Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
John Edward Masefield was born on June 1, 1878, in the small town of Ledbury in rural Herefordshire, England; he was the son of George Edward and Carol Parker Masefield. Masefield’s father, a fairly successful solicitor, died at the age of forty-nine following a period of mental disorder that may have been caused by the death of Masefield’s mother, who died from complications following childbirth in 1885. Left an orphan when he was only six years old, Masefield was taken in by his aunt and uncle, who reared him in pleasant circumstances in a Victorian country house called The Priory. There, young Masefield learned to love the waters, woods, and flowers of Herefordshire, and from his aunt’s teaching he acquired a love for literature, particularly the narrative poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In 1888, Masefield was sent to the King’s School in Warwick as a boarding student. Homesick and unhappy at Warwick, Masefield ran away from school, and though he was to return, it was obvious that this experience with formal education was not to produce the desired results.
Masefield was allowed to join the merchant navy, leaving home at thirteen and enlisting as a midshipman; he was posted to the HMS Conway, a famous training ship. During his days as apprentice seaman, he took long voyages to South America and around Cape Horn, but the arduous life of a sailor was not to his liking, and he jumped ship in New York, giving up his berth as sixth...
(The entire section is 1410 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
John Edward Masefield was born June 1, 1878, in Ledbury, Herefordshire. His very early years were happy ones, although the children in the family spent their time with their nurse and saw little of their parents; they saw their mother only between teatime and bedtime at six o’clock. She died a few weeks after giving birth to a sixth child when John was six-and-a-half years old. Their grandparents died a year after their mother, and the family, in reduced circumstances, moved into the grandparents’ home. John occasionally visited his godmother, wrote his first poems when he was about ten, and went to boarding school. His father died at age forty-nine after suffering from mental disorders. Taking over as guardians, his aunt and uncle suggested that John be trained to go to sea in the merchant marine. Although he wanted to write or paint, he decided to pursue seafaring because the son of a governess whom he had liked enjoyed being a cadet on the school ship H.M.S. Conway.
Masefield joined that ship when he was thirteen and left it when he was sixteen, having learned a good deal of mathematics and navigation. He became an apprentice on a four-masted cargo barque sailing for Chile, which did not touch land for three months. During the voyage, he had some trouble with seasickness and experienced the fury of Cape Horn storms. He was released from service after he became seriously ill with sunstroke and a possible nervous breakdown. After a hospital...
(The entire section is 783 words.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
John Masefield was born June 1, 1878, the son of George and Caroline Parker Masefield. His father, a Ledbury solicitor, died when the boy was very young, leaving him in the care of his mother and an uncle. Masefield attended King’s School in Warwick, but he left at the age of thirteen to board the Conway, a training ship in the merchant service. By the time he was sixteen, he had been apprenticed on a windjammer bound for Iquique, Chile; there he became ill and had to return home. When he recovered, he was given a station on the Adriatic; it sailed to New York, and he decided before the return voyage to stay in the United States for a time.
When he returned to London in 1897, Masefield had decided upon a literary career. In 1902 he published Salt-Water Ballads, which contains the well-known “Sea-Fever.” Over the next fifteen years he established a reputation as a poet, playwright, and novelist. In particular, he displayed an unusual ability in narrative verse, combining robust characters and realism in such poems as The Everlasting Mercy. During World War I, Masefield took part in the Red Cross Service in France and on a hospital ship at Gallipoli. In 1916 and 1918 he gave lectures in the United States in support of the Allied cause.
During the war, Masefield published Gallipoli, a...
(The entire section is 422 words.)