John Drinkwater (playwright)

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John Drinkwater
Drinkwater in 1919
Born(1882-06-01)1 June 1882
Died25 March 1937(1937-03-25) (aged 54)
Spouse(s)Cathleen Orford (née Kathleen Walpole)
Daisy Kennedy

John Drinkwater (1 June 1882 – 25 March 1937) was an English poet and dramatist. He was known before World War I as one of the Dymock poets, and his poetry was included in all five volumes of Georgian Poetry (edited by Edward Marsh, 1912–1922). After World War I, he achieved fame as a playwright and became closely associated with Birmingham Repertory Theatre.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Drinkwater was born in Leytonstone, Essex (now Greater London), to actor/author Albert Edwin Drinkwater (1851–1923) and Annie Beck (née Brown), and worked as an insurance clerk. In the period immediately before the First World War, he was one of the group of poets associated with the Gloucestershire village of Dymock, along with Rupert Brooke, Lascelles Abercrombie, Wilfrid Wilson Gibson and others.[1]

In 1918, he had his first major success with his play Abraham Lincoln. He followed it with others in a similar vein, including Mary Stuart and Oliver Cromwell.

He had published poetry since The Death of Leander in 1906; the first volume of his Collected Poems was published in 1923. He also compiled anthologies and wrote literary criticism (e.g. Swinburne: an estimate (1913)), and later became manager of Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

He married concert violinist Daisy Kennedy, the ex-wife of Benno Moiseiwitsch, in December 1924.[2] Their daughter, Penny Drinkwater, went on to become a wine writer and member of the circle of wine writers.

Drinkwater made recordings in Columbia Records' International Educational Society Lecture series. They include Lecture 10 – a lecture on The Speaking of Verse (four 78 rpm sides, Cat no. D 40018-40019), and Lecture 70 John Drinkwater reading his own poems (four 78 rpm sides, Cat no. D 40140-40141).[3]

Death and commemoration[edit]

Drinkwater's grave at Piddington, Oxfordshire

Drinkwater died in London in 1937 at the age of 54.[4] He is buried at Piddington, Oxfordshire, where he had spent summer holidays as a child.

A road in Leytonstone, formerly a 1960s council estate, is named after Drinkwater, as is a small development of modern houses in Piddington.


Papers of John Drinkwater are held at the Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham.[5] This includes a collection of photographs and photograph albums relating to Drinkwater.[6][7] There are also some Drinkwater papers in the Ashley Library in the British Library and in Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow, as well as a large amount of correspondence held at Yale University.[8]


  1. ^ a b Eric Salmon. 'Drinkwater, John', in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004, revised 2007)
  2. ^ 'John Drinkwater Weds; English Dramatist, Divorced, Marries Miss Daisy Kennedy, Violinist', in The New York Times, 17 December 1924
  3. ^ Catalogue of Columbia Records, Up to and including Supplement no. 252 (Columbia Graphophone Company, London, September 1933), pp. 371, 374.
  4. ^ Frank Northen Magill (1985). Critical Survey of Drama: Authors A–Z. Salem Press. p. 506. ISBN 978-0-89356-377-6.
  5. ^ "UoB Calmview5: Search results". Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  6. ^ "UoB Calmview5: Search results". Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  7. ^ "UoB Calmview5: Search results". Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  8. ^ "John Drinkwater Collection". Archives at Yale. Retrieved 21 November 2022.

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