John Masefield

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John Edward Masefield, OM, (1 June 1878 – 12 May 1967) was an English poet and writer, and Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1930 until his death in 1967. He is remembered as the author of the classic children's novels The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights, and many memorable poems, including "The Everlasting Mercy" and "Sea-Fever".

Contents

Life

Early life

Masefield was born in Ledbury in Herefordshire, to Caroline and George Masefield, a solicitor. His mother died giving birth to his sister when Masefield was only six, and he went to live with his aunt. His father died soon after following a mental breakdown.[1] After an unhappy education at the King's School in Warwick (now known as Warwick School), where he was a boarder between 1888 and 1891, he left to board the HMS Conway, both to train for a life at sea, and to break his addiction to reading, of which his aunt thought little. He spent several years aboard this ship and found that he could spend much of his time reading and writing. It was aboard the Conway that Masefield’s love for story-telling grew. While on the ship, he listened to the stories told about sea lore. He continued to read, and felt that he was to become a writer and story teller himself.

In 1894, Masefield boarded the Gilcruix, destined for Chile - this first voyage bringing him the experience of sea sickness. He recorded his experiences while sailing through the extreme weather, his journal entries reflecting a delight in seeing flying fish, porpoises, and birds, and was awed by the beauty of nature, including a rare sighting of a nocturnal rainbow on his voyage. On reaching Chile, Masefield suffered from sunstroke and was hospitalized. He eventually returned home to England as a passenger aboard a steam ship. In 1895, Masefield returned to sea on a windjammer destined for New York City. However, the urge to become a writer and the hopelessness of life as a sailor overtook him, and in New York, he deserted ship. He lived as a vagrant for several months, before returning to New York City, he did many odd jobs, finding work as an assistant to a bar keeper.

For the next two years, Masefield was employed in a carpet factory, where long hours were expected and conditions were far from ideal. He purchased up to 20 books a week, and devoured both modern and classical literature. His interests at this time were diverse and his reading included works by Du Maurier, Dumas, Thomas Browne, Hazlitt, Dickens, Kipling, and R. L. Stevenson. Chaucer also became very important to him during this time, as well as poetry by Keats and Shelley. He eventually returned home to England in 1897 [2] as a passenger aboard a steam ship. When Masefield was 23, he met his future wife, Constance Crommelin, who was 35. Educated in classics and English Literature, and a mathematics teacher, Constance was a match for Masefield despite the difference in age. The couple had two children (Judith, born in 1904, and Lewis, in 1910).[3]

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