Edward Marsh Critical Essays


(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Edward Marsh 1872-1953

(Full name Edward Howard Marsh) English editor, translator, poet, and memoirist.

Marsh was a founding member of the Georgians, a group of early-twentieth-century English poets who composed verse about life in the English countryside. Today he is recognized for his influential Georgian Poetry collection, a series of five anthologies that featured the verse of British poets such as A. E. Housman, Rupert Brooke, Edmund Blunden, John Drinkwater, and D. H. Lawrence.

Biographical Information

Born November 18, 1872, Marsh was raised in London. His father was a former Master of Downing College. Marsh was educated at Westminster School and later attended Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1896 he took a position as a clerk in the Colonial Office; after several years, he became the private secretary to Winston Churchill. He remained in that job for twenty-three years, working with Churchill at the Board of Trade, the Home Office, the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Treasury. He became acquainted with many of the important political figures of the time, including Churchill, Neville Chamberlain, and J. H. Thomas. In 1937 he retired from the civil service and was knighted for his service to England. With the publication of his Georgian Poetry anthology, he proved an influential editor and patron of poetry, and with the money he received from the series, he provided financial assistance to several struggling poets and artists. He died in 1953.

Major Works

Published in five volumes during a ten-year period, Georgian Poetry promoted the work of many lesser-known English poets, particularly Rupert Brooke, John Drinkwater, John Masefield, and A. E. Housman. These poets became known as the Georgians, and their poetic style dominated the early years of the twentieth century. Their work often focused on the wonders of nature and was heavily influenced by the poetry of William Wordsworth. Although the Georgians were eventually eclipsed by modernists such as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound, Marsh's role as a proponent of Georgian poets is considered his major accomplishment.

Critical Reception

Marsh is remembered as an influential editor of early-twentieth-century English poetry. Now considered classic, Georgian Poetry has been praised by reviewers for its inclusion of many important English poets. By the last few volumes, however, Marsh's focus on the Georgians and rejection of modernist poets such as T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound was viewed as outdated and shortsighted. His autobiographical work, A Number of People, is noted for its entertaining reminiscences about important political and literary figures of the day. Critics also praise his fine translation of Fables of Jean De La Fontaine, Odes of Horace, and Eugene Fromentin's novel Dominique.