by George J. Dance

John Drinkwater

John Drinkwater (1882-1937), circa 1900-1910. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

John Drinkwater (1 June 1882 - 25 March 1937) was an English poet, dramatist, and literary critic,[1] who was a member of the Dymock poets and the Georgian poets.[2]


John Drinkwater, reading

Drinkwater in the early 1930's. Photo by Lewis Protheroe. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Drinkwater was born in Leytonstone, Essex.[1]. His father, Albert Edward Drinkwater, was a schoolmaster who would abandon his teaching career to become an actor and playwright.[3]

At age 9, John Drinkwater was sent by his parents to live attend school at Oxford, where he lived with his maternal grandfather, John Beck Brown, an ironmonger.[3] He spent the holidays with a great uncle who farmed at Piddington, Oxfordshire.[4] He attended Oxford High School, but dropped out at 15 to clerk for an insurance company in Nottingham. [2]

Drinkwater moved with his firm in 1901 to to Birmingham, where he became involved in amateur theatre.[2] He also began publishing his poetry, beginning with a self-published volume of Poems in 1903.[3]

Drinkwater married Kathleen Walpole in 1906. The marriage was childless.[3]

In 1907 Drinkwater became manager of the Pilgrim Poets, which would evolve into the Birmingham Repertory Theatre,[1] and in 1910 quit his job to work for the company full-time. The following year he was elected president of the Birmingham Literary and Dramatic Club.[2]

Following a second self-published volume of poetry, Drinkwater's third collection was published by Harold Monro's Samurai Publishing, and his fourth by , David Nutt, the firm that would also issue Robert Frost's first collection, A Boy's Will. (Frost's granddaughter believes that Drinkwater may have been the anonymous reader who advised Nutt to publish A Boy's Will.)[2]

In 1911 Drinkwater began corresponding with poets Lascelles Abercrombie (who had given one of his books a laudatory review in The Nation) and Wilfrid Wilson Gibson. That May he made the first of many visits to Abercrombie at his cottage near Dymock, and in September 1912 both Abercrombie and Gibson visited him in Birmingham. Also in September 1912, he was invited by Monro to the meeting at which Edward Marsh unveiled his plans to produce a regular anthology of new poetry.[2] At that meeting he first met Rupert Brooke,[2] with whom he developed a close friendship.[4]

The initial volume of Marsh's anthology series, Georgian Poetry 1911-1912, appeared later that year, and was a success. 5 volumes of Georgian Poetry would appear through 1922, with Drinkwater contributing verse to all of them.

In 1913 Drinkwater became manager of the newly-built Birmingham Repertory Theatre. He wrote his 1st play, Rebellion, the following year. Through 1913 he continued to visit with Abercrombie and Gibson (now living in Dymock as well), and contributed poetry to their short-lived journal, New Numbers.[3]

John Drinkwater at Pepys' House

Drinkwater at Samuel Pepys' House, late 1930's. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

In 1918 Drinkwater had his earliest major success with his play, Abraham Lincoln, which was staged in London in 1919 and in the United States in 1920. He became relatively wealthy; he and Kathleen moved to London, and he began frequently touring the United States.[3]

His wife began an affair with pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch (whose wife began an affair with Drinkwater in revenge), and sued for divorce in 1923. The divorce became final the following year, and Drinkwater married violinist Daisy Kennedy.[3]

In 1923 Drinkwater's Collected Poems were published.

His autobiography was published as Inheritance (2 volumes) in 1931, and Discovery in 1932.[1]

In 1937 Drinkwater wrote, produced, and narrated a film, The King's People, about King George VI. He died in London in March of that year, of a heart attack.[3]

He is buried in the graveyard at St. Nicholas' Church in Piddington, Oxfordshire. His grave is engraved on both sides with lines from his poems.[4]


A road in Leytonstone is named after Drinkwater, as is a housing development in Piddington.[5]




  • Puss in Boots: A play in five scenes. London: David Nutt, 1911.
  • Cophetua: A play in one act. London: David Nutt, 1911.
  • The Only Legend: A masque of the Scarlet Pierrot. Bourneville, UK: privately published, 1911.
  • The Pied Piper: A tale of Hamelin city. Bourneville, UK: privately published, 1912.
  • Rebellion: A play in three acts. London: David Nutt, 1914.
  • The Storm: A play in one act. Birmingham, UK: privately printed at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 1915.
  • Pawns: Three poetic plays. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1917
    • published in U.S. as Pawns: Four poetic plays (introduction by Jack R. Crawford). Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920.
  • Abraham Lincoln. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1919.
  • Oliver Cromwell. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1921.
  • Mary Stuart: A play. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1921.
  • Pawns and Cophetua: Four poetic plays. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1922.
  • Robert E. Lee: A play. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1923.
  • Robert Burns: A play. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1925; Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1925.
  • Bird in Hand: A play in three acts. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1927; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1927
  • John Bull Calling: A political parable in one act. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1928.
  • Midsummer Eve: A play primarily intended for wireless. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1931.
  • Laying the Devil: A play in three acts. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1933.
  • A Man's House: A play in three acts. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1934.
  • Garibaldi: A chronicle play of Italian freedom, in ten scenes. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1936.
  • The Collected Plays of John Drinkwater. Grosse Pointe, MI: Schloarly Press, 1968.


  • William Morris: A critical study.London: M. Secker, 1912.
  • Swinburne: An estimate. London & Toronto: J.M. Dent / New York: E.P. Dutton, 1913.
  • The Lyric. London: Martin Secker, 1915; New York: Doran, 1915.
  • Prose Papers. London: Elkin Mathews, 1917.
  • Abraham Lncoln: An essay. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1919.
  • Lincoln: The world emancipator. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920.
  • Cotswold Characters. (engravings by Paul Nash). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1921.
  • Some contributions to the English Anthology: With special reference to the seventeenth century. London: British Academy (Warton Lecture on English Poetry XIII) / Humphrey Milford / Oxford University Press, 1922.
  • The World and the Artist. London: Bookman's Journal, 1922.
  • Victorian Poetry. London & Toronto: Hodder & Stoughton, 1923.
  • The Muse in Council: Being essays on poets and poetry. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1925; Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1925.
  • Mr. Charles, King of England. New York: Doran, 1926.
  • Oliver Cromwell: A character study: Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, 1927.
  • The Art of Theatre Going. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1927.
  • Charles James Fox. New York: Cosmopolitan, 1928.
  • The World's Lincoln. New York: Bowling Green Press, 1928.
  • Pepys: His life and character. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, 1930.
  • Poetry and Dogma. Bristol, UK: J. Arrowsmith, 1931.
  • Inheritance: Being the first part of an autobiography. (2 volumes), London: Ernest Benn, 1931.
  • Shakespeare. London: Duckworth, 1933.
  • Discovery: Being the second book of an autobiography, 1897-1913. London: Ernest Benn, 1933; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1933.
  • John Hampden's England. London: T. Butterworth, 1933.
  • The King's Reign: A commentary in prose and picture. London: Methuen, 1935.
  • Robinson of England. London: Methuen, 1937; New York: Macmillan, 1937.
  • English Poetry: An unfinished history. London: Methuen, 1938; Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971.


  • All About Me: Poems for a child (illustrated by H.M. Brock). London: Collins, 1928; Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1928.
  • More About Me: Poems for a child (illustrated by H.M. Brock). London: Collins, 1929; Boston & New York, 1930.


  • From the German: Verses written from the German poets. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1924.


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


John Drinkwater - Reading 4 of his own poems - 78 rpm - Cotswold Love - Anthony Crumble

John Drinkwater - Reading 4 of his own poems - 78 rpm - Cotswold Love - Anthony Crumble

John Drinkwater" The Oxfordshire Poet" reads his own Poems

John Drinkwater" The Oxfordshire Poet" reads his own Poems.

Drinkwater made recordings in the Columbia Records 'International Educational Society' Lecture series. They include Lecture 10 - a lecture on 'The Speaking of Verse' (Four 78rpm sides, Cat no. D 40018-40019), and Lecture 70 'John Drinkwater reading his own poems' (Four 78rpm sides, Cat no. D 40140-40141).[8]

See alsoEdit



Papers relating to John Drinkwater, collected by his stepdaughter, are in the University of Birmingham Special Collections.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 John Drinkwater, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Web, July 13, 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 John Drinkwater, Friends of the Dymock Poets. Web, July 13, 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Timeline for John Drinkwater,, Web, July 13, 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 John Drinkwater (1882-1937), Piddington village website. Web, July 13, 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 John Drinkwater (playwright), Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons. Web, July 13, 2014.
  6. Search results = au:William Wilfrid Gibson, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Aug. 25, 2014.
  7. Search results = au:John Drinkwater, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Apr. 20, 2014.
  8. Catalogue of Columbia Records, Up to and including Supplement no. 252 (Columbia Graphophone Company, London September 1933), pp. 371, 374.

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