Alfred Austin, 1900

Alfred Austin in 1900. Photo by Louis Saul Langfier (1841-1919), from The Autobiography of Alfred Austin, 1911. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Alfred Austin (30 May 1835 - 2 June 1913) was an English poet who served as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom.


Austin was born in Headingley, near Leeds. His father, Joseph Austin, was a merchant in Leeds; his mother, a sister of Joseph Locke, M.P. for Honiton. Austin was educated at Stonyhurst College (Clitheroe, Lancashire), and then at the University of London, from which he graduated in 1853.[1]

He became a barrister in 1857 before leaving law to concentrate on literature.[1]

Politically conservative, Austin edited National Review for several years, and wrote leading articles for The Standard.[1]

On Tennyson's death in 1892 it was felt that none of the then living poets, except Algernon Charles Swinburne or William Morris (who were outside consideration on other grounds), was of sufficient distinction to succeed to the laurel crown, and for several years no new poet laureate was nominated. In the interval the claims of one writer and another were assessed, and eventually Austin was appointed to the post,[1] after Morris had declined it.

Broadus writes that the choice of Austin for poet laureate had much to do with Austin's friendship with Lord Salisbury, his position as an editor and leader writer, and his willingness to use his poetry to support the government.[2] For example, shortly before his appointment was announced, Austin published a sonnet entitled A Vindication of England, written in response to a series of sonnets by William Watson, published in the Westminster Gazette, that had accused Salisbury's government of betraying Armenia and abandoning its people to Turkish massacres.[3]

Austin died of unknown causes in Ashford, Kent.[1]


Alfred Austin Vanity Fair 20 February 1896

"The Laureate" - Austin caricature in Vanity Fair, February 1896. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

In 1861, after 2 false starts in poetry and fiction, Austen made his earliest noteworthy appearance as a writer with The Season: A satire, which contained incisive lines, and was marked by some promise both in wit and observation. In 1870 he published a volume of criticism, The Poetry of the Period, which was conceived in the spirit of satire, and attacked Tennyson, Browning, Matthew Arnold and Swinburne in an unrestrained fashion. The book aroused some discussion at the time, but its judgments were extremely uncritical.[1]

As poet laureate, his topical verses did not escape negative criticism, a hasty poem written in praise of the Jameson Raid in 1896 being a notable instance. The most effective characteristic of Austin's poetry, as of the best of his prose, was a genuine and intimate love of nature. His prose idylls, The Garden that I love and In Veronica's Garden, are full of a pleasant, open-air flavour. His lyrical poems are wanting in spontaneity and individuality, but many of them possess a simple, orderly charm, as of an English country lane. He had, indeed, a true love of England, sometimes not without a suspicion of insularity, but always fresh and ingenuous. A drama by him, Flodden Field, was acted at His Majesty's theatre in 1903.[1]


Austin was appointed Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom in 1896, and served in that position until his death in 1913.

In popular cultureEdit

Austin was caricatured as "Sir Austed Alfrin" by L. Frank Baum in his 1906 novel John Dough and the Cherub.








Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[7]

Alfred Austin - A Poetry Sample

Alfred Austin - A Poetry Sample

Audio / videoEdit

  • The Poetry of Alfred Austin narrated by Richard Mitchley, Ghizela Rowe (audiobook). Deadtree Publishing, 2019.[8]

See also Edit

Preceded by
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Robert Bridges
Is Life Worth Living? by Alfred Austin (read by Tom O'Bedlam)

Is Life Worth Living? by Alfred Austin (read by Tom O'Bedlam)

References Edit

PD-icon.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Austin, Alfred". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 938. . Wikisource,Web, July 20, 2011.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Austin, Alfred, Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911, 2, 938.
  2. Edmund Kemper Broadus, "The Laureateship, A Study Of The Office Of Poet Laureate In England With Some Account Of The Poets" 1921, p203.
  3. William Watson, "The Purple East, A Series Of Sonnets On England's Desertion of Armenia", London, 1896, p7-8.
  4. The Season: A Satire (1861), Internet Archive. Web, June 29, 2013.
  5. The Poetry of the Period (1870), Internet Archive. Web, June 29, 2013.
  6. The Bridling of Pegasus: Prose papers on poetry (1910), Internet Archive. Web, June 29, 2013.
  7. Search results = au:Alfred Austin, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, June 29, 2013.
  8. The Poetry of Alfred Austin, Web, Feb. 14, 2020.

External linksEdit


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain, the 1911 Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Original article is at "Austin, Alfred"

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