Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

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Wilfrid Wilson Gibson in The Bookman Vol 57, December 1919.

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (2 October 1878 – 26 May 1962) was a British Georgian poet, associated with World War I but also the author of much later work.

Early work[edit]

Memorial plaque in Hexham.

Gibson was born in Hexham, Northumberland, and left the north for London in 1914 after his mother died. He had been publishing poems in magazines since 1895, and his first collections in book form were published by Elkin Mathews in 1902. His collections of verse plays and dramatic poems The Stonefolds and On The Threshold were published by the Samurai Press (of Cranleigh) in 1907, followed next year by the book of poems, The Web of Life.[1]

Despite his residence in London, and later in Gloucestershire, many of Gibson's poems both then and later, have Northumberland settings: Hexham's Market Cross; Hareshaw; and The Kielder Stone. Others deal with poverty and passion amid wild Northumbrian landscapes. Still others are devoted to fishermen, industrial workers and miners, often alluding to local ballads and the rich folk-song heritage of the North East.

In London, he met both Edward Marsh and Rupert Brooke, becoming a close friend and later Brooke's literary executor (with Lascelles Abercrombie and Walter de la Mare).[2] This was at the period when the first Georgian Poetry anthology was being hatched. Gibson was one of the insiders.[3]

During the early part of his writing life, Wilfrid Wilson Gibson wrote poems that featured the "macabre". One such poem is "Flannan Isle", based on a real-life mystery.

Gibson was one of the founders of the Dymock poets, a community of writers who settled briefly, before the outbreak of the Great War, in the village of Dymock, in north Gloucestershire.[4]

Some indications show that he wrote prose, as well. For instance, he wrote and argued beautifully about the merit of verse at the time of World War II.[5] He wrote a piece of criticism on Italian Nationalism and English Letters by Harry W. Rudman regarding the contributions made by Italian exiles in England to English literature, which were in the form of poetry by and large.[6] He also wrote criticism on The Burning Oracle: Studies in the Poetry of Action by G. Wilson Knight, wherein he commends the fact that Knight sees the creative energy of living writers not only in the creation of artworks, but also in the creation of life itself.[7]

Death and reputation[edit]

Gibson died on 26 May 1962, in Virginia Water, Surrey.[8]

His reputation was eclipsed somewhat by the Ezra Pound-T. S. Eliot school of Modernist poetry,[9][10] though his work remained popular.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dominic Hibberd, Wilfrid Gibson and Harold Monro, the Pioneers (Cecil Woolf, 2006)


  1. ^ '"Young men who knew that the age demanded something new in poetry were impressed by the austerity of his little 'working class' plays". (Joy Grant, Harold Monro & the Poetry Bookshop (1966), p. 19. Whistler p. 281 remarks on the colloquial, homespun realism that at first was admired in Gibson.
  2. ^ Gibson met de la Mare, and quite a number of other poets, through Marsh (Theresa Whistler, Imagination of the Heart: The Life of Walter de la Mare (1993), p. 205 and 208) in 1912. It was with de la Mare that Gibson was to make the closest friendship. Gentle and unlucky, he himself best fitted Brooke's description of those good-hearted and simple and nice poets he wanted to protect.
  3. ^ Paul Delany, The Neo-Pagans (1987), p. 199, writes of a business lunch 19 September 1912 at Marsh's flat, with Gibson, John Drinkwater, Harold Monro and Arundel del Re.
  4. ^ Famous People of Herefordshire, Monmouthshire and Royal Forest of Dean at royalforestofdean.info
  5. ^ Gibson, Wilfrid (1 October 1940). "Only Time Will Tell: An Indeterminate Meditation". English: Journal of the English Association. 3 (15): 109–111. doi:10.1093/english/3.15.109. ISSN 0013-8215.
  6. ^ Gibson, Wilfrid (1 October 1940). "Italian Nationalism and English Letters". English: Journal of the English Association. 3 (15): 142–a–142. doi:10.1093/english/3.15.142-a. ISSN 0013-8215.
  7. ^ Gibson, Wilfred (1 March 1940). "The Burning Oracle: Studies in the Poetry of Action". English: Journal of the English Association. 3 (13): 35–36. doi:10.1093/english/3.13.35. ISSN 0013-8215.
  8. ^ Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. 1995. ISBN 9780877790426.
  9. ^ The Literary Encyclopedia states that his reputation plummeted. Whistler p. 282 has Gibson's was the saddest fate of all the Georgians. Once acclaimed as the leader of an exciting new movement, , when that movement came into derision the critics found in him the epitome of its vices.
  10. ^ Arthur Clutton-Brock (TLS, 24 February 1927, Five Modern Poets) considers Gibson alongside Eliot, AE, Herbert Read and James Stephens (pp 113-114). It is concluded there that "Mr Gibson's poetry... has its own specific qualities and is, in its essentials unique". In 1942 Philip Tomlinson refers to Gibson as "this distinguished poet" (TLS 31 January 1942 p. 57).

External links[edit]