Humbert Wolfe



Humbert Wolfe is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London, England. (Also buried here are Thomas Hood and James Leigh Hunt.)

Humbert Wolfe

Grave of Humbert Wolfe

Grave of Humbert Wolfe © Anthony Padgett

Wolfe was the best selling poet of the 1920s and 30s and was in the running for Poet Laureate in 1931. He was practically a household name in the last 15 years of his life. He published over 40 books of his own poetry and prose, 10 books of literary criticism, and numerous anthologies and literary translations.

Stephen Fry described Wolfe's poetry as `one of England's forgotten splendours', said: `He has long and wrongly been forgotten, and it is impossible to see why.' Republishing Wolfe's poetry would allow a new generation to `discover for themselves a writer of wit, warmth, satirical genius, blissful eccentricity and charm', he added. – from The Guardian 7.4.1999.

In the First World War Wolfe was responsible in Whitehall for the organisation of the supply and regulation of labour in the Ministry of Munitions in the First World War. Without his efforts in determining the new logistics of war the British troops would have been inadequately equipped.

Wolfe was a pupil at Bradford Grammar School, then Oxford Wadham College where he gained a 1st, then rose to a high position in the Civil Service at Whitehall, with the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour. Humbert became CBE in 1918 and CB in 1925 and also became the British representative on the International Labour Organisation. From 1935-40 he was also the 1st president of the Society of Civil Service Authors.

He began publishing poetry in the 1920s to great acclaim. His poems, e.g.Requiem: The Soldier (1916), are read at Remembrance Sunday events and the first half of this poem was the epigraph to Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres. Wolfe's verses were also set to music by a number of composers, including Gustav Holst in his 12 Humbert Wolfe Settings, Op. 48 (1929).

In 1931 he became a Fellow of Royal Society of Literature and was one of the favourites to become the Poet Laureate against Rudyard Kipling, Edith Sitwell, W.B.Yeats and others. His work was put in the same anthologies as Siegfried Sassoon, P.G. Woodhouse, T.S. Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Walter de la Mare, G.K.Chesterton,

In 1938 Humbert was appointed Deputy Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and he was responsible for equipping the country’s labour force for war. On the outbreak of the Second World War Wolfe was one of those responsible for drawing up a list of writers who could better serve as propagandists than in the British Army. Humbert Wolfe died in 1940 without, as Philip Bagguley notes in his biography, receiving the knighthood that was confidently predicted for him.

(Text by Anthony Padgett)
You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God ! the
British journalist.
But, seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there's
No occasion to.

The Uncelestial City





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