Frances Cornford should not be confused with her husband Francis Cornford.

Frances Crofts Cornford (née Darwin) was an English poet.

She was the daughter of the botanist Francis Darwin and Ellen Crofts, born into the Darwin — Wedgwood family. She was a granddaughter of the British naturalist Charles Darwin. Her elder half-brother was the golf writer Bernard Darwin. She was raised in Cambridge, among a dense social network of aunts, uncles, and cousins, and was educated privately.

In 1909, Frances Darwin married Francis Cornford, a classicist and poet. They had 5 children: Helena (b. 1913), John (1915-1936), a poet and Communist who was killed in the Spanish Civil War. Christopher (1917-1993), an artist and writer

Clare, who became the mother of Matthew Chapman Hugh

Frances Cornford published several books of verse, including Poems (1910), Spring Morning (1915), Autumn Midnight (1923), and Different Days (1928). Mountains and Molehills (1935) was illustrated with woodcuts by Cornford's cousin Gwen Raverat.

She wrote poems including The Guitarist Tunes Up:

With what attentive courtesy he bent
Over his instrument;
Not as a lordly conqueror who could
Command both wire and wood,
But as a man with a loved woman might,
Inquiring with delight
What slight essential things she had to say
Before they started, he and she, to play.


One of Frances Cornford's poems was a favourite of the late Philip Larkin and his lover Maeve Brennan. All Souls' Night uses the superstition that a dead lover will appear to a still faithful partner on that November date. Maev, many years after Larkin's death, would re-read the poem on All Souls:

My love came back to me
Under the November tree
Shelterless and dim.
He put his hand upon my shoulder,
He did not think me strange or older,
Nor I him.


Although the myth enhances the poem - it can be read as the meeting of older, former lovers.

She is buried at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge.

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Frances Darwin Cornford Poems

The Guitarist Tunes Up

With what attentive courtesy he bent
Over his instrument;
Not as a lordly conquerer who could
Command both wire and wood,... more »

A Recollection

MY father's friend came once to tea.
He laughed and talked. He spoke to me.
But in another week they said... more »

Feri's Dream

I Had a little dog, and my dog was very small;
He licked me in the face, and he answered to my call;... more »

Frances Darwin Cornford Quotes

Comments about Frances Darwin Cornford

English 10 Apr 2019 08:31
The princess and the gypsies
Surya Pardeshi 24 Sep 2018 03:10
Need to improve .
Abid Khokhar 15 Nov 2011 02:13
The Guitarist Tunes Up Frances Cornford “The Guitarist Tunes Up” is the poem that tells us about the difference between creative instinct and possessive instinct. (Ghreeza) Frances Cornford says that the guitarist is an artist who is well aware of the behaviour of the guitar¬¬ – an instrument made of wire and wood. He knows where and how should he strike on the strings of the guitar to bring about certain musical sounds. He bears creative instinct. He is not like a ‘lordly conqueror’ who possesses all wire and wood of the lands but cannot bring about any musical tone out of them. The poet compares the guitarist (an artist) with a man who is in love with a loved woman. The lover knows how and what should he do to bring about desired reactions of his beloved before they play the sport of love. So, the guitarist is like the man who is in love with a woman and is not like the ‘lordly conqueror’. The poem comprises 8 lines. The lines bear perfect rhymes. They are like couplets. Every succeeding line is two third of the first line except the last one. There is beautiful image of ‘wire and wood’ which suggests much much more meaning. The beauty of the poem lies in its suggestiveness, imagery and rhythm. Repetition, alliteration, assonance, consonance create lasting rhythmical effect on our ears.