Edward Gordon Craig - Life

Life

The illegitimate son of the architect Edward Godwin and actress Ellen Terry, Craig was born Edward Godwin on 16 January 1872 in Railway Street, Stevenage, in Hertfordshire, England, and baptised at age 16 as Edward Henry Gordon. He took the surname Craig by deed poll at age 21.

Craig spent much of his childhood (from the age of 8 in 1889 to 1897) backstage at the Lyceum Theatre, where his mother was the leading lady to actor Sir Henry Irving. Craig later wrote an especially vivid, book-length tribute to Irving. Whether Irving's spectacularly successful relationship with Ellen Terry was romantic as well as professional has been the subject of much historical speculation. Most of their correspondence was burned by her descendants. According to Michael Holroyd, "when Irving was dead, Marguerite Steen asked Ellen whether she really had been Irving's lover, and she promptly answered: 'Of course I was. We were terribly in love for a while.' But at earlier periods in her life, when there were more people around to be offended, she said contradictory things."

Whatever the nature of Terry's personal relationship with Irving, it never marred their work or their reputation. Even before the Lyceum years, when Ellen Terry ran off with bohemian artist Godwin and bore him two illegitimate children, Teddy (Craig himself) and Edith 'Edy' Craig, Ellen's charm triumphed over Victorian disdain. She was somehow able to maintain an exalted position in the hearts of her Victorian audiences, regardless of how much and how often her behaviour defied their strict moralities.

In 1893 Craig married May Gibson, with whom he had four children: Rosemary, Robin, Peter and Philip. With his lover Elena Meo he had two children, Nelly (1904–1975) and Edward Carrick (1905–1998; an art director of British films). With his lover, the dancer Isadora Duncan, Craig had a daughter, Deirdre (1906–13), who drowned at the age of seven. With his lover, the poet Dorothy Nevile Lees, Craig had a son, David Lees (1916–2004), a noted photojournalist.

Craig died at Vence, France, in 1966, aged 94.

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