10 December 2007

Herbert Eyres Britton's First Book, and His Article on His Father, the Poet John James Britton

Herbert E. Britton's first book of poems was The Visions of a Dreamer: Sonnets, Poems and Lyrics (Kidderminster: Edward Parry, 1912), with a Foreword by his father John James Britton. He published two more books: Diane: And Other Poems (London: A. H. Stockwell, [1920]), and The Way of Loveliness: And Other Poems (London: Erskine Macdonald, 1922). In 1940, he sent the Reverend Basil Ainley a copy, along with a poetic commentary, from his home in Moira Road, Ashby-de-la-Zouch.

Below is Herbert's entry for John James Britton in Staffordshire Poets. The date of the death of John James's first wife, Catherine Erskine Britton (née Smith), is incorrect: she died in 1879:

'John James Britton

John James Britton was born at Handsworth in 1832. He was educated at King Edward’s School, New Street, Birmingham, and for a time practised as a solicitor at Newcastle-on-Tyne. The failing health of his wife, however, necessitated a change; and, with this object in view, he bought a practice at Maidenhead. Unfortunately, this did not have the desired effect, and she died in 1872. Although he had just built himself a house in this beautiful Thames-side resort, he took a dislike to the place, and, selling his home and the practice, went to Normandy, where he lived for some years. On his return to England he resided for a time in Alcester, where he again married. The later years of his life, however, were spent at Halford Bridge, some seven and a half miles from Stratford-on-Avon.

Whilst still an articled clerk he was a writer on The Critic, and in 1859 he published his first book, Tales for a Cosy Nook, which was a collection of short stories.

In 1867 Carélla, a poem in suave blank verse, supported by a number of lyrics, was produced, and in 1882 The Lay of the Lady Ida and other poems appeared. This was followed in 1884 by A Sheaf of Ballads.

He was also author of a novel entitled Flight.

Many of his prose and poetic productions appeared in English periodicals, whilst others saw print in America. He was acquainted with Michael Rossetti and Robert Browning. A Greek, Latin, and French scholar with a wide knowledge of English classics, he was a most delightful companion, the more so as he had an unfailing sense of humour.

His death took place in 1913, and he was interred in the churchyard of Halford Bridge. Although most of his published poems are somewhat lengthy, the following poem gives some idea of the felicity of his style and his mastery of rhythm. [The poem is Chastity.]

Herbert E[yres] Britton' (1)

(1) Russell Markland and Charles Henry Poole, Staffordshire Poets (Lytham: N. Ling, 1928), p. 209.


Snatch51 said...

Herbert Eyres Britton's message at Christmas 1940 was valedictory.
He died within days, if not hours.

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Hey, this is news. Have you just discovered that on the GRO Index?

Snatch51 said...

Herbert Eyres Britton died on 24th Dec 1940, of lymphatic leukaemia.
The information on his death certificate came from Edith Leslie Britton, his devoted unmarried sister.
Herbert Eyres has left a very large number of descendants, and I know now about many of them.
I wonder whether his spirit was broken in 1925, when he lost his sister Ruth Elise May, and his second wife Alice, within a month.