Dora Greenwell

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Dora Greenwell
Born (1821-12-06)6 December 1821
Lanchester, County Durham, England
Died 29 March 1882(1882-03-29) (aged 60)
Clifton, Bristol
Nationality English
Occupation Poet

Dora Greenwell, born Dorothy Greenwell (1821–1882) was an English poet.


Dorothy Greenwell was born 6 December 1821 at the family estate called Greenwell Ford in Lanchester, County Durham, England. Her father was William Thomas Greenwell (1777–1856) and mother was Dorothy Smales (1789–1871).[1] Her oldest brother was William Greenwell (1820–1918), an archaeologist. She had three younger brothers: Francis Greenwell (1823–1894), Alan Greenwell (1824–1914) and Henry Nicholas Greenwell (1826–1891). She was known as Dora to avoid confusion with her mother.

She published her first volume of poems in 1848 through William Pickering, after her family had to leave their home. She moved to Durham with her brother William who would later become Canon of Durham Cathedral. After a short time working with her brother Alan who was Rector of Golborne, she moved back to Durham and lived with her mother.[2]

Her major success came in the 1860s. Many works have Christian religious themes. She is often compared to Christina Rossetti, and dedicated a book to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. In addition to poetry, she wrote essays on women's education and suffrage, and attacked the slave trade.[3] Some of her verses were set to music as hymns, such as "I Am Not Skilled to Understand" by William J. Kirkpatrick.[4] A contemporary version was composed by Aaron Shust.[5] She also wrote biographies of French priest Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire and American Quaker John Woolman. After her mother's death in 1871, she visited friends for a few years, and then moved to London in 1874. After an accident in 1881 she lived with her brother Alan Greenwell in Clifton, Bristol. She died 29 March 1882 and was buried in Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol.[1]


Her book frontispiece: "Et teneo et teneor" in Latin means "I both hold and am held"

Family tree[edit]


  1. ^ a b William Dorling (1885). Memoirs of Dora Greenwell. J. Clarke. p. 1. 
  2. ^ W. Robertson Nicoll (1886). Donald Macleod, ed. "Dora Greenwell". Good words. 27. Alexander Strahan and Co. pp. 106–109. 
  3. ^ Valentine Cunningham (2000). "Dora (Dorothy) Greenwell (1821–82)". The Victorians: an anthology of poetry & poetics. Wiley-Blackwel l. pp. 518–521. ISBN 978-0-631-19916-8. 
  4. ^ Paul Beckwith; Mark Hunt (June 1976). Hymns II. InterVarsity Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-87784-783-0. 
  5. ^ Aaron Shust (21 January 2008). "Aaron Shust - My Savior, My God". YouTube. Retrieved 12 July 2010. 

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