Rosamund Stanhope

Poet of taradiddles and rannygazoo


Barbara Rosamund Stanhope, poet and teacher: born Northampton 4 March 1919; married 1945 Eric Jones (died 1977; one daughter); died Witney, Oxfordshire 7 December 2005.

Rosamund Stanhope was a poet and teacher extraordinaire. "AND I DO HEREBY GIVE RATIFY AND CONFIRM," she writes in "Last Will and Testament",

to my
said daughter
my migratory ideals, my
attempts at identification with the truth
my refusal to be reconciled to
white weddings, artificial flowers, vibraphones and Sandy Macpherson
playing
"The Chapel in the Valley"
together with the wish that she should engage in the Battle of Life
with enthusiasm, wonder, guts and a dash of ham
eschewing the easy beguilements of
the gravy train, Gucci, Fratini, Ghost, Worth
and the perennial facility for saying the right thing . . .

Born in 1919 in Northampton, Rosamund Stanhope was the daughter of a Latvian father - a very wealthy leather merchant. Born in Bausk, he had been adopted at the age of four by a German baron and had moved to England in 1900, changing his name from Sternberg to Stanhope, and married the pretty daughter of his landlady. Rosamund saw little of him - she was brought up mostly by a nanny - but adored him. He died when she was 13. She had one brother, Vivian, a newspaper journalist 18 months older than herself, to whom she was extremely close. He died in 1959.

Rosamund was educated at public school, latterly St James's, West Malvern, where she felt "out of place" given her natural absence of concern about "social" propriety. One of her closest friends was Lady Patricia Douglas, the equally free-spirited niece of Oscar Wilde's nemesis.

The school made no provisions for girls to go on to university. She went instead to the Central School of Speech and Drama, where she was taught by its founder, the celebrated Elsie Fogarty. While there, she first had a poem accepted for publication; this was by Muriel Spark, then editor of Poetry Review. Soon after, her poems started appearing regularly in magazines such as John O'London's Weekly, Time & Tide, Poetry Review and The Times Literary Supplement and, in later years, in Poetry Wales and The Anglo-Welsh Review.

In 1940 the Central School was evacuated to Exeter University, where one of Rosamund Stanhope's boyfriends was a dashing and romantic Welshman who was reading French. Eric "Jerry" Jones shared her love of literature, though French and Latin literature was his terrain; he was a keen and sensitive water-colourist. After leaving Central, Stanhope had one acting job, before being called up in 1943 to the ATS; but she volunteered for the WRNS, and worked as a radio mechanic at a Scottish air base. She was later seconded to do "war work" as a secretary at the BBC, in the Latin American department.

When the Second World War was over, she and Jerry Jones married and a daughter, Louise, was born a few years later in Swansea on St David's Day. Her love of Wales and the Celtic spirit was constant and much of her poetry celebrates Wales. In 1953 she returned to Central School, to do the teacher-training course there; this time she studied alongside Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave.

She taught Speech and Drama, and English, at several Worcestershire schools, initially Worcester Girls Grammar School. Popular with the girls she taught, she had consistent success; many pupils who struggled with the subject achieved examination passes thanks to her clarity and encouragement, and high achievers were inspired to surpass themselves. Her natural independence of spirit, elegance and spontaneity endeared her to the young.

In 1962, her first collection, So I Looked Down to Camelot, was published by Scorpion Press to favourable reviews, notably one from Elizabeth Jennings. Then she had to wait 28 years for her second collection, Lapidary (1990), followed by her final collection, No Place for the Maudlin Heart (2001), both published by Peterloo.

In 1963, after four years' home study on top of her full-time job, she took a London external degree, gaining a 2:1 in English Language and Literature. In September 1963, however, she had a tragic accident. She fell downstairs backwards, wearing high heels, and fractured her spine. Initially paralysed from the waist down, she emerged in 1970 from years of operations (although she returned to work in 1965), with significant internal trauma, and permanent partial paralysis of her legs. For the rest of her life she suffered from intermittent intense pain, and was unable to walk unaided. (During the years of repeated hospitalisation, she was always put next to very depressed people or children because her naturally lively and kind nature infected those around her.)

She continued to teach, and retired from her last post, as lecturer in English at Bridgnorth College, at the age of 68. At this period, her consistent habit of poetry writing was a supplanted for a while as she wrote seven novels, all unpublished. A car crash in 1991, though she was not injured, brought on anxiety neurosis, and thereafter her need for physical care increased rapidly. But those who came into contact with her always enjoyed her for her perpetual enjoyment of life, her generous and affectionate nature, and her ribald sense of humour.

The essence of Rosamund Stanhope's character as a poet was captured in a 1991 London Review of Books review of Lapidary:

Rosamund Stanhope enjoys piling up terms from scientific lexicons, such as those from botany and astronomy, and summoning up recondite words like " alkahest", "paduasoy" and "whigmaleerie" [one could add "taradiddles" and "rannygazoo"] . . . Her poetry searches long perspectives, far beyond those of a single life - extending through evolutionary time and into outer space - with a

"sense of mystery, and of the convergence and divergence of scientific and more traditional "poetic" modes of apprehension . . . But she also homes in on the human: on the lives of Welsh folk, or on moments of deep personal feeling."

Rosamund Stanhope had a sharp contempt for all artificial paradises: " Never here the risk of / the missed catch, the lost / 'bus, the possibility of the / bottom falling out of the / lotus-market . . ." Like Hopkins and MacNeice before her, she made memorable poems out of her relish for "All things counter, original, spare, strange" and her perception "of things being various".

Harry Chambers

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam