Digby Mackworth Dolben

(1848-1867 / England)

Biography of Digby Mackworth Dolben

Digby Augustus Stewart Mackworth Dolben (8 February 1848 – 28 June 1867) was an English poet who died young from drowning. He owes his poetic reputation to his cousin, Robert Bridges, poet laureate from 1913 to 1930, who edited a partial edition of his verse, Poems, in 1911.

He was born in Guernsey, and brought up at Finedon Hall in Northamptonshire. His father, William Harcourt Isham Mackworth (1806—1872), a younger son of Sir Digby Mackworth, the 3rd Baronet, took the additional surname Dolben after he married Frances, the heiress of Sir John English Dolben, the 4th Baronet.

He was educated at Eton College, studying under the influential Master William Johnson Cory whose principles of pedagogy and collection of verses Ionica inspired his own poetry. At Eton, his distant cousin Bridges was his senior and took him under his wing.

Dolben caused considerable scandal at school by his exhibitionist behaviour. He marked his romantic attachment to another pupil a year older than him, Martin Le Marchant Gosselin, by writing love poetry. He also defied his strict Protestant upbringing by joining a High Church Puseyite group of pupils. He then claimed allegiance to the Order of St Benedict, affecting a monk's habit. He was considering a conversion to Roman Catholicism.

In 1865 on his seventeenth birthday, he was introduced by Bridges, by then an undergraduate at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, to Gerard Manley Hopkins who was at Balliol. According to the account given by his biographer Norman White, this encounter caused Hopkins a great deal of perturbation.

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A Letter

My Love, and once again my Love,
And then no more until the end,
Until the waters cease to move,
Until we rest within the Ark,
And all is light which now is dark,
And loves can never more descend.
And yet-and yet be just to me
At least for manhood; for the whole
Love-current of a human soul,

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