Blunt, Wilfrid Scawen 1840-1922
BLUNT, Wilfrid Scawen 1840-1922
PERSONAL: Born August 17, 1840, in Sussex, England; died September 10, 1922, in Sussex, England; son of Francis Scawen and Mary (Chandler) Blunt; married Lady Anne Isabella Noel, June 8, 1869 (died December 15, 1917); children: Judith Anne Dorothea. Education: Stonyhurst College, 1852-53, and Attended St. Mary's College, Oxott, 1855-57. Hobbies and other interests: Horses.
CAREER: Poet, writer, traveler, and Arabian horse breeder. Worked in diplomatic service as secretary of legation to, Athens, Frankfurt, Madrid, Spain, Paris, Lisbon, Buenos Aires, and Berne, Switzerland, 1858-69.
(As Proteus) Sonnets and Songs, John Murray (London, England), 1875.
(As Proteus; with Charles Meynell as Amadeus) Proteus and Amadeus: A Correspondence, edited by Aubrey De Vere, Kegan Paul (London, England), 1878.
(Editor and author of preface) Lady Anne Blunt, Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates, 2 volumes, Harper (New York, NY), 1879.
(As Proteus) The Love Sonnets of Proteus, Kegan Paul (London, England), 1881, Doxey (New York, NY), 1901.
(Editor) Lady Anne Blunt, A Pilgrimage to Nejd, theCradle of the Arab Race: A Visit to the Court of the Arab Emir, and "Our Persian Campaign," 2 volumes, John Murray (London, England), 1881.
The Future of Islam, Kegan Paul, Trench (London, England), 1882.
The Wind and the Whirlwind, Kegan Paul, Trench (London, England), 1883, Tucker (Boston, MA), 1884.
Ideas about India, Kegan Paul, Trench (London, England), 1885.
Justice and Liberty for Ireland: Extracts from theSpeeches of W. S. Blunt to the Electors of Kidderminster, July 1886, British Home Rule Association (London, England), 1886.
Mr. Wilfrid Blunt, Anti-Coercionist Candidate forDeptford: Who Is He? What Has He Done? Why Is He in Prison? National Press Agency (London, England), 1888.
In Vinculis, Kegan Paul, Trench (London, England), 1889.
A New Pilgrimage, and Other Poems, Kegan Paul, Trench (London, England), 1889.
The Love Lyrics and Songs of Proteus, Kelmscott Press (London, England), 1892.
Esther, Love Lyrics, and Natalia's Resurrection, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner (London, England), 1892, published as Esther: A Young Man's Tragedy, Together with the Love Sonnets of Proteus, Copeland & Day (Boston, MA), 1895, published as Esther: A Young Man's Tragedy, Bibelot (Portland, ME), 1905.
Griselda: A Society Novel in Rhymed Verse, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner (London, England), 1893.
The Poetry of Wilfrid Blunt, edited by William Ernest Henley and George Wyndham, Heinemann (London, England), 1898.
Satan Absolved: A Victorian Mystery, John Lane (New York, NY), 1899.
The Shame of the Nineteenth Century, [London, England], 1900.
Love Poems of W. S. Blunt, John Lane (New York, NY), 1902.
The Military Fox-hunting Case at Cairo: Mr. WilfridScawen Blunt to the Marquess of Lansdowne . . . A Supplement to the Blue Book Egypt 3, 1901, [London, England], 1902.
Fand of the Fair Cheek: A Three-Act Tragedy inRhymed Verse, privately printed, 1904.
Atrocities of Justice under British Rule in Egypt, Unwin (London, England), 1906.
To the Rt. Honourable Sir Edward Grey, Bart., M.P., Chiswick (London, England), 1906.
Francis Thompson, Burns & Oates (London, England), 1907.
Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt:Being a Personal Narrative of Events, Unwin (London, England), 1907, Knopf (New York, NY), 1922.
Mr. Blunt and the "Times": A Memorandum as to theAttitude of the "Times" Newspaper in Egyptian Affairs, privately (London, England), 1907.
The Bride of the Nile: A Political Extravaganza inThree Acts of Rhymed Verse, privately printed, 1907.
The New Situation in Egypt, Burns & Oates (London, England), 1908.
Denshawai Memorial School, [London, England], 1908(?).
India under Ripon: A Private Diary, Unwin (London, England), 1909.
Gordon at Khartoum: Being a Personal Narrative ofEvents, Swift (London, England), 1911, Knopf (New York, NY), 1923.
The Italian Horror and How to End It, Bonner (London, England), 1911.
The Land War in Ireland: Being a Personal Narrative of Events, Swift (London, England), 1912.
The Poetical Works of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt: AComplete Edition, 2 volumes, Macmillan (London, England), 1914, Scholarly Press (Grosse Pointe, MI), 1968.
The Crabbet Arabian Stud, Whittingham (London, England), c.1915.
History of the Crabbet Estate in Sussex, Chiswick (London, England), 1917.
My Diaries: Being a Personal Narrative of Events,1888-1914, Secker (London, England), 1919-20, Knopf (New York, NY), 1921.
Poems, edited by Floyd Dell, Knopf (New York, NY), 1923.
Desert Hawk: Abd' el Kader and the French Conquest of Algeria, Methuen (London, England), 1947.
Contributed to Lady Anne Blunt's verse translations from the Arabic. Most of his papers and diaries are housed in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England.
SIDELIGHTS: Wilfrid Scawen Blunt was a nineteenth-century writer whose life and literary works focused on the themes of geography and travel, politics, and love. He was friends with many well-known figures in the literary and political worlds of his day, and earned later admiration from William Butler Yeats and Ezra Pound.
Blunt's father died when Blunt was two years old, whereupon his mother leased the family estate of Crabbet Park and traveled through England and Europe with Blunt and his two siblings. At the age of eighteen Blunt was accepted for diplomatic service in England, and served for twelve years as an attaché to British embassies and legations around the world. After retiring from diplomatic service in 1869, he married Lady Anne Isabella Noel, Lord Byron's granddaughter, a wealthy aristocrat who shared Blunt's "passion for travel, for literature and for horses," as noted on the West Sussex Record Offıce, Web site.
Blunt and his wife journeyed throughout the world. In the course of their travels they developed a tremendous interest in and deep respect for the Arab world. Their enthusiasm for the desert lands was so great that they established a second home, called Sheykh Obeyd, near Cairo, Egypt. Blunt continued to show his affection for Arabia when he returned to his home in Sussex, England, by wearing the attire of the Bedouin nomads. Along with a love of the Middle East, the Blunts shared a love for horses. They owned a number of prized Arabian horses, one of which they shipped back to their estate in England, where it became known and revered as the Crabbet Arabian stud.
At the time of his marriage to Lady Anne and his retirement from the diplomatic service, Blunt began to dedicate himself to writing; a career he would pursue until the end of his life. Blunt was a champion of the Arab nations, as well as the Indian and Irish peoples in their struggles against British imperialism. He expressed his anti-imperialistic views in such works as Ideas about India and The Land War in Ireland: Being a Personal Narrative of Events. Blunt wrote in favor of the colonial nations, and spoke negatively about England and its policies. "He is known to historians as a prominent champion of nationalism . . . as an opponent of British imperialism, and as a man willing to go to jail for his political beliefs," observed Donald E. Stanford in the Dictionary of Literary Biography.
Alongside his nonfiction and travel books, Blunt also wrote volumes of poetry. It was through this medium that he explored the realm of love. Many of his pieces were dedicated to lovers that he knew before and during his marriage to Lady Anne. Stanford considered Blunt's poetry to be "facile, clichéd, rhetorical, and unconvincing." He noted that the author's work is rarely read today and that "many of his political poems have lost their once interesting topicality." Stafford did feel, however, that Blunt wrote "a few authentic and moving love poems and poems expressing his love for certain areas of rural England." Blunt's poetry, particularly Esther, Love Lyrics, and Natalia's Resurrection and Sonnets and Songs by Proteus, exerted influence on younger English poets of his day.
Blunt's The Love Sonnets of Proteus includes a sequence of thirty-two sonnets written to "Juliet," who, it is supposed, was actually his lover, Madeline Wyndham. The love affair between Blunt and Wyndham began in 1862 and she terminated it in 1875. After their separation, Blunt wrote the fifteen sonnets titled "Farewell to Juliet" that appear in The Love Sonnets of Proteus.
The Future of Islam is a series of essays originally printed in 1881 in the Fortnightly Review. These essays address a group of readers Blunt calls "practical Englishmen." He wrote the pieces, noted Syrine C. Hout in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, in order to appeal to "an audience that included politicians who might repair some of the damage that Europeans had generally inflicted on Islamic civilization." The Future of Islam describes the history and religious beliefs of the Islamic people, and Blunt attempts to reconcile the Eastern and Western worlds by drawing comparisons between Christianity and Islam.
Shortly after the publication of The Future of Islam, Blunt was drawn into the Egyptian struggle for nationalism. He supported the Egyptian cause and tried to create an Egyptian lobby within the British government. His plans failed, and the British defeated the militant Egyptian forces. Blunt was able, however, to procure the banishment (rather than the hanging) of Arabi, the Egyptian military leader, by hiring a lawyer to defend him. This incident fueled Blunt's growing anti-imperialistic ideas. In response, he wrote The Wind and the Whirlwind in 1883. Stanford observed that this poem "attacks British imperialism in Egypt," noting it is also a personal piece inasmuch as "it was partially inspired by Blunt's affair with Lady Augusta Gregory, who was later to become the patron of William Butler Yeats."
Several years before the downfall of Arabi, Blunt and Lady Anne traveled to India, where they observed firsthand the poverty of the Indian people amid the "forward policy" of the British government. Elizabeth Longford wrote in A Pilgrimage of Passion that Blunt left India "with [his] faith in the British Empire and its ways in the East shaken to its foundations." The Blunts' second visit to India in 1883 merely reinforced his discomfort with British policy. As a result, he published Ideas about India, which, as Hout observed, "expresses the growing reservations he felt about the morality of British imperialism." Blunt considered the British Empire to be exploitative and disapproved of the trade and financial agreements between India and Britain.
In 1892 Blunt published a poetry collection titled Esther, Love Lyrics, and Natalia's Resurrection. Many of these poems allegedly sprang from his love affair with Catherine Walters—who is called either "Esther" or "Manon" in the poems—and Blunt's subsequent frustration and disillusionment with her affairs with other men. The couple met in 1863, and their love relationship dissolved nearly seven years later. However, they continued a devoted friendship throughout their lives, a feat Blunt managed with many of his former lovers.
Along with his amorous adventures and forays in India and the Middle East, Blunt became interested in Ireland, where the battle for independence from British rule had begun. In 1886 he attended anti-eviction meetings that occurred during the "Land War" "the eviction of the Irish peasantry from lands owned by English landlords." These meetings were banned in September 1887, and when Blunt tried to speak out against the ordinance, he was arrested, convicted, and sent to jail for two months. His book The Land War in Ireland, which was not published until 1912, gives an account of his experiences in the battle for Irish independence. In the book, Blunt notes that his prison sentence "deserves to be remembered in Irish history as being the first recorded instance, in all the four hundred years of English oppression, of an Englishman having taken the Celtic Irish side in any conflict, or suffered even the shortest imprisonment for Ireland's sake."
In 1914 The Poetical Works of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt appeared. Reviewers, including poet Edward Thomas, positively received the collection. Stanford commented: "Blunt was at his best in a few poems from the early Proteus collections." In a Poetry review Maurice Lesemann expressed high praise for Blunt's sonnets, observing that Blunt is able "to write about real people of this world in actual situations and about places he had actually seen."
Upon his death in 1922, Blunt was, by his own orders, given a Bedouin-style funeral. His body was wrapped in an Arabic carpet and he was buried in a grave near Crabbet Park.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Longford, Elizabeth, A Pilgrimage of Passion: TheLife of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Knopf (New York, NY), 1980.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI),Volume 19: British Poets, 1880-1914,1983, pp.29-39, edited by Donald E. Stanford, Volume 174: British Travel Writers, 1876-1909, edited by Barbara Brothers and Julia Gergits, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997, pp. 41-53.
Journal of Modern Literature, March, 1971, William T. Going, "A Peacock Dinner: The Homage of Pound and Yeats to Wilfrid Scawen Blunt," pp. 303-310.
Poetry, September, 1923, Maurice Lesemann, "The Passing Aristocracy," pp. 337-341.
West Sussex Record Offıce Web site, http://www. westsussex.gov.uk/RO/ (June 5, 2002), "The Wilfrid Scawen Blunt Collection."*