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Ernest Christopher Dowson (2 August 1867 – 23 February 1900) was an English poet, novelist and short-story writer, often associated with the Decadent movement.
Ernest Dowson was born in Lee, London, in 1867. His great-uncle was Alfred Domett, a poet (Browning's "Waring") and politician who had been Premier of New Zealand. Dowson attended The Queen's College, Oxford, but left (in March 1888) before obtaining a degree.1
In November 1888, he started work with his father at Dowson and Son, a dry-docking business in Limehouse, east London, which was established by the poet's grandfather. He led an active social life, carousing with medical students and law pupils, going to music halls, and taking the performers to dinner. He was also working assiduously at his writing during this time. He was a member of the Rhymers' Club, which included W. B. Yeats and Lionel Johnson. He was a frequent contributor to the such literary magazines as The Yellow Book and The Savoy.
Dowson collaborated on two unsuccessful novels with Arthur Moore, worked on a novel of his own, Madame de Viole, and wrote reviews for The Critic. Dowson was a prolific translator of French fiction, including novels by Balzac and the Goncourt brothers, and Les Liaisons dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos.citation needed
In 1889, aged 23, Dowson fell in love with the eleven-year-old Adelaide "Missie" Foltinowicz, daughter of a Polish restaurant owner; she is reputed to have been the subject of one his best-known poems, Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae. He pursued her without success, and, in 1897, Dowson was crushed when she married a tailor who lodged above her father's restaurant.citation needed
In August 1894 Dowson's father, who was in the advanced stages of tuberculosis, died of an overdose of chloral hydrate. His mother, who was also consumptive, hanged herself in February 1895, and soon Dowson began to decline rapidly. Robert Sherard found Dowson almost penniless in a wine bar and took him back to the cottage in Catford, where Sherard was living. Dowson spent the last six weeks of his life at Sherard's cottage and died there of alcoholism at age 32. He was interred in the Roman Catholic section of nearby Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries. After Dowson's death, Oscar Wilde wrote: Poor wounded wonderful fellow that he was, a tragic reproduction of all tragic poetry, like a symbol, or a scene. I hope bay leaves will be laid on his tomb and rue and myrtle too for he knew what love was.2
and "gone with the wind":
This latter poem was first published in The Second Book of the Rhymer's Club in 1894,3 and was noticed by Richard Le Gallienne in his "Wanderings in Bookland" column in The Idler, volume 9.4 The last line of this stanza, which is the last line of all four stanzas of the poem, was reportedly the inspiration for the song title "Always True to You in My Fashion" from Kiss Me, Kate by Cole Porter.citation needed
Margaret Mitchell, touched by the "far away, faintly sad sound I wanted" of the third stanza's first line, chose that line as the title of her novel Gone with the Wind. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Dowson provides the earliest use of the word soccer in written language (although he spells it socca, presumably because it did not yet have a standard written form).5 His prose works include the short stories collected as Dilemmas (1895), and the two novels A Comedy of Masks (1893) and Adrian Rome (each co-written with Arthur Moore). Some of his short prose was first published in the journal The Yellow Book.citation needed
In anticipation of the anniversary of Dowson's birth on 2 August 2010, his grave, which had fallen derelict and been vandalized, was restored. The unveiling and memorial service were publicised in the local (South London Press) and national (BBC Radio 4 and the Times Literary Supplement) British press, and dozens paid posthumous tribute to the poet 110 years after his death. In a 1900 memoir in the "Poems and Prose of Ernest Downson", Arthur Symons described Dowson as "... a man who was undoubtedly a man of genius ... There never was a poet to whom verse came more naturally ... He had the pure lyric gift, unweighed or unballasted by any other quality of mind or emotion; ...". 6
Oscar Wilde and Dowson were good friends, and a very Wilde-esque exchange about the poet survives:
- Concerned friend: 'It's a pity he drinks so much absinthe.'
- Wilde: 'If he didn't drink, he'd be someone else.'
- Then Wilde said: Il faut accepter la personnalite comme elle est. Il ne faut jamais regretter que les saouls ne soient pas toujours poetes'
- Which in English is: ' Personality must be accepted for what it is. You mustn't mind that a poet is a drunk, rather that drunks are not always poets.'
- Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae ("I am not what I was, under the reign of the good Cynara"), is a quotation from Horace's Odes, Book IV,1 "vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam..."
- Jad 2000, p. 17.
- Ernest Christopher Dowson, ed., The Letters of Ernest Dowson, Epilogue, p. 421; Retrieved 10 August 2013
- Mathews & Lane 1894, pp. 60–61.
- The Idler Volume 9, p. 889.
- "'Soccer' in the OED". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press.dead link
- Dowson 2007, Memoir from 1990 edition.
- Dowson, Ernest (2007) . The Poems and Prose of Ernest Dowson. Middlesex, England: The Echo Library. ISBN 978-1406-825961.
- Adams, Jad (2000). Madder Music, Stronger Wine. The Life of Ernest Dowson, Poet and Decadent. London, England: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 1-86064-714-6.
- Mathews, Elkin; Lane, John (1894). The Second Book of the Rhymers' Club. Edinburgh, UK: J. Miller & Son.
- The Idler 9. Princeton University: Chatto & Windus. 1896.
- Victor Plarr, Ernest Dowson 1888-1897: Reminiscences, Unpublished Letters and Marginalia, with a bibliography compiled by H. Guy Harrison (New York: Laurence J. Gomme, 1914).
- See also sections in: Madonnas and Magdalens - the origins and developments of Victorian sexual attitudes. London. Eric Trudgill. (Heinemann, 1976).
- Primary Works (modern scholarly editions)
- Ernest Dowson, The Stories of Ernest Dowson, ed. by Mark Longaker (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1947)
- Ernest Dowson, The Poems of Ernest Dowson, ed. by Mark Longaker (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1962)
- Ernest Dowson, The Letters of Ernest Dowson, ed. by Desmond Flower and Henry Maas (London: Cassell, 1967)
- Ernest Dowson, The Poetry of Ernest Dowson, ed. by Desmond Flower (Cranbury, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1970)
- Ernest Dowson, The Pierrot of the Minute, restored edition with Aubrey Beardsley's illustrations (CreateSpace, 2012)
- Ernest Dowson, Le Pierrot de la Minute, bilingual illustrated edition with French translation by Philippe Baudry (CreateSpace, 2012)
- Jad Adams, Madder Music, Stronger Wine: The Life of Ernest Dowson, Poet and Decadent (London: I.B. Tauris & Co., 2000)
- Mark Longaker, Ernest Dowson: A Biography (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1945)
- Henry Maas, Ernest Dowson: Poetry and Love in the 1890s (London: Greenwich Exchange, 2009)
- Critical Studies on Dowson and the 1890s
- Elisa Bizzotto, La mano e l'anima. Il ritratto immaginario fin de siècle (Milano: Cisalpino, 2001)
- Jean-Jacques Chardin, Ernest Dowson et la crise fin de siècle anglaise (Paris: Editions Messene, 1995)
- Linda Dowling, Language and Decadence in the Victorian Fin de Siècle (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986)
- B. Ifor Evans, English Poetry in the Later Nineteenth Century (London: Methuen, 1966)
- Ian Fletcher, Decadence and the 1890s (London: Edward Arnold, 1979)
- Graham Hough, The Last Romantics (London: Duckworth, 1949)
- Holbrook Jackson, The Eighteen Nineties (London: Jonathan Cape, 1927)
- Agostino Lombardo, La poesia inglese dall'estetismo al simbolismo (Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1950)
- Franco Marucci, Storia della letteratura inglese dal 1870 al 1921 (Firenze: Le Lettere, 2006)
- William Monahan (11 October 2000). "A Gallows Sermon: Life & Death Among the Decadents". New York Press. Retrieved 6 March 2007.
- Murray G. H. Pittock, Spectrum of Decadence: The Literature of the 1890s (London: Routledge, 1993)
- Mario Praz, La carne, la morte e il diavolo nella letteratura romantica (Firenze: Sansoni, 1976)
- Bernard Richards, English Poetry of the Victorian Period (London: Longman, 1988)
- Thomas Burnett Swann, Ernest Dowson (New York: Twayne, 1964)
- Arthur Symons, The Memoirs of Arthur Symons, ed. by Karl Beckson (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977)
- William Butler Yeats, Autobiographies (London: Macmillan, 1955)
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Ernest Dowson|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Poems (1900)
- A few of Dowson's poems, through the University of Toronto.
- Arthur Symons' memoir of Dowson.
- Works by Ernest Dowson at Project Gutenberg
- Dowson, Schoenberg and the birth of Modernism, Horizon Review
- Ernest Dowson at Find a Grave
- Text of Days of Wine and Roses