C. Fox Smith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Cicely Fox Smith
Born(1882-02-01)1 February 1882
Lymm, Cheshire, United Kingdom
Died8 April 1954(1954-04-08) (aged 72)
Bow, Devon, United Kingdom
Occupationpoet, writer

Cicely Fox Smith (1 February 1882 – 8 April 1954) was an English poet and writer. Born in Lymm, Cheshire and educated at Manchester High School for Girls, she briefly lived in Canada, before returning to the United Kingdom shortly before the outbreak of World War I. She settled in Hampshire and began writing poetry, often with a nautical theme. Smith wrote over 600 poems in her life, for a wide range of publications. In later life, she expanded her writing to a number of subjects, fiction and non-fiction. For her services to literature, the British Government awarded her a small pension.

Early life[edit]

Cicely Fox Smith was born 1 February 1882, into a middle-class family in Lymm, near Warrington, England during the latter half of the reign of Queen Victoria. Her father was a barrister and her grandfather was a clergyman. Smith well might have been expected to have a brief education and then to settle down to life as a homemaker either for her family or her marriage partner.

She was well educated at Manchester High School for Girls from 1894 to 1897, where she described herself later as "something of a rebel," and started writing poems at a comparatively early age. In an article for the school magazine Smith later wrote "I have a hazy recollection of epic poems after Pope's Iliad, romantic poems after Marmion stored carefully away in tin tobacco boxes when I was seven or eight." All of that early work is lost unfortunately. She published her first book of verses when she was 17 and it received favourable press comments.

Wandering the moors near her home she developed a spirit of adventure. She would follow the Holcombe Harriers hunt on foot as a girl. She had a fierce desire to travel to Africa but eventually settled for a voyage to Canada. Smith likely sailed with her sister Madge in 1911 on a steamship to Montreal, where she would then have travelled by train to Lethbridge, Alberta, staying for about a year with her older brother Richard Andrew Smith before continuing on to British Columbia (BC). From 1912 to 1913 she resided in the James Bay neighbourhood of Victoria at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, working as a typist for the BC Lands Department and later for an attorney on the waterfront. Her spare time was spent roaming nearby wharves and alleys, talking to residents and sailors alike. She listened to and learned from the sailors' tales until she too was able to speak with that authoritative nautical air that pervades her written work.

On 23 November 1913, Smith, with her mother and sister, arrived home in Liverpool aboard the White Star Line steamer Teutonic on the eve of World War I. She and her family then settled in Hampshire.


She soon put her experiences to use in a great outpouring of poetry, some of it clearly focused on supporting England's war efforts. Much of her poetry was from the point of view of the sailor. The detailed nautical content of her poems made it easy to understand why so many readers assumed that Smith was male. One correspondent wrote to her as "Capt. Fox Smith" and when she tried to correct him he wrote back "You say you are not a master but you must be a practical seaman. I can always detect the hand of an amateur." He was almost correct. She was familiar with life at sea as few armchair amateur would ever be. It was only when she was well established that she started routinely using the by-line "Miss C. Fox Smith" or "Cicely Fox Smith."

Smith initially had her poetry published in a variety of magazines and newspapers: Blackwood's Magazine, Blue Peter, Canada Monthly, Country Life, Cunard Magazine, Daily Chronicle, Grand Magazine, Holly Leaves, the Outlook, Pall Mall Gazette, The Daily Mail, The Dolphin, The London Mercury, The Nautical Magazine, The Spectator, The Sphere, The Times Literary Supplement, Westminster Gazette, White Star Magazine, The Windsor Magazine, The Week and The Daily Colonist (BC) and Punch for which she wrote many poems between 1914 and her death in 1954. She later re-published much of this poetry in her many books. In all, with the new edition, she published well over 660 poems.

In June 2012, the first edition of The Complete Poetry of Cicely Fox Smith, edited by Charles Ipcar (US) and James Saville (UK), was published by Little Red Tree Publishing in the US, and contained all the poems known at that time. The second edition (2015) added 74 new poems, some published for the first time, thanks to the work of numerous researchers around the world, including Jake Wade and Danny McLeod. Included in the second edition is an important introduction by Marcia Phillips McGowan, PhD, (Distinguished Professor Emerita of English, Eastern Connecticut State University), in which she reclaims Cicely Fox Smith in the continuum of important women poets of the early 20 century.

Later life[edit]

Other books by Smith included three romantic novels, numerous short stories and articles, as well as several books describing "sailortown." She also published a book of traditional sea shanties that she had collected, and edited a collection of sea poems and stories primarily by other authors. In 1937 Smith finally realised a childhood dream by sailing around the coast of Africa, as a guest of the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co. Ltd., stopping in the

Her literary outpourings were such as to persuade the Government to award her, at the age of 67, a modest pension for "her services to literature."

Smith kept writing to the end of her life about many things and many places but always with the accuracy and knowledge of an expert. She even chose her own gravestone epitaph, an extract from one of Walter Raleigh's poems:

But from this earth
This grave
This dust
My lord shall raise me up
I trust

Cicely Fox Smith died on 8 April 1954, in the town of Bow, Devon, where she'd been living with her sister Madge.


Smith is now gaining a wider audience as more and more musicians are putting her poems to music and producing many fine songs, primarily in the nautical folk song tradition; over 70 of her poems have so far been adapted for singing and have been recorded. It is hoped that the present anthology will help further such interest in the creative work of this fine writer.


Books by C. Fox Smith include:

  • A Book of Famous Ships (Houghton Mifflin, New York © 1924)
  • A Book of Shanties (traditional sea songs) (Methuen & Co., London © 1927)
  • A Sea Chest: an Anthology of Ships and Sailormen (Methuen & Co., London © 1927)
  • Adventures and Perils of the Sea (1936)
  • All the Way Round: Sea Road to Africa (1938)
  • Anchor Lane (1933)
  • Ancient Mariners: Some Salt Water Yesterdays (1928)
  • Country Days & Country Ways: Trudging Afoot in England (1947)
  • Fighting Men (Methuen 1916)
  • Full Sail (1926)
  • Here and there in England with the Painter Brangwyn (1945)
  • Knave-go-by: the Adventures of Jacky Nameless
  • Lancashire Hunting Songs, and Other Moorland Lays (J. E. Cornish, Manchester, UK © 1909)
  • Men of Men (1901)
  • Ocean Racers (1931)
  • Painted Ports
  • Return of the Cutty Sark (Methuen, 1924)
  • Rovings: Sea Songs and Ballads (1921)
  • Sailor Town Days (1923)
  • Sailor Town: Sea Songs and Ballads (Elkin Mathews, London © 1914 & George H Doran, New York 1919)
  • Sailor's Delight (1931)
  • Sea Songs and Ballads, 1917–22 (1923)
  • Ship Aground: a Tale of Adventure
  • Ship Alley: More Sailor Town Days (1925)
  • Ship Models (1951)
  • Ships and Folks (1920)
  • Small Craft: Sailor Ballads and Chantys (Elkin Mathews, London 1917 & George H Doran, New York 1919)
  • Songs and Chanties, 1914–1916 (1919)
  • Songs in Sail and other Chanties (Elkin Mathews, London 1914)
  • Songs of Greater Britain and Other Poems (Sherratt & Hughes, UK 1899)
  • Tales of the Clipper Ships (1926)
  • Thames Side Yesterdays (1945)
  • The City of Hope: A Story of the New West (Sidgewick & Jackson, London 1914)
  • The Foremost Trail (Sampson Low, Marston & Co., London © 1899)
  • The Naval Crown, Ballads and Songs of the War
  • The Thames (1931)
  • The Valiant Sailor (with Madge Smith) (1951)
  • There Was a Ship: Chapters from the History of Sail (1929)
  • Wings of the Morning (Elkin Mathews, London © 1904)


Further reading[edit]

  • 1891 British Census
  • 1911 British Census
  • 1908 Passenger List (Montreal/Quebec)
  • 1913 Passenger Lists (Liverpool)
  • Songs and Chanties: 1914–1916, Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1919
  • Peregrine in Love, Cicely Fox Smith, published by Hodder & Stoughton, London, UK, © 1920, pp. 86–87
  • Later English Poems 1901–1922, J. E. Wetherell, published by B. A., Mcclelland & Stewart, Limited, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, © 1922, pp. 35–36
  • Sailor Town Days, Cicely Fox Smith, published by Methuen & Co., London, UK, © 1923, pp. 13–14, pp. 163–182
  • "Cicely Fox Smith," by W. A. F., The Bookman, published by Hodder & Stoughton, London, UK, Volume 64, September 1923, pp. 273–274
  • A Book of Famous Ships, Cicely Fox Smith, published by Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, © 1924, p. 160
  • Ship Alley: More Sailor Town Days, Cicely Fox Smith, published by Houghton Mifflin, New York City, © 1925, pp. 65–66, pp. 72–78, pp. 126–127
  • There Was a Ship: Chapters from the History of Sail, Cicely Fox Smith, published by Edwin Valentine Mitchell, Hartford, Connecticut, © 1930, pp. 168–169.
  • Anchor Lane, Cicely Fox Smith, published by Methuen & Co., London, UK, © 1933, p. 8
  • Who Was Who in Literature: 1906–1934, p. 1059
  • All the Way Round: Sea Roads to Africa, Cicely Fox Smith, published by Michael Joseph, London, UK, © 1938
  • "Miss C. Fox Smith – Obituary," Times of London, UK, 9 April 1954
  • Who Was Who in Literature: 1951–1960, UK, p. 1013
  • "Books by Miss C. Fox Smith," W. H. Webb, Sea Breezes, UK, November 1966, pp. 818–819
  • "Cicely Fox Smith of Bow," A. B. Blackmore, in Devon Life, UK, May 1977, #131, pp. 28–29.
  • "Cicely Fox Smith," Danny McLeod, in Seaboot Duff & Handspike Gruel, UK, © 1995
  • "Cicely Fox Smith: Hampshire Resident and Poet of the Sea and Sailors," John Edgar Mann, Folk on Tap, UK, July–September 1999, #80, pp. 17–18
  • "The Complete Poetry of Cicely Fox Smith," edited by Charles Ipcar and James Saville, Little Red Tree Publishing, © 2012