Ernest Radford

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Ernest William Radford (1857–1919) was an English poet, critic and socialist. He was a follower of William Morris, and one of the organisers in the Arts and Crafts Movement; he acted as secretary to the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society.[1]

He was also one of the Rhymers' Club group of poets of the 1890s, contributing to the two anthologies they produced. He married in 1883 Caroline Maitland (1858–1920), generally known as Dollie Radford, and also a poet and writer.[2]

Early life[edit]

He was the son of George David Radford, a draper in Plymouth; the writer Ada Wallas, was his sister.[3] Another sister, Florence Amelia, was the mother of Arthur Ewart Popham. He was educated at Amersham Hall school, near Reading, Berkshire. He matriculated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1874, graduating LL.B. in 1878 and LL.M. in 1885. He entered the Middle Temple in 1876, and was called to the bar in 1880.[4][5][6][7]

Socialist connections[edit]

In the early 1880s, Radford associated with the circle of Karl Marx and his family.[8] He published poems in 1884 in the journal Progress, edited by Edward Aveling, with Eleanor Marx and his future wife Caroline Maitland.[9] In 1888 he had a position with the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, lasting to 1892.[10][11]

Radford became an aesthetic socialist, in the style of William Morris.[12] The Encyclopedia of Social Reform (1897) in its article "Art and Social Reform" cites Mary Bacon Ford, who reported that Radford was called the "Young Tribune", among Morris's supporters, and was one of the lecturers at Toynbee Hall.[13] Through debates at the Morrises Radford met Walter Crane, who provided an illustration of one of his books. Crane, who was president of the while Radford was secretary, described him as an extension lecturer.[14][15]

Radford and his wife both joined the Socialist League.[16] Ernest Rhys, however, a good friend of Radford's, described him as a "casual disciple" of Morris, also a wit, effective speaker, and reviewer for the Pall Mall Gazette.[17] The Radfords did move to Hammersmith, to be closer to the Morrises.[18]

Radford was a close friend of George Bernard Shaw from 1885 for a number of years; they were introduced by William Archer. He became a Fabian Society member.[19][20] With Shaw he later spoke in favour of the Fabian Arts Group, in 1907.[21] He also participated in the Men and Women's Club of the later 1880s.[18]

Later life[edit]

As secretary convening the Rhymers' Club, Radford used his position in 1891 to invite the publisher Elkin Mathews.[22] He later used Mathews to draw in W. B. Yeats as a literary ally.[23]

From 1892 Radford suffered from mental illness, after a breakdown in which he threatened to shoot an editor who had rejected his work.[24] Later in life he required Dollie's care.[25][26]


Frontispiece by Walter Crane to Chambers Twain (1890)
  • From Heine (1882) translations
  • Measured Steps (1884)
  • The Poems of Walter Savage Landor (1889)
  • Chambers Twain (1890)
  • Old And New (1895)
  • A Collection of Poems (1906) with others
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1908) biography
  • Songs In The Whirlwind (1918) with Ada Radford


  • Ruth Livesey, Dollie Radford and the Ethical Aesthetics of "Fin-de-Siècle" Poetry, Victorian Literature and Culture Vol. 34, No. 2, Fin-de-Siècle Literary Culture and Women Poets (2006), pp. 495–517. Published by: Cambridge University Press. Stable URL:
  • Ruth Livesey, Socialism in Bloomsbury: Virginia Woolf and the Political Aesthetics of the 1880s, The Yearbook of English Studies Vol. 37, No. 1, From Decadent to Modernist: And Other Essays (2007), pp. 126–144. Published by: Modern Humanities Research Association. Stable URL:
  • James G. Nelson, Elkin Mathews, W. B. Yeats, and the Celtic Movement in Literature, Journal of Modern Literature Vol. 14, No. 1 (Summer, 1987), pp. 17–33. Published by: Indiana University Press. Stable URL:
  • Peter Whitebrook (1993). William Archer: A Biography. Methuen. ISBN 978-0-413-65520-2.


  1. ^ "Ann MacEwen summary1". Archived from the original on 27 March 2005. Retrieved 2 May 2008.
  2. ^ "LeeAnne Richardson - Naturally Radical: The Subversive Poetics of Dollie Radford - Victorian Poetry 38:1". Archived from the original on 27 April 2006. Retrieved 2 May 2008.
  3. ^ Gillian Sutherland, ‘Wallas , Ada (1859–1934)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, April 2016 accessed 26 Jan 2017
  4. ^ "Radford, Ernest William (RDFT874EW)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. ^ Harriet Devine Jump; Harriet Devine (1998). Nineteenth Century Short Stories by Women: A Routledge Anthology. Routledge. p. 400. ISBN 978-0-415-16781-9. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  6. ^ Wiener, Martin J. "Wallas, Graham". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/36706. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ Lloyd, Christopher. "Popham, Arthur Ewart". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35576. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. ^ Livesey (2006), p. 502.
  9. ^ Livesey (2006), p. 500.
  10. ^ Ann MacEwan, "Ernest Radford and the First Arts and Crafts Exhibition, 1888", The Journal of William Morris Studies, 17.1 (Winter 2006): 94, pp. 27–38; PDF. Archived 2013-12-12 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Livesey (2006), p. 508.
  12. ^ Livesey (2006), p. 509.
  13. ^ William Dwight Porter Bliss (editor), Encyclopedia of Social Reform (1897) p. 94;
  14. ^ Walter Crane, An Artist's Reminiscences (1907), p. 303;
  15. ^ Crawford, Alan. "Crane, Walter". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32616. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  16. ^ Livesey (2007), p. 129.
  17. ^ Everyman Remembers. J. M. Dent. 1931. p. 53.
  18. ^ a b Gail Marshall (2 August 2007). Fin de Siècle. Cambridge University Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-521-85063-6. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  19. ^ Bernard Shaw; Brian Tyson (1996). 1884-1950. Penn State Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-271-01548-4. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  20. ^ Whitebrook, p. 47.
  21. ^ Ian Britain (20 October 2005). Fabianism and Culture: A Study in British Socialism and the Arts C1884-1918. Cambridge University Press. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-521-02129-6. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  22. ^ Nelson, p. 18.
  23. ^ Robert F. Foster (1998). Apprentice Mage, 1865-1914. Oxford University Press. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-19-288085-7. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  24. ^ Whitebrook, p. 59.
  25. ^ Livesey (2006), p. 510.
  26. ^ Mark Kinkead-Weekes (1996). D.H. Lawrence: Triumph to Exile, 1912-1922. Cambridge University Press. p. 227. ISBN 978-1-139-50410-2. Retrieved 8 March 2013.

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