Lascelles Abercrombie

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Lascelles Abercrombie
Born (1881-01-09)January 9, 1881[1]
Ashton upon Mersey, Cheshire, England
Died October 27, 1938(1938-10-27) (aged 57)
London, England
Occupation journalist, lecturer
Alma mater Malvern College, Owens College

Lascelles Abercrombie (also known as the Georgian Laureate, linking him with the "Georgian poets") (9 January 1881 – 27 October 1938)[1] was a British poet and literary critic, one of the "Dymock poets". He was born in Ashton upon Mersey[2] and educated at Malvern College,[3] and at Owens College.[1]

Before the First World War, he lived for a time at Dymock in Gloucestershire, part of a community that included Rupert Brooke and Robert Frost. Edward Thomas also visited. During these early years, he worked as a journalist, and he started his poetry writing. His first book Interludes and Poems (1908), followed by Mary and the Bramble (1910), and the poem Deborah, and finally the books Emblems of Love (1912) and Speculative Dialogues (1913).[1]

During World War I, he served as a munitions examiner,[1] after which, he was appointed to the first lectureship in poetry at the University of Liverpool.[1] In 1922 he was appointed Professor of English at the University of Leeds in preference to J. R. R. Tolkien, with whom he shared, as author of The Epic (1914), a professional interest in heroic poetry.[4] In 1929 he moved on to the University of London, and in 1935 to a prestigious readership at Oxford University.[2] He wrote a series of works on the nature of poetry, including The Idea of Great Poetry (1925) and Romanticism (1926). Abercrombie repeated in volume after volume the same view of the nature of poetry -- that it is the representation of the poet's own imaginative experience, conveyed by literary technique to the reader, in whom the same experience is then replicated. The lack of a discussion of such topics in English universities at the time meant that the limitations in this view were not pointed out, and Abercrombie lacked the stimulus of a critical response that would have helped him to amend and develop his theory. His critical studies of Hardy (1912) and Wordsworth (published posthumously) belonged to a much more familiar genre, and were remembered longer.

He also published several volumes of original verse, largely metaphysical poems in dramatic form, and a number of verse plays. His poems and plays were collected in 'Poems' (1930). In the same year he published separately his most ambitious poem, 'The Sale of Saint Thomas' in six 'Acts'. [2] A number of fellow poets and professors of literature (including Oliver Elton, Charles Williams and Una Ellis-Fermor)[5] admired the sublimity of his themes and his ability to clothe metaphysical thought in vivid imagery.

Abercrombie is remembered today less for his writings than because of his close friendship with Edward Marsh, Rupert Brooke, and other 'Georgian' poets.

He was the brother of the architect Patrick Abercrombie and the father of the phonetician David Abercrombie and the cell biologist Michael Abercrombie. A grandson, Jeff Cooper, produced an admirable bibliography of his grandfather, with brief but important notes, while a great-grandson of the poet is the author Joe Abercrombie.


A collection of literary and other manuscripts relating to Abercrombie is held by Special Collections in the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds.[6] The collection contains drafts of many of Abercrombie's own publications and literary material; lecture notes, including those of his own lectures and some notes taken from the lectures of others, and a printed order of service for his Memorial Service in 1938.[7]

Special Collections in the Brotherton Library also holds correspondence relating to Lascelles Abercrombie and his family.[8] Comprising 105 letters, the collection contains letters of condolence to Catherine and Ralph Abercrombie on the death of Lascelles Abercrombie. It also contains Abercrombie family letters, from various correspondents chiefly to Ralph Abercrombie.[8]


Title Year Description
Interluds and Poems 1908[1] Book of poems
Mary and the Bramble 1910[1] Book of poems
Deborah[1] Dramatic poem
Emblems of Love 1912[1] Book
Speculative Dialogues 1913[1] Work of prose
An Essay Towards a Theory of Art 1922[1]
Poetry, Its Music and Meaning 1932[1] Book
Collected Poems 1930[1] Book of poems
The Sale of St. Thomas 1931[1] Poetic drama


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abercrombie, Lascelles". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8. 
  2. ^ a b c Chambers Biographical Dictionary, ISBN 0-550-18022-2, page 4
  3. ^ Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature (1995) Merriam-Webster Inc. p.3. ISBN 978-0-87779-042-6
  4. ^ Humphrey Carpenter, J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography, 1977, 114.
  5. ^ See See Oliver Elton, ‘Lascelles Abercrombie 1881-1938’, Proceedings of the Royal Academy 25 (1939), and Charles Williams, Poetry at Present (Oxford, 1930). In a letter of 1944 (cited by C.L. Sastri, Abercrombie’s Poems, Waltair 1971, 170-1) Una Ellis-Fermor described Abercrombie as ‘one of the finest metaphysical and religious poets of the country and this century’.
  6. ^ Special Collections Guide
  7. ^ Leeds University Library Catalogue Record
  8. ^ a b Leeds University Library Catalogue Record


Jeffrey Cooper, 'A Bibliography and Notes on the Works of Lascelles Abercrombie' (1969).

Jeff[rey] Cooper, 'Poet, Crusader, Scholar: Lascelles Abercrombie', Dymock Poets and Friends 9 (2010), 5-18.

Richard Price, 'The Poetry of Lascelles Abercrombie: A Reassessment', ibid., 19-27.

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