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Harold Edward Monro was born on 14th March 1879 at 137 Chaussée de Charleroi, Saint-Gilles, Brussels. He was the youngest of the three surviving children to Edward William Monro, a civil engineer, and his wife and first cousin, Arabel Sophia. When Munro was only nine his father died.
Monro, and his sister Mary, were raised by their widowed mother, who later married again in 1910 to Sir Daniel Fulthorpe Gooch.
Monro received his education at Radley College and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
On 2nd December 1903 in Ireland, Monro married Dorothy Elizabeth Browne. Their son, Nigel, was born there in 1904, unfortunately the marriage was not to last and they separated in 1908.
In 1906 his first collection of poetry, ‘Poems’ was published. Many further volumes were published but Munro was never regarded as highly as his contemporaries. Perhaps his forays into magazines, editing, publishing and his bookshop has unfairly diminished his poetic contribution.
In 1912, he became the editor of the highly influential poetry magazine, The Poetry Review, but was ousted after a year. In 1913, he founded the Poetry Bookshop in Devonshire Street in Bloomsbury. From here he would also publish new volumes of poetry by himself and other writers. There was a constant stream both of readers and poets, some of who lodged in the rooms above the shop. Together with Edward Marsh he published the annual volumes of the Georgian Poetry series, in the process establishing it as a very fine poetry movement.
In March 1913 he met Alida Klemantaski, who was 17 years his junior. She was passionate about poetry and social justice. Her young years set her the goals of becoming either a doctor or rescuing prostitutes from their horrors. Monro was very much taken by her and persuaded her that by working in his Poetry Bookshop, she would be achieving just as much for society. Munro was often tortured by his sexuality, and, although he married twice, some of his poems reveal his truer feelings.
As the Great War smothered Europe, with its monstrous destruction of a generation, the War Poets bloomed. Monro himself wrote only a few war poems but his ‘Youth in Arms’ quartet, written in the first months of the carnage was one of the earliest attempts to explore the human psychology of soldiering and to understand how ungrudgingly Youth dies. The poems were inspired by the fear of losing his great friend, Basil Watt. Watt was later killed at the Battle of Loos. Monro's elegy for Watt, ‘Lament in 1915’, is a beautiful moving and emotional tribute.
After the war, Monro continued his efforts with the Poetry Bookshop and expanded into several new projects. He wrote a well-received ‘Some Contemporary Poets’ in 1920. His third journal (after The Poetry Review and the short lived, 1913-1914 Poetry and Drama) was The Chapbook, published between 1919–25, was not commercially viable but contained some of his best work.
He was searching, both as a writer and as a publisher for the middle ground that was both culturally exciting and commercially worthwhile. Whole editions were given over to children's rhymes and to songs by Walter de la Mare complete with scores.
In 1920 Munro and Alida married. As well as becoming his wife she also became a great influence on his own poetry.
In his later years, Monro became somewhat darker in mood, his drinking escalated and had become a real problem. Had the Poetry Bookshop fulfilled its purpose? It was still draining his finances, but sentiment prevailed and it stayed open. Sadly now, amongst the stresses and strains, he contracted tuberculosis.
According to the English literary historian Dominic Hibberd, "By now Monro was a disappointed man, appalled at the state of Europe and feeling forgotten by the poets he had helped."
Harold Edward Moro died on 16th March 1932 aged 53 at the Cliff Combe Nursing Home, Broadstairs, Kent. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium.
As Hibberd remarked "Perhaps no one did more for the advancement of twentieth-century poetry".
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