suited to the current atmosphere of Barcelona. I was not entirely right, as I later found that Stanley went down surprisingly well with macho types, especially big, ferocious, pistol-toting anarchists For someone of Stanley’s temperament it was not possible to be in a city like Barcelona and to go to bed early. He and Peter Spencer went out one evening. It seems that they had discovered a Café with a night life that suited them. Stanley went back alone to the Café in question, which turned out to be a resort of the Partida Obrera Unificada Marxista, the Trotskist grouping (POUM). Stanley told me that he had had a wonderful evening and had heard a lot of “terribly naughty conversation.” It seems that the people in that place made fun of absolutely everybody and everything. He had met with great success in that café “because you see I know Lorca by heart and they were making spontaneous poetry, each table contributing a line with me throwing in a line of Lorca or one of my own.” It was clear that this was the safe harbour of a broad anti-Stalinist wedge of the population, as well as being the meeting place of left-wing gays and other non-conformists. But fun though it may have been this second visit allowed Stanley to smell danger and he drew back. Soon after this Stanley took fright; in Barcelona the noise and the killings became too much for him and he went home.

On his return to London, Richardson became the press attaché for the Spanish ambassador and was one of the founders of the Arden Society for Artists and Writers Exiled in England. During the Spanish civil war, he continued to publish in Spain, for example in Hora de España, the Republican journal founded in Valencia by Rafael Alberti, Juan Gil Albert and others. Richardson’s work appeared in that magazine’s number 13 (January 1938) which contained also Antonio Machado, Jacinto Benavente, Emilio Prados and others. Richardson’s work also appeared in Stephen Spender and John Lehmann, eds., Poems for Spain (1939). In 1938 Richardson published a 4-pp-leaflet, “Air-Raid over Barcelona.”

Richardson helped his intimate friend Luis Cernuda leave Spain for England by providing him with a visa and organizing for him a series of talks on the topic of the Spanish civil war. However the “relación sentimental” between the two men apparently had gone sour. Cernuda wrote to his friend Rafael Martínez Nadal in August of 1938 that Richardson had come to see him in Paris but that he had not wanted to see him. Rivero Taravillo writes that Cernuda fled England not only because he did not fit in there but that he also fled from Richardson. By all accounts Cernuda was a difficult person, but after a brief return to Spain he again came to England, and Richardson helped him find a teaching position in the Granleigh School, Surrey. In 1938 Richardson and Cernuda translated the Wordsworth sonnets “El roble de Guernica” and “Cólera de un español altanero.” They worked on an (unpublished) anthology of Spanish poetry translated to English. Cernuda and Richardson had become very intimate, Richardson dedicating to Cernuda the poem “Swan Lake” and Cernuda to Richardson his “Por unos tulipanes amarillos” (Invocaciones).

When the Spanish Republic fell in 1939, Richardson lost his post at the Spanish Embassy but continued his work with the Arden Society. He began an autobiography (he was only 27 years old) and another collection of poems but was killed in a bombardment in London in 1941. Among his papers in the archives of St. John’s Library: the manuscript of the poem “Be Blind My Soul,” the short story “The Prodigal Brother,” the announcement of his memorial service (of 8 March 1941) and nine letters. Luis Cernuda destroyed the letters he received from Richardson.

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