Henry Austin Dobson (1840-1921)

Poet and author, born in Plymouth, Devon, on 18 January 1840, Henry Austin Dobson is perhaps best remembered as a biographer of Henry Fielding (1707-54), Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729), Oliver Goldsmith (?1730-74), Horace Walpole (1717-97), and William Hogarth (1697-1764). He was educated at Beaumaris grammar school and a private school in Coventry, and then sent to the gymnasium in Strasbourg, a city belonging to France at that time. At the age of sixteen he returned to London to enter the Board of Trade, where he served from 1856 to 1901.

After an abortive attempt at painting, he turned to verse, and his first poem, ‘A City Flower’, was published in Temple Bar in December 1864. From 1868 on, his talent for light verse began to be demonstrated in such poems as ‘Une Marquise’, ‘A Dead Letter’ and ‘The Story of Rosina’, which appeared in St. Paul’s magazine. Dobson’s first volume, Vignettes in Rhyme (1873) dedicated to Anthony Trollope (1815-82), an editor of St. Paul’s, included those light verses in ballad stanza and gained great success. In 1877 was published Proverbs in Porcelain, which included poems in medieval French forms and others in dialogue. These two works, bound in one volume with some additions and omissions, appeared as Vignettes in Rhyme in the US in 1880, and as Old-World Idylls in London in 1883, and they achieved immense popularity. By the time of the publication of At the Sign of the Lyre (1885), Dobson was wholly occupied by his eighteenth-century studies. Though he continued to produce poems into the twentieth century, many of his later works consist of occasional verse and dedications to his friends. (N. M.)

1.The Ballad of “Beau Brocade”
2.The Mosque of the Caliph
3.My Landlady