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Cannan, Gilbert Eric, 1884-1955 (translator and writer)



  • Existence: 1884 - 1955


Gilbert Cannan (1884-1955), writer, was born in Manchester, one of nine children. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School before going up to King's College, Cambridge in 1902 to read modern languages. After leaving Cambridge Cannan initially read for the bar, but later turned to literary career, publishing his first work, a translation of Romain Rolland's four-volume masterpiece, Jean Christophe, in 1907 followed by his first novel, Peter Homunculus, in 1909. For the next thirteen years Cannan went on to publish numerous works, including further translations and novels, reviews, short plays and poems, until insanity curtailed his career. Cannan had a turbulent personal life. He had a love affair with Kathleen Bruce (later married to Robert Scott, the explorer) before becoming involved with James Barrie's wife, Mary. After being cited as the co-respondent in the Barrie's divorce Cannan married Mary in 1910. The marriage only lasted a few years and in 1918 Cannan fell in love with a nineteen year old South African, Gwen Wilson. They moved into a studio in London and took a lodger Henry Mond, later Lord Melchett, who soon also started a relationship with Wilson. The situation became a talking point in literary London. In 1920, while Cannan was on a lecture tour of America, Mond and Wilson were married, an event which led Cannan to suffer a breakdown. He travelled across Africa, mainly by horse, and on his return to England became violently unstable. He was certified insane in 1924 and became a patient in The Priory, Roehampton where he stayed until 1952. He died of cancer in 1955 at the Holloway Sanitorium, Virginia Water.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:


Gilbert Cannan: Writings and Biographical Correspondence

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9388
Scope and Contents

Novels, essays, memoir, and biographical correspondence.

Dates: 1910-1976 (Circa)
Conditions Governing Access: Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (