Monday, March 18, 2013

Born on this date English poets William Cosmo Monkhouse (1840) & Wilfred Owen (1893)

English poet, novelist, and art critic William Cosmo Monkhouse was born on March 18, 1840 in London, England. He was educated at St. Paul’s School, quitting it at seventeen to enter the board of trade as a junior supplementary clerk, from which grade he rose eventually to be the assistant-secretary to the finance department of the office. His first love was poetry, and in 1865 he published A Dream of Idleness and Other Poems, a collection strongly colored by his admiration for Wordsworth and Tennyson. It was marked by exceptional maturity, and scarcely received the recognition it deserved. Owing perhaps to this circumstance, it was not till 1890 that he put forth Corn and Poppies, a collection which contains at least one memorable effort in the well-known "Dead March." Five years later appeared a limited edition of the striking ballad of The Christ upon the Hill, illustrated with etchings by William Strang. After his death his poetical output was completed by Pasiteles the Elder and other Poems (including The Christ upon the Hill).

In 1868 Monkhouse wrote the novel A Question of Honour. This was followed by Life of Turner (1879), after which he devoted himself almost exclusively to art criticism. Besides many contributions to magazines, he published works such as The Italian Pre-Raphaelites (1887), The Earlier English Water-Colour Painters (1890 and 1897), In the National Gallery (1895) and British Contemporary Artists (1899). As an art critic Monkhouse's judgments were highly valued; and he had the rare gift of differing without offending, while he invariably secured respect for his honesty and ability. He also wrote a biography of the illustrator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland entitled The Life and Work of Sir John Tenniel, R.I. (1901). Cosmo Monkhouse died on July 20, 1901 in London, England.
English poet Wilfred Owen was born on March 18, 1893 in Shropshire, England. His shocking, realistic war poetry on the horrors of the trenches and gas warfare during World War I was heavily influenced by his friend Siegfried Sassoon and stood in stark contrast to both the public perception of war at the time, and to the confidently patriotic verse written by earlier war poets such as Rupert Brooke. He had been writing poetry for some years before the war, himself dating his poetic beginnings to a stay at Broxton by the Hill, when he was ten years old. The Romantic poets Keats and Shelley influenced much of Owen's early writing and poetry. His great friend, the poet Siegfried Sassoon, later had a profound effect on his poetic voice, and Owen's most famous poems ("Dulce et Decorum Est" and "Anthem for Doomed Youth") show direct results of Sassoon's influence. His poetry would eventually be more widely acclaimed than that of his mentor. Only five of Owen's poems were published before his death.

In July 1918, Owen returned to active service in France, although he might have stayed on home-duty indefinitely. His decision was probably the result of Sassoon's being sent back to England, after being shot in the head in an apparent "friendly fire " incident, and put on sick-leave for the remaining duration of the war. Owen saw it as his duty to add his voice to that of Sassoon, which the horrific realities of the war might continue to be told. Sassoon was violently opposed to the idea of Owen returning to the trenches. Aware of his attitude, Owen did not inform him of his action until he was once again in France. Owen was killed in action on November 4, 1918 during the crossing of the Sambre-Oise Canal, exactly one week (almost to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant the day after his death. His mother received the telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day, as the church bells were ringing out in celebration. He is buried at Ors Communal Cemetery.

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Great Britain’s Literary Legends. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:


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