Walter de la Mare

(1873 - 1958 / Kent / England)

Biography of Walter de la Mare

Walter de la Mare poet

Sir Walter de la Mare was born in Charlton, Kent, in the south of England, of well-to-do parents. His father, James Edward Delamaere, was an official of the Bank of England. His mother, Lucy Sophia (Browning) Delamare, was related to the poet Robert Browning. He was educated in London at St. Paul's Cathedral Choir School, which he left at age 16. From 1890 to 1908 he worked in London in the accounting department of the Anglo-American Oil Company. His career as a writer started from about 1895 and he continued to publish to the end of his life. His first published story, 'Kismet' (1895), appeared in the Sketch under the pseudonym Walter Ramal.

In 1908 de la Mare was awarded a yearly government pension of £100, and he devoted himself entirely to writing. He retired to Taplow in Buckinghamshire, where he lived with his wife, Constance Elfrida Ingpen, and four children. His son Richard became chairman of Faber & Faber, and published several of his father's books. In 1915 he became of of the legatees of his fellow poet Rupert Brooke. De la Mare received the CH in 1948, and the OM in 1953. He died at Twickenham, near London, on June 22, 1958. De la Mare is buried in St Paul's Cathedral.

His first stories and poems De la Mare wrote for periodicals, among others for The Sketch, and published in 1902 a collection of poetry, SONGS OF CHILDHOOD, under the name Walter Ramal. It attracted little notice. Subsequently De la Mare published many volumes of poetry for both adults and children. In 1904 appeared under his own name the prose romance HENRY BROCKEN, in which the young hero encounters writers form the past.

THE RETURN (1910) was an eerie story of spirit possession. Arthur Lawford suspects that an eighteenth-century pirate, Nicholas Sabathier, is seizing control of his personality. "'Here lie ye bones of one, Nicholas Sabathier,' he began murmuring again - 'merely bones, mind you; brains and heart are quite another story. And it's pretty certain the fellow had some kind of brains. Besides, poor devil, he killed himself. That seems to hint at brains..."

De la Mare's first successful book was The Listeners; the title poem is one of his most anthologized pieces. In the work supernatural presence haunts the solitary Traveller, the typical speaker of his poems: "Is there anybody there? said the Traveller, / Knocking on the moonlit door; / And his horse in the silence champed the grasses / Of the forest's ferny floor.... / But no one descended to the Traveller; / No head from the leaf-fringed sill / Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes, / Where he stood perplexed and still." In 1923 he produced a collection of other people's poetry, COME HITHER. In his poems de la Mare has described the English sea and coast, the secret and hidden world of nature.

His favorite themes, childhood, death, dreams, commonplace objects and events, de la Mare examined with a touch of mystery and often with an undercurrent of melancholy. His novels have been reprinted many times in horror collections because of their sense of wonder, and also hidden malevolence. However, De la Mare did not have the morbid atmosphere of Poe, but his dreamlike visions had much similarities with Blake.

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Sunk Lyonesse

In sea-cold Lyonesse,
When the Sabbath eve shafts down
On the roofs, walls, belfries
Of the foundered town,
The Nereids pluck their lyres
Where the green translucency beats,
And with motionless eyes at gaze
Make ministrely in the streets.

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