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Eleanor Perényi, née Eleanor Spencer Stone, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Ellis Spencer Stone, a naval officer and later military attaché at the American Embassy in Paris, and his wife, Grace Zaring Stone, a novelist. She attended the National Cathedral School for Girls in Washington, but left before graduating to travel in Europe with her family. In 1937, at age 19, she met and married Zsigmond Perényi, an Oxford-educated Hungarian baron. They went to live at his family’s estate in the province of Ruthenia, at the edge of the Carpathians, then under Czech control. There she helped to restore the 750-acre farm with a forest, a vineyard, and a distillery. As World War II began in 1940, Baron Perenyi, a social progressive, urged Eleanor, who was pregnant with their son Peter, to return to the USA. He was drafted into the Hungarian Army and later joined the Hungarian resistance to the Nazis. He stayed in Europe after the war and the couple divorced in 1947. She settled in New York and later Connecticut, and worked as an editor at several magazines, among them Harper’s Bazaar and Mademoiselle, where she served as the managing editor. Her memoir of her youth and married years, More Was Lost, appeared in 1946. It was followed by a novel, The Bright Sword, in 1955. She wrote the biography Liszt: The Artist as Romantic Hero (1974), which was nominated for a National Book Award, but did not achieve fame until publishing her book Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden (1981), now considered a classic of garden writing.
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