Robert Bridges

1844–1930
Robert Bridges

A Victorian who by choice remained apart from the aesthetic movements of his day, Robert Bridges was a classicist. His experimentation with eighteenth-century classical forms culminated in The Testament of Beauty, generally acknowledged as his masterpiece. He succeeded Alfred Austin as Poet Laureate in 1913 and was active in the Society for Pure English, which was founded largely through his efforts. He had an important friendship and correspondence with Gerard Manley Hopkins; his edition of Hopkins's poems is considered a major contribution to English literature.

Bridges spent his early childhood in a house overlooking the anchoring ground of the British fleet in Walmer, Kent, England. His father's death in 1853 and his mother's remarriage a year later precipitated a move to Rochdale, where his stepfather was the vicar. Bridges attended Eton College from 1854 to 1863, where he met the poet Digby Mackworth Dolben and Lionel Muirhead, a lifelong friend. His acquaintance with Hopkins began at Corpus Christi College. Bridges had at one point intended to enter the religious life in the Church of England, but instead chose to become a physician and began his study of medicine at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in 1869. He received his degree in 1874 and worked at St. Bartholomew's and other hospitals until 1882, when he retired from practice after a bout with pneumonia and chose to devote himself to literature.

After his illness and a trip to Italy with Muirhead, Bridges moved with his mother to Yattendon in Berkshire, where he met and married Monica Waterhouse, daughter of the famous architect Alfred A. Waterhouse. Their children included the poet Elizabeth Daryush. It was during his residence in Yattendon, from 1882 to 1904, that Bridges wrote most of his best-known lyrics as well as eight plays and two masques, all in verse. In 1902 Bridges' wife and daughter Margaret became seriously ill, and Bridges decided to move from Yattendon to a healthier climate. The family lived in several temporary homes, spent a year in Switzerland, and finally settled again in England at Chilswell House, which Bridges had designed and which was built on Boar's Hill overlooking Oxford University. Bridges lived there until his death in 1930.

The events of the first World War, including the wounding of his son, Edward, had a sobering effect on Bridges' poetry. He composed fiercely patriotic poems and letters, and in 1915 edited a volume of prose and poetry, The Spirit of Man, intended to appeal to readers living in war times. Bridges cofounded the Society for Pure English (S.P.E.) in 1913; the group's intention was to establish "a sounder ideal of the purity of our language." Its work was interrupted by the war, but resumed in 1919 and continued until 1948, eighteen years after Bridges' death. His work for the S.P.E. led to Bridges' only trip to America in 1924, during which he increased interest in the group among American scholars.

Bridges began a long philosophical poem entitled The Testament of Beauty on Christmas Day, 1924, with fourteen lines of what he referred to as "loose Alexandrines." He set the piece aside until 1926, when the death of his daughter Margaret prompted him to resume work as a way to ease his grief. The Testament of Beauty was published in October 1929, one day after his eighty-fifth birthday and six months before his death.

Career

Writer. St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, England, began as house physician, later became casualty physician; later assistant physician at Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, and physician at Great Northern Hospital, Holloway; retired from medical career in 1882. Founder with Henry Bradley and Walter Raleigh of Society for Pure English, 1913.

Bibliography

POETRY

  • Poems, Pickering (London), 1873.
  • The Growth of Love, Bumpus (London), 1876 , revised and enlarged edition, Daniel (Oxford), 1889.
  • Poems by the Author of "The Growth of Love," Bumpus, 1879.
  • Poems, Bumpus, 1880.
  • Poems, H. Daniel (Oxford), 1884.
  • Eros & Psyche, Bell (London), 1885, revised edition, 1894.
  • The Shorter Poems, Bell, 1890-94.
  • Shorter Poems Book V, H. Daniel, 1893.
  • Invocation to Music: An Ode (In Honour of Henry Purcell), Novello, Ewer, 1895.
  • Poetical Works, six volumes, Smith, Elder (London), 1898-1905.
  • Poetical Works, Oxford University Press (London, New York, Toronto, & Melbourne), 1912.
  • Britannia Victrix, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1918.
  • October and Other Poems, with Occasional Verses on the War, Heinemann (London) and Knopf (New York, NY), 1920.
  • New Verse: Explanations of the Prosody of My Late Syllabic Free Verse, Clarendon Press (Oxford), 1925.
  • The Tapestry (collection), [London], 1925.
  • The Testament of Beauty, Clarendon Press (Oxford) and Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1929.
  • On Receiving Trivia from the Author, Mill House Press (Stanford Dingley, England), 1930.
  • The Shorter Poems of Robert Bridges, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1931.
  • Verses Written for Mrs. Daniel, introduction by George Gordon, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1932.
  • Poetical Works of Robert Bridges, Excluding the Eight Dramas, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1936.
  • Robert Bridges: Selected Poems, edited by Donald E. Stanford, Carcanet Press (Cheadle, England), 1974.
  • A Choice of Bridges's Verse, selected with an introduction by Lord David Cecil, Faber (London, England), 1987.

EDITOR

  • (With H. Ellis Wooldridge) Hymns: The Yattendon Hymnal, four parts, Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1895-1899.
  • Poems by the Late Rev. Dr. Richard Watson Dixon, Smith, Elder, 1909.
  • The Poems of Digby Mackworth Dolben, Oxford University Press (London, New York, Toronto & Melbourne), 1911.
  • The Spirit of Man (poetry and prose collection), Longmans, Green (London, New York, Bombay, Calcutta & Madras), 1916.
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins, Poems, Milford (London), 1918, 2nd edition, 1931.
  • (Compiler) The Chilswell Book of English Poetry Compiled and Annotated for the Use of Schools, Longmans (London, England), 1924.
  • The B. B. C.'s Recommendations for Pronouncing Doubtful Words, Reissued with Criticisms, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1929.

DRAMA

  • Prometheus the Firegiver (masque), H. Daniel, 1883.
  • Nero Part I, Bell & Bumpus, 1885.
  • The Feast of Bacchus, H. Daniel, 1889.
  • Palicio, Bumpus, 1890.
  • The Return of Ulysses, Bumpus, 1890.
  • The Christian Captives, Bumpus, 1890.
  • Achilles in Scyros, Bumpus, 1890.
  • Eden: An Oratorio, music by C. V. Stanford, Bell (London) and Novello, Ewer (London and New York), 1891.
  • The Humours of the Court, Bell & Bumpus (London) and Macmillan (New York, NY), 1893.
  • Nero Part 2, Bell & Bumpus, 1894.
  • Demeter (masque), Clarendon Press, 1905.

CRITICISM

  • On the Elements of Milton's Blank Verse in Paradise Lost, Clarendon Press, 1887, revised and republished in Milton's Prosody (also see below), 1893.
  • On the Prosody of Paradise Regained and Sampson Agonistes, Blackwell (Oxford) and Simpkin, Marshall (London), 1889, revised and republished in Milton's Prosody (also see below), 1893.
  • Milton's Prosody, Clarendon Press, 1893, revised and enlarged edition, with an additional chapter by William Johnson Stone, Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1901, revised and enlarged again, 1921.
  • John Keats: A Critical Essay (essay), [Oxford], 1895.
  • The Influence of the Audience: Considerations Preliminary to the Psychological Analysis of Shakespeare's Characters, Doubleday, Page (Garden City, NY), 1926, originally published in The Works of William Shakespeare, Volume 10, Shakespeare Head Press (Stratford-upon-Avon), 1907.
  • Ibant Obscuri, An Experiment in the Classical Hexameter (paraphrases of the Aeneid, VI: 257-751, 893-898, and Iliad, XXIV: 339-660), Clarendon Press, 1916, originally published in New Quarterly, 1909.
  • The Necessity of Poetry (essay), Clarendon Press, 1918.
  • Henry Bradley, Clarendon Press, 1926, republished in Three Friends (also see below), 1932.
  • 1927-1936 Collected Essays, Papers, Etc., ten volumes, Oxford University Press (London).
  • Three Friends: Memoirs of Digby Mackworth Dolben, Richard Watson Dixon, Henry Bradley, Oxford University Press (London), 1932.

LETTERS

  • The Correspondence of Robert Bridges and Henry Bradley 1900-1923, Clarendon Press, 1940.
  • The Correspondence of Robert Bridges and W. B. Yeats, edited by Richard J. Finneran, Macmillan (London), 1977.
  • The Selected Letters of Robert Bridges with the Correspondence of Robert Bridges and Lionel Muirhead, edited by Donald E. Stanford, two volumes, University of Delaware Press (Newark, NJ), 1983-1984.
  • XXI Letters: A Correspondence between Robert Bridges and R. C. Trevelyan on "New Verse" and "The Testament of Beauty," Mill House Press (Stanford Dingley, England), 1955.

OTHER

  • An Account of the Casualty Department, St. Bartholomew's Hospital (London), 1878.
  • A Tract on the Present State of English Pronunciation, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1913.
  • An Address to the Swindon Branch of the Workers' Educational Association, Clarendon Press, 1916.
  • G. M. Hopkins with others, Poetry and Prose, introduction and notes by John Sparrow, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1955.
  • Nicolas Barker, The Printer and the Poet: An Account of the Printing of "The Tapestry" Based upon Correspondence between Stanley Morison and Robert Bridges, (Cambridge, England), 1970.

Further Reading

PERIODICALS

  • Agenda, spring-summer, 1973, pp. 96-108.
  • American Review, January, 1937, pp. 353-367.
  • Hopkins Quarterly, spring-summer, 1984, pp. 48-55.
  • Hound & Horn, January-March, 1932, pp. 321-327.
  • Hudson Review, summer, 1979, pp. 308-312.
  • Journal of Modern Literature, September, 1971, pp. 19-31.
  • London Magazine, December 1984-January 1985, pp. 133-137.
  • Michigan Quarterly Review, winter, 1980, pp. 117-127.
  • Times Literary Supplement, November 30, 1970, p. 54.

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Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION England

LIFE SPAN 1844–1930

Robert Bridges

Biography

A Victorian who by choice remained apart from the aesthetic movements of his day, Robert Bridges was a classicist. His experimentation with eighteenth-century classical forms culminated in The Testament of Beauty, generally acknowledged as his masterpiece. He succeeded Alfred Austin as Poet Laureate in 1913 and was active in the Society for Pure English, which was founded largely through his efforts. He had an important . . .

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