Tag Archives: W.H. Davies

 Cotswold lawyer and poet revisited


W. H. Davies

A few weeks ago we were puzzling over a fragment discovered in the archive of Jot HQ. This was a draft in pencil of one page of a letter written in reply to literary journalist Ivor Brown around 1943. The hand was very hard to read at times, but persistence paid off and eventually I produced a decent stab at the letter. From its contents I deduced that the writer was probably an elderly lawyer from the Cotswold region of the UK who had been friendly with tramp poet W. H. Davies, enjoyed the poems of John Betjeman, Clare and Blunden and had published a slim volume of verse himself, as had his son, a former army officer.

Further research revealed that this apparently obscure amateur poet was the rather famous ‘ friend to  the poets ‘ John Wilton Haines, from Hucclecote, near Gloucester, who over nearly five decades befriended , not only Davies, but a number of  twentieth century literary figures, including Edmund Blunden, John Masefield, W. H. Hudson, J. C. Squire, Seigfried Sassoon,  Eleanor Farjeon, J. Gould Fletcher, Sir Edward Marsh, Walter de la Mare, C. Day Lewis, Lascelles Ambercrombie, Gordon Bottomley, Ivor Gurney, Robert Frost, Wilfred Gibson, James Elroy Flecker and Edward Thomas. He also communicated with some eminent musicians and composers, notably Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gerald Finzi and Herbert Howells.

Born in 1875 to a lady from India and a Gloucester solicitor whose family had practised law for generations, Haines trained as a solicitor after leaving school and then joined the family firm. Always passionate about classical and modern literature, and a dedicated book collector, Haines made it his business to seek out local authors and  poets, notably those ‘ Georgian ‘ poets who had settled in and around Dymock, on the edge of the Forest of Dean. He made friends with them and offered them financial help and legal advice. In return many sent him their latest work for his opinion. In 1921 Haines himself had a collection of his own poetry privately printed. On his death in 1960, Haines’ son Robin ( b 1913), whose own slim volume, Somewhere, Somehowhad come out in 1942, inherited his father’s literary archive, which eventually passed to his widow. It was she who donated the papers to the Gloucestershire Archives, where they can be examined today.  [RMH]


An intriguing  letter from an unidentified  friend of W.H.Davies to Ivor Brown

Betjeman mentioned letter 001Found in a pile of papers around a year ago at Jot HQ is this draft of a barely decipherable ( hence the gaps and possible misreadings of words ) and incomplete letter written in pencil on the back of a typed Roneoed page headed ‘ The Association of British Chambers of Commerce/5thOctober, 1942/Parliamentary Bulletin No 462A/Information by question and answer. The draft letter is addressed to ( Ivor ) Brown, author of A Word in your Ear( 1942), a book that explores the history of certain words. The writer cannot be identified from any clues in the letter , though what clues there are might open up paths for Jot fans who are familiar with Cheltenham and the Cotswolds. Any with information are welcome to write in.


Dear Mr Brown,

Allow one old Cheltonian some 15 years your senior to thank you for the pleasure I have got from A Word in your Ear  in addition to the pleasure  from many similar examples  of lexical intercourse. There is much I should like to refer to, one; the fact that Nesh is a not uncommon word amongst the poor country people. As to clout too, my father, a Cotswolder from Daglingworth & like my son, an old Cheltonian , never spoke of Cleeve Hill, but always of Cleeve Court. I much enjoyed the quotation from Betjeman, but have never come across Silver ( ? ). Cheltenham has however produced one fellow poet (  ).Frederick Myers is much underrated for his poetry which is swamped by his Psychical fame. It should be remembered, if only for the lines originally on a grave at Grindelwald , but also on the memorial in Wasdale churchyard on the four men killed on Scafell Pinnacle some 30 years ago:-


           On moment stood they as the angels stand

           High in the stainless imminence of air;

           The next they were not, to their fatherland

           Translated unaware.


I do not see my book & my son’s as a classic to rank near him, being myself too ( ?  ) in verse to be under any illusion. If you can spare a moment with them you may amused by my ( ?   ) jingle & by The Dear Inn, which laments the closing of the great coaching inn above Naunton on the Cheltn. – Stow road, done, so it was said, by the squire of Guiting, who disliked his farm labourers frequenting it. My son’s little book was written originally as a Gunner before he got his commission in the R.A. He was my partner here & is now in Egypt. You may like my poem to our dear old friend W. H. Davies, the Welsh poet & ‘Super-tramp’. (I had to do most of his affairs & attended his cremation) as we saw him so often sitting surrounded by his beloved pictures– mainly portraits of himself & his magnificent Epstein hair.
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