John Masefield

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Masefield, John

(mās–), 1878–1967, English poet. He went to sea as a youth and later spent several years in the United States. In 1897 he returned to England and was on the staff of the Manchester Guardian. His first volumes of poetry, Salt-Water Ballads (1902), containing "Sea Fever" and "Cargoes," and Ballads (1903), earned him the title "Poet of the Sea." It was, however, for his realistic, long narrative poems—The Everlasting Mercy (1911), The Widow in the Bye Street (1912), Dauber (1913), and Reynard the Fox (1919)—that he won his greatest fame. He was also a playwright and novelist of some note. His plays, written in both verse and prose, include The Tragedy of Nan (1909), The Tragedy of Pompey the Great (1910), and The Coming of Christ (1928). Among his novels are Multitude and Solitude (1909), Sard Harker (1924), and The Bird of Dawning (1933). Masefield is the author of several literary studies, of which his William Shakespeare (1911) is the most notable. Other works include adventure stories for boys and two war sketches, Gallipoli (1916) and The Nine Days Wonder (1941), and the posthumous volume of poetry In Glad Thanksgiving (1968). He was poet laureate from 1930 until his death and was awarded the Order of Merit in 1935.


See his autobiographical works In the Mill (1941), So Long to Learn (1952), and Grace Before Ploughing (1966); see biographies by S. Sternlicht (1978) and J. Dwyer (1988); bibliography by G. Handley-Taylor (1960).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Masefield, John


Born June 1, 1878, in Ledbury, Herefordshire; died May 12, 1967, in Abingdon, Berkshire. English writer.

In his early years, Masefield worked as a sailor and lived in the USA. In 1897 he returned to England and became a journalist. In his early collections of verse Salt Water Ballads (1902) and Ballads (1903), Masefield depicted the hard life of the sailor. He wrote several plays about the everyday life of the lower classes, including The Campden Wonder (1907; Russian translation, 1923), Mrs. Harrison (1907), and The Tragedy of Nan (1908). In his novels Dead Ned (1938) and Live and Kicking Ned (1939), Masefield exposed the cruelty of English criminal law. He also published literary criticism (essays on Shakespeare, 1911; on Chaucer, 1931).


The Poems and Plays, vols. 1–2. New York, 1918.
The Collected Poems. London, 1935.
Old Raiger and Other Verse. London, 1964.


Handley-Taylor, G. J. Masefield: A Bibliography and Eighty-first Birthday Tribute. London, 1960.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.