The Dymock Poets
Do you remember that still summer evening
When, in the cosy cream-washed living-room
Of the Old Nailshop, we all talked and laughed--
Our neighbours from The Gallows, Catherine
And Lascelles Abercrombie; Rupert Brooke;
Elinor and Robert Frost, living a while
At Little Iddens, who'd brought over with them
Helen and Edward Thomas?
Wilfrid Gibson, 'The Golden Room'
Gibson's 'The Golden Room' preserves for posterity a fleeting moment of togetherness at his house just outside Dymock, Gloucestershire, in June 1914. Returning as an old man nearly fifty years later, Robert Frost was asked whether he could indeed remember 'that still summer evening'. "You wouldn't think all those great people could fit in here," he replied, "but we had a cosy time."
Never formally a group, the 'Dymock Poets' are commonly understood to have comprised Gibson, Abercrombie, Frost, Thomas, Brooke and (the absentee from 'The Golden Room') John Drinkwater. The extent of their involvement with the area varies considerably: Gibson lived there for two years, Abercrombie for six, and Frost for less than a year, whereas the others were no more than visitors. Yet their network of friendships and their deep attachment to the local landscape continued to influence their writing, even after the outbreak of war had scattered the company to their separate destinies.
The friendship between Frost and Thomas has been the subject of sustained scholarly attention, and Brooke's 'The Soldier' (first published in New Numbers, edited by Gibson and Abercrombie), has ensured his continuing visibility, but in recent years the lesser-known poets have also begun to receive appropriate coverage. Beyond the Dymock Poets' individual achievements, any account of the period's literary politics must include their story. When Ezra Pound, incensed by the proponents of Georgian poetics, challenged Abercrombie to a duel, he paid an inadvertent compliment. (In keeping with the tradition that the challenged party chooses the weapons, Abercrombie responded that they should bombard each other with unsold copies of their own books.) The Dymock Poets mattered then, and matter now: they are among the most significant literary groupings of the last century.
I am currently working on two projects with links to the Dymock Poets: a monograph on Robert Frost, and an anthology based on the friendship of Frost and Thomas (both for Yale UP). I would welcome proposals for research on any subject relating to the Dymock Poets.
Keith Clark, The Muse Colony: Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, Robert Frost and Friends: Dymock 1914 (Redcliffe, 1992).
Linda Hart, Once They Lived in Gloucestershire (Green Branch Press, 2000).
Sean Street, The Dymock Poets (Seren, 1994).
Dymock Poets and Friends (annual magazine of the Friends of the Dymock Poets).