Robert Bridges

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Time-magazine-cover-robert-bridges.jpg
Bridges on the cover of Time in 1929

Robert Seymour Bridges (October 23, 1844April 21, 1930) was an English poet, holder of the honour of poet laureate from 1913.

Bridges was born in Walmer, Kent, and educated at Eton College and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. His first collection of poems was published in 1873 but he went in for medicine and practised as a doctor in London hospitals until 1882 when he was able to devote his full time to poetry. He married in 1884 Monica Waterhouse, daughter of Alfred Waterhouse, and spent the rest of his life in rural seclusion, first at Yattendon, Berkshire, then at Boar's Hill, Oxford, where he died.

Bridges was noted for his technical mastery of prosody. In the collection New Verse (1925) he experimented with a meter based on syllables rather than accents, which he also used in the long philosophical poem The Testament of Beauty (1929). His best-known poems, however, are to be found in the two earlier volumes of Shorter Poems (1890, 1894). He also wrote verse plays, with limited success, and literary criticism, including studies of prosody in the works of John Milton and John Keats.

Despite being made poet laureate, Bridges was never a very well-known poet and only achieved great popularity shortly before his death with The Testament of Beauty. However, his verse evoked response in many great English composers of the time. Among those to set his poems to music were Hubert Parry, Gustav Holst, and later Gerald Finzi.

At Corpus Christi College, Bridges became friends with Gerard Manley Hopkins who is now considered a superior poet but owes his present fame to Bridges' efforts in arranging the posthumous publication (1916) of his verse.

The poet Elizabeth Daryush was his daughter.


Preceded by:
Alfred Austin
British Poet Laureate
1913–1930
Succeeded by:
John Masefield

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