Walter de la Mare (1873) was born in Kent of Huguenot stock and educated at St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir School before going into business in a London office. After some years of contributing to magazines, he published his first book, Songs of Childhood (1902), under the pseudonym of Walter Ramal, and in 1908, he took to literature as a career when he was granted a civil list pension for his literary work. He was a prominent member of the Georgian group of poets and, to the present day, has remained a major figure in the world of English poetry. He has received honorary degrees from the universities of Cambridge, St. Andrew, Bristol, and London, and is an Honorary Fellow of Keble College, Oxford.
De la Mare began as a writer for children, and a certain naïve childlike simplicity which appeared in his early work has established itself as one of his most distinctive qualities. A true Georgian, he has rarely found his inspiration in the burning problem of modern life, preferring from the beginning to concentrate on romance and nature as his main themes. These he has handled with an artistry which he has woven from moonlight, quietness, and mystery and a magic peculiarly his own. Many of his poems have an elfish humour which is quite unmistakable. The Listeners and other Poems (1912) and Peacock Pie (1913) have this translucent quality, but show the poet, as he matures, occasionally sounding a more profound note. But even during the two great wars of this century he has remained for the most part aloof from the politico-social problems which have vexed the souls of his younger contemporaries. The Fleeting and other Poems (1933), Bells and Grass (1941), Collected Poems (1942), The Burning Glass and other Poems (1945), and The Traveller (1946), to mention some of the most notable of his volumes, embody the same love of nature; the elusive, dream-like quality; the simplicity which is the product of consummate artistry; and the technical ability which has enabled him to turn to the use of the modern writer the traditional forms of English poetry.
A novelist and gifted short-story writer who has the ability to create and sustain a powerful atmosphere, he has produced, since Henry Brocken (1904), several collections of short stories. Among them, mention may be made of The Riddle and other Stories (1923) and The Lord Fish and other Stories (1933). His best-known prose work and his longest novel, The Memoirs of a Midget, appeared in 1921, while his discriminating and stimulating anthologies are well represented by Early One Morning (1935) and Love (1943).