Edwin Markham

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For the British general, see Edwin Markham (British Army officer).
Edwin Markham
EdwinMarkham.png
Born (1852-04-23)April 23, 1852
Oregon City, Oregon
Died March 7, 1940(1940-03-07) (aged 87)
Occupation Poet
Nationality American

Signature

Edwin Markham (born Charles Edward Anson Markham April 23, 1852 – March 7, 1940) was an American poet. From 1923 to 1931 he was Poet Laureate of Oregon.[1]

Life[edit]

Edwin Markham was born in Oregon City, Oregon, and was the youngest of 10 children; his parents divorced shortly after his birth. At the age of four, he moved to Lagoon Valley, an area northeast of San Francisco; there, he lived with his sister and mother. He worked on the family's farm beginning at twelve. Although his mother was opposed to his pursuing higher education, he studied literature at the California College in Vacaville, California, and received his teacher's certificate in 1870. In 1872 he graduated from San Jose State Normal School and in 1873 finished his studies of classics at Christian College in Santa Rosa. He went by "Charles" until about 1895, when he was about 43, when he started using "Edwin."[2]

In 1898, Markham married his third wife, Anna Catherine Murphy (1859–1938), and in 1899 their son Virgil was born. They moved to Rio De Janeiro in 1900 to study natives and their appeasement, then to New York City, where they lived in Brooklyn and then Staten Island. Edwin Markham had, by the time of his death, amassed a huge library of 15000+ books. This collection was bequeathed to Wagner College's Horrmann Library, located on Staten Island. Markham also willed his personal papers to the library. Edwin's correspondents included Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ambrose Bierce, Aleister Crowley,[3] Jack and Charmian[4] London, Carl Sandburg, Florence Earle Coates[5] and Amy Lowell.

Career[edit]

L'homme à la houe by Jean-François Millet

Markham taught literature in El Dorado County until 1879, when he became education superintendent of the county. While residing in El Dorado County, Markham became a member of Placerville Masonic Lodge. He also accepted a job as principal of Tompkins Observation School in Oakland, California, in 1890. While in Oakland, he became well acquainted with many other famous contemporary writers and poets, such as Joaquin Miller, Ina Coolbrith, Charles Warren Stoddard, and Edmund Clarence Stedman.

Edwin Markham's most famous poem, "The Man with the Hoe," which accented laborers' hardships, was first presented at a public poetry reading in 1898. His main inspiration was a French painting of the same name (in French, L'homme à la houe) by Jean-François Millet. Markham's poem was published, and it became quite popular very soon. In New York, he gave many lectures to labor groups. These happened as often as his poetry readings.

A photograph of Markham in his later years

In 1922, Markham's poem "Lincoln, the Man of the People" was selected from 250 entries to be read at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. The author himself read the poem. Of it, Dr. Henry Van Dyke of Princeton said, "Edwin Markham's Lincoln is the greatest poem ever written on the immortal martyr, and the greatest that ever will be written." Later that year, Markham was filmed reciting the poem by Lee De Forest in his Phonofilm sound-on-film process.

As recounted by literary biographer William R. Nash,[6] "'['b]etween publications, Markham lectured and wrote in other genres, including essays and nonfiction prose. He also gave much of his time to organizations such as the Poetry Society of America, which he established in 1910. In 1922, at the conclusion to the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial, Markham read a revised version of his poem, "Lincoln the Man of the People."[7] Markham also wrote a number of epigrams, of which the best known is Outwitted.

Throughout Markham's later life, many readers viewed him as an important voice in American poetry, a position signified by honors such as his election in 1908 to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Despite his numerous accolades, however, none of his later books achieved the success of the first two.

Legacy[edit]

Six schools in California were named in honor of Edwin Markham: three elementary schools, all named Edwin Markham Elementary School, in Oakland, California, Vacaville, California, and in Hayward, California; two middle schools, Edwin Markham Middle School in Placerville, California, and Edwin Markham Junior High School in San Jose, California (although the San Jose school has since been renamed Willow Glen Middle School); and Markham Middle School in South Central Los Angeles.

Schools in other states named in his honor include Edwin Markham Intermediate School 51 in Staten Island, Edwin Markham Elementary in Pasco, Washington, Edwin Markham Elementary School in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and Markham Elementary in Portland, Oregon.

The Liberty Ship Edwin Markham was launched on May 5, 1942.

Bibliography[edit]

Poetry collections

  • The Man With the Hoe and Other Poems (1899)
  • Lincoln and Other Poems (1901)
  • The Shoes of Happiness and Other Poems (1913)
  • Gates of Paradise (1920)
  • Eighty Poems at Eighty (1932)
  • The Ballad of the Gallows Bird (published 1960)

Prose

  • Children in Bondage (1914)
  • California the Wonderful (1914)

References[edit]

External links[edit]