Harper, Allanah, 1904-Variant names
Allanah Harper was an English writer and editor, and a friend of writers and artists. She spent much of her life abroad, primarily in the south of France, with a brief interlude in the United States.
From the description of Allanah Harper Papers, 1931-1993. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122492308
Allanah Harper was born in Brighton, England on the 6th of November, 1904. Her father was a highly successful engineering contractor who served as a consultant for the design of the first Aswan Dam in Egypt, and who built the first railway through the Andes in South America.
Harper grew up in a privileged household and, due to her father's work, traveled extensively as a child. Destinations included Italy, France, Spain, Egypt, South Africa, and even China where she served as bridesmaid in the wedding of one of her mother's friends. As a child she attended school at Miss Wolf's in London and Miss Douglas' at Queen's Gate, and later studied in France. Her education was also enhanced and certainly influenced by her father who had a great love of poetry.
As a young woman in London Harper partook in a rather reckless and carefree lifestyle. She is credited, along with the Jungman sisters, with inventing the treasure hunt, a rather elaborate game which involved tearing about London in search of items that were dangerously hard to obtain, such as the spectacles of the Archbishop of Canterbury. She was a leading figure in the London social scene of bright, young, and beautiful figures. Her circle of friends included the photographer Cecil Beaton, Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell, and Brian Howard.
In her early twenties, Harper moved to France, without much support or encouragement from her family. There, at the age of twenty-five she founded Echanges, a French quarterly review, with the goal of exposing English writers to the French and vice versa. The costs of publication were offset by financial support from the Aga Khan, who, along with his family, maintained a long friendship with Harper. She served as editor and selector for the duration of Echanges from 1929 to 1931. Through this publication she was responsible for introducing the French to W.H. Auden, Ivy Compton-Burnett, T.S. Eliot, Peter Quennell, Gertrude Stein, and Virginia Woolf, and for introducing the English to Léon Paul Fargue, André Gide, and Henri Michaud, to name a few.
Harper remained in France until the start of World War II. She married Robert Statlender, and in 1941 they moved to America for a time. The couple eventually split and Harper returned to France where she remained for the rest of her life, taking regular trips to London. Harper spent some time investigating different religions, particularly Vedanta, eventually converting to Roman Catholicism. During this period in her life she devoted much time to her primary interests of literature, music, painting, and poetry. She also began working on her autobiography, All Trivial Fond Records, which was eventually published in 1950.
Throughout the remainder of her life she continued to pursue her interests and maintained extensive correspondence with her close friends Sybille Bedford, Edith Sitwell, and Lady Amy Smart. Allanah Harper died in England on the 3rd of November 1992.
From the guide to the Allanah Harper Papers TXRC99-A8., 1931-1993, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)