Edward Gordon Craig

Edward (Ted) Gordon Craig (1872-1966) was one of the two illegitimate children of Ellen Terry (one of the most revered actors on the Victorian stage) and the architect and designer Edward Godwin.

He and his sister Edith (Edy) Craig were born while Ellen Terry was still married to (but separated from) the much older artist George Frederick Watts, and were as a consequence raised in a lifestyle that was far from the genteel norm in Victorian England.

With Edward Godwin long gone from the scene, the teenage years of both Ted and Edy were spent backstage at the Lyceum theatre in London, under the eye of Henry Irving, the great actor of the day. Ted became almost a surrogate son to Irving, who was at that time estranged from his own two sons (Harry and Laurence).

It was inevitable that both Ted and Edy would test their talents on stage (with some success), but both eventually settled for other roles.

With the financial support of Ellen Terry, Edy became a costume designer, director, producer and suffragette.

Her brother’s career was also supported by their mother. As well as being a scenic designer, artist and director, Gordon Craig (no longer Ted) became a writer – mainly on theatrical theory, but also as a biographer. His later biography of Henry Irving was well received.

In a recent (600-page) biography, A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families, Michael Holroyd covers the lives of these people and their families. If Holroyd had confined himself to writing about only Terry and Irving, I dare say the book would have been a couple of hundred pages shorter.

Much of the rest of the book covers the life and times of Gordon Craig.

Theatrically, Craig collaborated with Irving and Terry, and also Constantin Stanislavski, Isadora Duncan, W.B. Yeats, Eleonora Duse, the composer Martin Shaw and many others. He was extremely difficult to work with and often refused to work on any project where he did not have complete artistic control. Not surprisingly with that reputation, he achieved very little in the second half of his very long life.

Today’s clerihew concentrates on another aspect of Gordon Craig’s life. According to Holroyd, Craig had no less than 13 children by eight different women, including Isadora Duncan. Sometimes, Craig’s previous paternity was first revealed to a new inamorata just after the birth of a child, when a batch of older children would turn up for a holiday…

So, of course …

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