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Introduction

Philip Harry Cummings (1906-1991) was a Vermont poet, teacher, and world traveler with a talent for meeting interesting people in interesting places. Intelligent, curious, and resourceful, he embraced new cultures and learned new languages with ease.

After finishing college, Cummings taught and studied modern languages for ten years, then married and began a new career as an economic analyst and lecturer on world affairs. He achieved considerable success and recognition in the decades that followed, but as time passed, he came to see his youthful friendship with the Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca as the most important episode of his life.

Cummings and Lorca first met at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid in 1928 and soon discovered they had much in common. Over the next three years, Lorca shared his poetry, his favorite places, and his wide circle of friends with Cummings whenever Cummings visited Spain. In August 1929, Cummings in turn provided Lorca with refuge and solace in Vermont at a time when Lorca's spirits were at their lowest ebb. Lorca's poems of Vermont express the private anguish that continued to haunt him even in the peace and beauty of the countryside.

Cummings left Spain in 1931 amid the turmoil of a popular uprising against the government and the King. He hoped to return in calmer times, but that hope and his blossoming academic career were ended by the realities of the Great Depression and the Spanish Civil War. Though he went on to make a new and rewarding life for himself, one great disappointment remained.

In the years following Lorca's sudden and tragic death in 1936, Cummings found that his attempts to share his unique knowledge of the poet were consistently rebuffed by the keepers of Lorca's legacy. Only later, when a new generation of Lorca scholars discovered Cummings for themselves, was he finally able to tell his story.

Additional information about Philip Cummings is provided on this web site. For a complete biography of Federico García Lorca, see: Ian Gibson, Federico García Lorca: A Life (New York: Pantheon Books, 1989). For an overview of Lorca's life and work, see the web site of the Fundación Federico García Lorca.


ABOUT THIS SITE

Patricia Billingsley first read about Philip Cummings in 2006 in Ian Gibson's biography of Federico García Lorca. Curious to learn more, she began researching Cummings's life and soon became intrigued by the complexity and contradictions of his story. Drawing on extensive correspondence by and about Cummings, his published and unpublished works, and a host of other archival materials, she is currently writing
about his post-college years.

Ms. Billingsley has given invited talks about Cummings and Lorca at the International Institute in Madrid, Smith College in Northampton, MA, and the City University of New York (CUNY). With Christopher Maurer, she co-curated a special "Lorca in Vermont" exhibit at the CUNY Graduate Center from mid-April through May 2013. She is a member of Biographers International Organization and the National Coalition of Independent Scholars, and launched this web site in January 2011 to share some of her findings with interested readers.

Please send questions or comments to:
pbilling@philipcummings.net








My difficulties usually rise from the two contending forces within me. I have the taciturn, silent, morose background of a calculating Vermont, and then I have learned the wide range of emotions that I found around me in Spain, France, and to a certain extent with the Southerners of our own land... My life is not being shattered by this clash of character-content, but rather broadened, and its significance is becoming deeper.

—Philip Cummings, Valley Ranch Journal, 1932-33




[Lorca] spent the month of August in Lake Eden, Vermont, with one of the few North Americans whom he really confided in and felt close to, perhaps the only North American friend he had.

—Christopher Maurer, interview by Eduardo Aguiar, Federico García Lorca in New York, WGBH Boston, May 7, 1986








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Copyright © 2013 Patricia A. Billingsley