Robert Nichols (poet)
Life and career
He was educated at Winchester College and Trinity College, Oxford. He served in the Royal Artillery as an officer in 1914, in the fighting at Loos and the Somme. He was invalided out in 1916, after suffering from shell shock.
He began to give poetry readings, in 1917. In 1918 he was a member of an official British propaganda mission to the USA.
After the war he moved in social circles in London; Aldous Huxley became a long-term friend and correspondent, and he wooed Nancy Cunard with sonnets. He was Professor of English Literature at the University of Tokyo, from 1921 to 1924. He then worked in the theatre and cinema. The play Wings over Europe (1928), with Maurice Browne, was a Broadway hit. Nichols wrote several prose fictions, including The Smile of the Sphinx, a fantasy set in the Middle East and Golgotha & co., a satirical fantasy featuring the Wandering Jew, the return of Christ and a future war. These fictions were collected in Nichols' book Fantastica.
His father was John Bowyer Buchanan Nichols, the poet. He married Norah Denny in 1922.
On 11 November 1985, Nichols was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. The inscription on the stone was written by a fellow Great War poet, Wilfred Owen. It reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."
He is buried at St Mary's, Lawford, Essex next to the family home, Lawford Hall.
- Invocation (1915)
- Ardours and Endurances (1917)
- A Faun's Holiday & Poems & Phantasies (1917)
- Sonnets to Aurelia (1920)
- The Smile of the Sphinx (1920)
- Fantastica : being the smile of the Sphinx and other tales of imagination (1923)
- Twenty Below (1926) with Jim Tully
- Wings Over Europe (1928) play
- Fisbo or the Looking Glass Loaned (1934) verse satire aimed at Osbert Lancaster
- A Spanish Triptych (1936) poems
- Such was My Singing (1942) poems
Settings of plays
In 1919 the English composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji wrote a Music to “The Rider by Night” (not extant in full).
- John Clute, "Fantastica", in Frank N. Magill, ed. Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature, Vol 2. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, Inc., 1983. (pp. 524-525). ISBN 0-89356-450-8
- Putting Poetry First: A Life Of Robert Nichols, 1893-1944 (2003) William and Anne Charlton