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Constance Garnett

Richard Garnett
Date Published
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Born in Brighton in 1861, Constance Clara Garnett (née Black) was the sixth of eight children. Educated at Newnham College, Cambridge she studied Latin and Greek, as well as Russian. She married Edward Garnett in 1889 and they had one son, David.

It was on a visit to Russia in 1893 that Garnett met Leo Tolstoy and this meeting prompted her to begin translating the Russian literature that she was most passionate about. As a translator of Gogol, Tolstoy, Pushkin, Turgenev, Chekhov and Dostoevsky among others, Constance Garnett translated about 70 Russian works and received great acclaim from writers such as D. H. Lawrence and Joseph Conrad. Her translations had a major effect on readers and were reprinted well into the twentieth century.

First published in 1991 and written by her grandson Richard Garnett, Constance Garnett is the biography of an extraordinary woman who, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, made Russian literature available to the English speaking public.

‘When you come to the last page you feel you have travelled through life with a peculiarly British heroine, self-effacing, frugal, honourable, clear-thinking, brave, and above all a worker on a scale that can only be called heroic.’ Claire Tomalin, Independent on Sunday


Richard Garnett spent his working life in publishing and has written children’s fiction. He has translated about a million words – though not from Russian. A son of David Garnett, Constance’s only child, he was twenty-three when his grandmother died, so his account of her life is not only lively and well researched, it is also personal and affectionate. It…

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