Reynard the Fox
JOHN MASEFIELD was born in Ledbury, Herefordshire, in 1878. He was orphaned at an early age and, after a brief period at the King’s School, Warwick, was educated aboard the Liverpool school-ship HMS Conway. As an apprentice, Masefield sailed round Cape Horn in 1894; as a result of illness, he was classified a Distressed British Sailor upon arrival in Chile. After convalescence in England he secured a new position in New York. Although he crossed the Atlantic, he never reported for duty. He later noted, ‘I was going to be a writer, come what might.’ After a period of homeless vagrancy, bar and factory work in America, Masefield returned to England in 1897. His first published poem appeared in a periodical in 1899. The friendship of W.B. Yeats provided encouragement, and in 1902 Salt-Water Ballads was published. A distinguished literary career followed, with work across a broad range of genres. Masefield was appointed Poet Laureate in 1930, and awarded the Order of Merit in 1935. He died in 1967; his ashes are buried in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.
PHILIP W. ERRINGTON is deputy director within the Department of Printed Books and Manuscripts at Sotheby’s, and Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of English, University College London, where he previously read for his BA, MA and PhD. He has published extensively on John Masefield and been editor of The Journal of The John Masefield Society since 1997. His bibliography, John Masefield – The ‘Great Auk’ of English Literature, was published by The British Library in 2004 and his Sea-Fever: Selected Poems of John Masefield was published by Carcanet in the Fyfield series in 2005. He has edited new editions of The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights for Egmont and his collected edition of Masefield’s First World War work was published in 2007 as John Masefield’s Great War by Pen and Sword.