Wilfred Owen Additional Biography


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The British poet C. Day Lewis believed that Wilfred Owen’s poems were “certainly the finest written by any English poet of the First War.” Owen’s warning remains as valid today as it was when he wrote it. He depicted the horrors of war with sometimes shocking realism. The pity that he felt for people who knew no better than to kill one another comes through strongly in his poems. What also comes through, in the fact that he wrote such passionate antiwar poetry, is his hope that the war—and all war—would end soon.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201668-Owen.jpg Wilfred Owen Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Wilfred Owen was born and raised in the Shropshire countryside made famous by another poet, A. E. Housman. After Owen was born in Oswestry, his family moved to Shrewsbury for a year and then to Birkenhead, near Liverpool, where in 1900 he entered school. In 1911 he matriculated at London University. According to his friend Edmund Blunden, whose The Poems of Wilfred Owen (1931) contains an affectionate and detailed account of the poet’s short life, Owen was a quiet, imaginative boy not given to sports, whose greatest pleasure was to be read to by his mother. One of his important early influences came from his family’s Anglican evangelicalism.

Owen, deep in his earliest love, John Keats, was writing verse by the time he reached London University. Serving in the military in World War I, he was awarded the Military Cross on October 1, 1918, and killed in action on November 4. His life and his poems reveal a highly sensitive, idealistic young man given to aestheticism, who was transformed by the horrors of trench warfare into a quietly courageous leader of men, a biting social critic, and a poet of tough truthfulness and humanity. He is generally regarded as the greatest English war-poet.

As a boy Owen read widely, not only Keats but also Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, George Eliot, and John Ruskin, for whose work he had great respect, except “that Prophet . . . warned us so feebly against the war.” He played the piano,...

(The entire section is 584 words.)