Alphabet of Dead Writers

This was entered for a New Statesman competition in 1944. It may have won a prize but its author Edward Marsh notes that it wasn't a first prize. The poem is reprinted in a collection of his poems called Minima (London 1947). Sir Edward Marsh is now mostly remembered as a friend and promoter of Rupert Brooke, although he served as Churchill's private secretary for 10 years. Wikipedia have him listed mainly as a polymath (which he may have been) and note '...he was a discreet but influential figure within Britain's homosexual community.' He was also something of a poet and poetaster editing 5 volumes of Georgian poetry and in 1918 his late friend Rupert Brooke's Collected Poems.

This alphabet is fun (X is always a problem) and it is likely that in 1944 most or all of the references would have been picked up by New Statesman readers, but I have added a couple of notes for these fallen times...the question marks are Marsh's.

Alphabet of Dead Writers

Edward Marsh with Churchill in Africa 1907

A is for Addison, model of prose
B is for Lord Byron, parading his woes.
C for young Chatterton, splendidly lying,
D for old Dyer, whose Fleece wanted dyeing.
E is for Emerson, star-waggon-hitcher,
F not for Beaumont, but only for Fletcher.
G for John Gay, whom his Beggar made rich,
H for Tom Hood with his Song of the Stitch.
I is for Ireland*, in forgery far-gone,
J for James Joyce with his Jabberwock jargon.
K is for Charles Kingsley,that Christian so muscular
L for poor L.E.L**., so pale and crepuscular.
M for Kit Marlowe, whose line was of might,
N for Newman, the pilgrim of light.
O is for Otway, Preserver of Venice,
P is for Pope, friend and foe to John Dennis.
Q for the quaint emblematical Quarles,
R for Lord Rochester, friend of King Charles.
S is for Sterne, a divine somewhat shady,
T is for Tate, coadjutor of Brady.
U for Nick Udall, who wrote Roister-Doister,
V for the Ven'rable Bede in his cloister.
W ? Wainewright, both critic and crook,
X for the bards of the Exeter Book.
Y for Jeames Yellowplush, alias Thackeray,
Z ? Israel Zangwill - I wish he'd been Zachary,
Neatly to finish my little gimcrackery.

* William Ireland(1775 -1835) forger of Shakespearean documents etc. also Gothic novelist and poet.

**Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802 –1838), English poet and novelist, better known by her initials L. E. L.

John Dyer (1699-1757) was a Welsh poet and painter and Thomas Wainewright (1794-1847) was a writer, critic, artist and serial killer (poison). Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady were 17th century hymn writers and psalmists -their version of Psalm 34 'Through all the changing scenes of life' is still regularly sung today. John Dennis (1658-1734) was a critic and dramatist (admired by Dr. Johnson) who was attacked in a venomous pamphlet by Pope...

One thought on “Alphabet of Dead Writers

  1. Lord Brabazon of Tiara

    Good stuff. Have been admiring Churchill's boots, a sort of shoe boot or are those puttees above shoes? Going to look at other shots of him around this time.


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