Edward Capern - Devonshire characters and strange events

Edward Capern (1819-1894), from Devonshire Characters and Strange Events, 1908. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Edward Capern (January 21, 1819 - June 5, 1894) was an English poet.


Capern, 'the rural postman of Bideford,' was born at Tiverton on 21 January 1819.[1]

His parents were poor, and at 8 he began to earn his living as a worker in a lace factory. The work tried his eyesight, and he was compelled to abandon it during the 'famine' of 1847. He suffered from privation until he secured the post of rural letter carrier at Bideford, with wages of 10s. 6d. a week.[1]

He now began to write verse for the 'Poet's Corner' of the North Devon Journal, and his poems were soon in great request at county gatherings. In 1856 William Frederick Rock of Barnstaple procured him a body of subscribers, including the names of Landor, Tennyson, Dickens, and Charles Kingsley, and in the same year was issued Poems by Edward Capern, Rural Postman of Bideford, Devon (3rd edition 1859). The little volume was received with lavish praise in unwonted quarters. Landor praised it in his Letters, Froude eulogised Capern in Fraser's Magazine, and the Athenæum spoke no less highly of his work; the book is said to have brought the author over £150., in addition to an augmentation of salary to 13s. per week.[1]

In 1858 Capern issued his Ballads and Songs, dedicated to (Lady) Burdett Coutts, and in 1862 was published his Devonshire Melodist, a selection from his songs with his own musical airs. In 1865 appeared Wayside Warbles, with portrait and introductory lines addressed to the Countess of Portsmouth (2nd edition 1870), containing some of his best songs.[1]

In 1868 he left Marine Gardens, Bideford, and settled at Harborne, near Birmingham, meeting with considerable success as a lecturer in the Midlands. He returned to Devonshire and settled at Braunton, near Bideford, about 1884.[1]

He had 2 children, often celebrated in his verse — Milly, who predeceased him, and Charles, who went to America and edited the 'Official Catalogue of the World's Fair' at Chicago in 1894.[1]

His wife's death in February 1894 proved a great shock to him, and he died on 4 June 1894, and was buried in the churchyard at Heanton, overlooking the beautiful vale of the Torridge.[1]


Kingsley warmly praised Capern's poem "The Seagull," an imitation of Hogg's "Bird of the Wilderness." Landor dedicated to him Antony and Octavius, and always held him in high regard, as did also Elihu Burritt, who saw a great deal of Capern during his stay in England.[1]

Recognition Edit

On 23 November 1857 Lord Palmerston granted him a civil list pension of £40. (raised to £60. on 24 November 1865).[1]

Publications Edit

  • Poems. London: David Bogue, 1856.
  • Ballads and Songs. London: W. Kent, 1858.
  • The Devonshire Melodist (a collection of the author's songs, some of them to his own music). London: Boosey & Sons, 1861.
  • Wayside Warbles. London: Low, 1865.
  • Sungleams and Shadows. London: W. Kent, 1881.
  • The Postman's Poems. Bristol, UK: Bellman, 1939.
The Spring O' The Dawn

The Spring O' The Dawn

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[2]

See alsoEdit

Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll - Christmas Bells

Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll - Christmas Bells



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Seccombe, 393.
  2. Search results = au:Edward Capern, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, July 18, 2013.

External linksEdit

Audio / video

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement (edited by Sidney Lee)​. London: Smith, Elder, 1901. Original article is at: Capern, Edward

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