Wilson, Jean Moorcroft (1969)
Sir William Watson: A critical biography.
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In this thesis I attempt to give a full account of Watson's life, since neither of his previous biographers have done so; Walter Swayze ends his examination thirty years before Watson's death and James Nelson deals mainly with his work. But I find his whole life significant, particularly in view of the new material I have discovered. Watson's teenage years in Liverpool, for instance, give an interesting picture of a group of provincial writers who later became famous. His previously unpublished letters to Professor Dowden, his next main influence, are full of useful information on the eighties, and the relative success of his early work reveals more about its prevalent attitudes, especially his political sonnets, which raise the question of nineteenth century political poetry in general. His critical elegy on Wordsworth in 1887 introduces the possibility that he innovated a new poetic form. But it is his entry into London literary circles and rise to fame there in the early nineties that gives the main interest to Watson's life. I suggest that this success shows the strength of the Tennysonian tradition in a supposedly "decadent" age. Drawing on another collection of unknown letters, I then trace his relationship with his publisher, John Lane, and many other well-known figures of the period, as well as his surprising failure to become poet laureate. The decline of his popularity and its brief revival at the turn of the century provides more interesting proof of contemporary poetic taste. So, too, does his rejection of the Georgians a decade later. His increasing obscurity in the twentieth century shows that the Tennysonian tradition was finally dying. I argue, in conclusion, that Watson was one of its last representatives and that his death in 1935 was the end of an age.
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in Royal Holloway Research Online.Last modified on 01-Feb-2017
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Institution: University of London, Royal Holloway College (United Kingdom).