Saturday, 23 January 2016

Sir Henry Newbolt (1862 - 1938) - British poet, historian, novelist

Henry John Newbolt was born on 6th June 1862 at Bilston, Wolverhampton, UK.   His parents were Henry Francis Newbolt, an Anglican priest who was vicar of St. Mary’s church, Bilston, and his wife Emily, nee Stubbs.  Emily was Rev. Newbolt’s second wife.  

Henry attended Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall, Caistor Grammar School in Lincolnshire and Clifton College in Bristol, before going on to Corpus Christie College, Oxford to study law.   His fellow pupils at Clifton College included the future writer Arthur Quiller-Couch and future Army Officer Douglas Haig.

Henry practised law from 1889 until 1899.   In 1889, Henry married Margaret Edina Duckworth of the Duckworth publishing family.  The couple had a son and a daughter.
The Newbolt family lived in Netherhampton, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, U, where Henry was a Churchwarden.

When the First World War broke out, Henry, along with other notable literary figures of the time, was invited to join the British War Propaganda Bureau.  Knighted in 1915, Henry later became Controller of Wireless and Cables (i.e.’Telecommunications’)   at the Foreign Office.  He was also Chairman of the Departmental Committee on the Distribution of Books Abroad.

He died at Campden Hill, Kensington, London on 19th April 1938.

Sir Henry Newbolt’s WW1 poems include ‘The War Films’ about the news film shown to the public about the early days of the Battle of the Somme, which was published in ‘The Times’ newspaper on 14th October 1916.   Newbolt’s WW1 collections include:

‘A Perpetual Memory, and other poems’, published by Murray, 1939

‘Poems:  new and old’, 2nd edition, Murray, 1919

‘St. George’s Day and other poems’, Murray 1918

‘Selected Poems’, Nelson, 1940

 His poems also featured in 29 First World War poetry Anthologies.

 Sources:  Wikipedia, Find my Past, Free BMD and ‘English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography’, Catherine W. Reilly (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)

 Sir Henry Newbolt’s most famous patriotic poems are ‘Drake’s Drum’ and ‘Vitaï Lampada’ or the torch of life, the latter being about the Battle of Abu Klea in The Sudan in January 1885.

Vitaï Lampada (1892)


 THERE'S a breathless hush in the Close to-night -

 Ten to make and the match to win -

 A bumping pitch and a blinding light,

 An hour to play and the last man in.

 And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,

 Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,

 But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote

 "Play up! play up! and play the game!"


 The sand of the desert is sodden red, -

 Red with the wreck of a square that broke; -

 The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,

 And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.

 The river of death has brimmed his banks,

 And England's far, and Honour a name,

 But the voice of schoolboy rallies the ranks,

 "Play up! play up! and play the game!"


 This is the word that year by year

 While in her place the School is set

 Every one of her sons must hear,

 And none that hears it dare forget.

 This they all with a joyful mind

 Bear through life like a torch in flame,

 And falling fling to the host behind -

 "Play up! play up! and play the game!"