Robert Bridges

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Robert [Seymour] Bridges (1844-1930) was appointed Poet Laureate in 1913, and held the post till his death in 1930. He was appointed (after Rudyard Kipling had declined the invitation) on the strength of his reputation as a lyricist and his experimentation with metre. He was acquainted with the composer Herbert Parry, who set some of his verse to music, and with such luminaries of the modern scene as Roger Fry, Yeats, Pound, Newbolt, Robert Graves, Virginia Woolf, and E. M. Forster. His earlier, shorter poems (mostly lyrical) were well received, but did not enjoy the immense popularity achieved by his Testament of Beauty (1929; OUP), which sold 70,000 copies in its first 15 years – a phenomenal number for poetry. (In the 1950s and 1960s, it seemed that a copy was to be found on the shelves of every second-hand bookshop in Britain)

Bridges was the first great champion of another English poet who experimented with metre in the 19th century, G. M. Hopkins (1844-1899), his contemporary at Oxford, whose work he edited in 1919, and whose experiments have – sadly – proved much more popular.

Bridges was also a founder-member of the Society for Pure English, for whom he contributed the first substantive 'Tract', on English Homophones, which has furnished AWE with a fertile source of ideas.