English poet, critic, and biographer; b. Wolverhampton, Sept. 16, 1880; d. Isle of Wight, June 28, 1958. He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford. He married an American, Garnett Daniels, in 1907; a year after her death (1926) he married Mary Weld-Blundell. His first book of poems, Loom of Years (1902), appeared when he was still at Exeter, and its warm reception determined him to devote his life to poetry. He varied this career with lecturing in the U.S. (1913) and teaching at Columbia University and Princeton (1914–23), with the exception of 1916, when he served in the British Foreign Office. For some years before his death he was afflicted with blindness.
Noyes was a conservative in politics and a traditionalist in poetry. His study of English patriotism led him to devote much of his early verse to Drake and other Elizabethans (e.g., in The Golden Hynde, 1908), a preoccupation that gave his early work an inevitable anti-Catholic tinge. His thought soon after began to center on the need for a philosophia perennis as the basis of civilization, and in his poetic trilogy Torchbearers (1925) he showed how this philosophy had been passed along by the great thinkers of every generation. From this originally secular line of thought he came to see that the supreme expression of this philosophy was to be found in the Catholic Church. He became a Catholic in 1927. His Unknown God (1934) details his intellectual pilgrimage to Rome. His novel No Other Man (1940) was prophetic in dealing with the holocaust wrought by a secret weapon. From his numerous volumes of poetry, Tales of the Mermaid Tavern (1913) and Poems of the New World (1943) may be singled out as displaying his earlier and later styles. Pageant of Letters (1940), essays on English poets from Chaucer to Alice Meynell, is representative of his best literary criticism.
His biography of Voltaire (1936) was delated to the Holy Office of the Vatican and a correction was demanded; Noyes's critic was under the impression that the atheistic views commonly attributed to Voltaire were condoned by the author. Noyes had no trouble in showing that his intention had been to prove that Voltaire held no
such views. His poetry (collected edition, New York 1947) is rather old-fashioned in style, but the wide historical perspective he brought to his work marks him as a writer of considerable stature.
Bibliography: d. stanford, "Alfred Noyes 1880–1958," Catholic World 188 (1959) 297–301. j. e. tobin, "Alfred Noyes: A Corrected Bibliography," Catholic Library World 15 (March 1944) 181–184, 189.