Masefield Letters

Scope and Content

The bulk of the collection is a series of letters from Masefield to Mrs Knowles, mostly on trivial matters, such as thanking her for repeated gifts of clotted cream which she sent him, but including several discussing aspects of reading verse, a craft which Mrs Knowles seems to have practised. In addition there are several photographs (including one of Pond House) and some presentation short-run printed items, including Words and verses spoken in the garden of Bemerton Rectory, near Salisbury, in the afternoon of Tuesday, June 6th, 1933 and Masefield's An Elizabethan Theatre in London, together with a list of subscribers for Masefield's pivately printed Sonnets and Poems (1915). There is also a note on reading of poetry which seems to refer to Laurence Binyon, although the nature of the document is not clear, and two letters to Mrs Knowles from C Day Lewis.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Edward Masefield (1878-1967), poet laureate 1930-1967, was born at The Knapp, Ledbury, Herefordshire, on 1st June 1878, the son of George Edward Masefield, solicitor, and his wife, Caroline Louisa Parker. His mother died when he was six, and his father a year or so later, and he was brought up by his uncle and aunt. After a period at sea from the age of thirteen, he worked at menial tasks in the States for two years before returning to Britain in 1897. He then set about realising his aspirations to become a writer. He contributed to a number of periodicals and published his first book of poems, Salt Water Ballads, in 1902. In 1911 he published his first major work, The Everlasting Mercy, and, according to the DNB, his zenith was reached with the publication of Reynard the Fox in 1919. He served in the Great War in the Red Cross in France and the Dardanelles. In addition to his poetry, he was a very competent novelist and biographer, and a historian of the sea. In 1930 he was appointed Poet Laureate, and in 1935 he received the distinction of the Order of Merit. In 1937 he became President of the Society of Authors. He married Constance Crommelin (d. 1960) in 1903; they had one son (killed in action in 1942) and a daughter, Judith. He died at his home near Abingdon on 12th May 1967.

Mrs Charidea Mimina 'Dolly' Knowles (d. 1983), ne Scouloudi, was a speaker of verse. As a young woman at Oxford her services were called upon by Binyon and Masefield in their work in the movement for the speaking of verse. She participated in the Oxford festivals, and became a friend of Masefield's.

Access Information

Usual EUL arrangements apply

Acquisition Information

The collection was bequeathed to and received by the University Library in December 1990.

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Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL arrangements apply