Creative Stoke

The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to the British neo-Romantic tradition, from 1880 to the present day.

While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden tradition to light.

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  Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration   from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.   Characteristic themes in their work include a   mystical approach to the British landscape...

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George Macdonald.
Lewis Carroll.
John Ruskin.
Christina Rosetti.
Rudyard Kipling.
William Morris.
Richard Jefferies.
Edward Carpenter.
Kenneth Grahame.
Arthur Machen.
Algernon Blackwood.


G.M. Hopkins.
W.B. Yeats.
A.E. Housman
Laurence Binyon.


Gustav Holst.
Vaughan Williams.
Edward Elgar.
Granville Bantock.


Edward Burne-Jones.
Maxwell Armfield.
Mark Symons.
John Duncan.
George Henry.
  & Edward Atkinson

Gerald Moira.
Robert Bateman.
Samuel Palmer.
Walter Crane.
Edward Robert Hughes.
Bernard Sleigh.
Eleanor Fortescue

Nathaniel Sparks.
F.C. Robinson.
Reginald Hallward.
Laurence Housman.
James Joshua Guthrie.
Paul Nash.
Charles Mahoney.
Arthur Rackham.
Thomas Cooper Gotch.
Christopher Wood.


Aesthetic movement.
Birmingham Group.
Neo-gothic architecture.
Fairy & ghost photos.

1920s - 'places to hide':

Ballet design.
Book illustration.
The Kibbo Kift.



John Cowper Powys.
J.R.R. Tolkien.
Mervyn Peake.
C.S. Lewis.
Daphne du Maurier.
Mary Webb.
Herbert Read.
Forrest Reid
T.H. White.
Hugh Walpole.


Robert Graves.
Rev. Francis Kilvert.
Geoffrey Grigson.
Bill Brandt.
Roger Mayne.
John Deakin.
Nikolaus Pevsner.


Arnold Bax.
Vaughan Williams.


John Piper.
John Craxton.
John Minton.
David Jones.
Graham Sutherland.
Stanley Spencer.
Eric Ravilious.
Ralph Chubb.
Charles Mahoney.
Michael Ayrton.
Thomas Monnington.


Dylan Thomas.
Edwin Smith.
Ithell Colquhoun.
Francis Berry.
George Barker.
Laurence Whistler.


Humphrey Jennings.
Powell & Pressburger.
David Lean.
Epic British film music.






   ENTRY: Bax, Arnold

   Sir Arnold Edward Trevor Bax, K.C.V.O. (b. November 8, 1883 — d. October 3, 1953), was an English composer and poet. His musical style blended elements of Romanticism and Impressionism, always with a strong Celtic influence. His orchestral scores are noted for their complexity and colorful instrumentation.

   Bax’s poetry and stories, which he wrote under the pseudonym of Dermoth O’Byrne, reflect his profound affinity with Irish poet William Butler Yeats, and are largely written in the tradition of the Celtic Revival.

   Bax was born in Pendennis Road, Streatham, London. Bax was taught at home, but received his first formal musical education at age sixteen from Cecil Sharp and others at the Hampstead Conservatory. Bax was accepted to the Royal Academy of Music in 1900 where he remained until 1905.

   Bax had a sensitive and searching soul and drew inspiration from a wide range of sources. He was a voracious reader of literature, and in this way he happened upon William Butler Yeats's early romantic poetry in The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems in 1902. Bax found in Yeats a powerful muse, from which he derived a life-time of inspiration. He developed an infatuation with Ireland, and began travelling extensively there. Bax visited the most isolated and secluded places, eventually discovering the little Donegal village Glencolumbkille, to which he returned annually for almost 30 years. Here, Bax drew inspiration from the landscape and the sea, and from the culture and life of the local Irish peasants – many of whom Bax regarded as close friends.

   Bax’s encounter with the poetry of Yeats and the landscapes of Ireland, resulted in many new works both musical and literary. The String Quartet in E (1903), which later was worked into the orchestral tone-poem Cathaleen-Ni-Houlihan (1905) are fine examples of how Bax began to reflect Ireland in his music. Not only did Bax emerge as a surprisingly mature composer with these works, he also developed in them floating and undulating ‘impressionistic’ musical textures, using orchestral techniques not yet heard – not even from Claude Debussy. The tone-poems Into The Twilight (1908), In The Faery Hills (1909), and Rosc-catha [Battle hymn] (1910) echo the themes of the Revival and especially the soft, dreamy mood of many Celtic poems and stories.

   The Irish influence is only one of many found in Bax's music. An early affinity with Norway and the literature of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson brought themes and moods from the Norse countries into his music. From 1905 to 1911 Bax constantly alternated between using Nordic and Celtic themes in his compositions.

   In 1910, a youthful infatuation with a Ukrainian girl, Natalia Skarginska, brought Bax to St Petersburg, Moscow and Lubny near Kiev, which led to a fascination for Russian and Slavonic themes. In 1919 Bax was one of four British composers to be commissioned to write orchestral music, which was to serve as interludes at Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in London this ballet season.

   Not long after Bax returned to Britain, Bax married Elsita Sobrino – a childhood friend – in January 1911. They settled in Bushy Park Road, Rathgar, Dublin. Here, Bax’s brother Clifford introduced them to the intellectual circle which met at the house of the poet, painter and mystic George William Russell. Bax had already had some of his poems and short stories published in Dublin, and to the circle he was simply known by his pseudonym Dermot O’Byrne (the name was possibly inspired by a renowned family of traditional musicians in Donegal). As Dermot O’Byrne, Bax was specifically noted for Seafoam and Firelight, published in London by the Orpheus Press in 1909 and numerous short stories and poems published in different publications in Dublin.

   The threat of war lead to the dissolution of the Rathgar Circle, as many members fled Ireland and Europe. Bax and his family returned to London - it was the loss of a blissful life. Bax avoided conscription because of a heart-condition, and spent the war years composing profusely. As Bax's Ireland – a haven and a retreat – was lost to bitter internal conflict and world war, he sought refuge in a liaison with the younger pianist Harriet Cohen. What had started out as a purely professional relationship – Cohen playing and championing Bax's piano music – developed into a passionate one. This difficult period in Bax’s life led to the composition of several romantic tone-poems, including Summer Music (1916), Tintagel (1917) and November Woods (1914-1917). In Tintagel, Bax reached back to legends and dreams and specifically that of the doomed lovers of Tristan and Isolde. Tintagel is undoubtedly the most well-known of Bax’s tone-poems, and especially for its colorful evocation of the sea.

   After the war British music was in demand as never before in England, and Bax won considerable fame with his works, which were widely performed.

   From 1928 onwards Bax ceased to travel to Glencolumbkille and instead began his annual migration to Morar, west Scottish Highlands, to work. Bax would sketch his compositions in London, and take them to the Station Hotel at Morar for the winter to orchestrate them. At this time, Bax found a new love in Mary Gleaves, and she accompanied him to Scotland. In the Morar period, which lasts until the outbreak of the Seond World War, Bax rediscovered his interest for Norway and the Nordic countries, and found a new inspiration in the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.

   Bax orchestrated symphonies 3 to 7 at Morar but also several of his finest orchestral works including the three Northern Ballads. Bax’s seven symphonies were composed within a relatively short span of time, and are perhaps the most coherent cycle of symphonies by any composer. The symphonies are distinguished by their three-movement structure, as opposed to the 'usual' classical four. They reflect Bax’s many influences, and are profound works of art, with a deep psychological dimension tied up to romantic evocations of landscape.

   The symphonies earned Bax a reputation as the successor of Sir Edward Elgar, as Ralph Vaughan Williams, for instance, only had completed four symphonies by the time Bax completed his seventh.

   Bax received a knighthood in 1937, but was depressed and drinking too heavily. Bax felt alienated by the new developments in Modernist composition, and realized and lamented that the Romantic style was falling deeply out of fashion.

   One of Bax's last major works was the film score for David Lean's feature-film Oliver Twist, and has been called "one of the finest scores ever written for a film"

   Bax retreated from the public scene and lived quietly at The White Horse Hotel in Storrington, Sussex. He died in 1953.

   After his death, Bax's music fell into decline; his Romantic outlook had distanced himself from musical Modernism and especially Arnold Schoenberg's Serialism. Bax was increasingly caricatured and derided as a 'musical pastoralist' together with Vaughan-Williams and others, and his music went underperformed. As late as the mid-1960s, there were only two recordings of his symphonies, one long deleted and the other on an obscure label.

   But from 1966 onwards, a revival of his music was begun, and by the centenary of his birth in 1983 much of his music was available in modern recordings. The Naxos label have released a complete cycle of Bax’s symphonies and tone poems.

Further reading:

Foreman, Lewis. Bax, A composer and his times (1988)





Leslie Hurry.
Robin Tanner.
Ceri Richards.
Michael Ayrton.

  Classical music:

Havergal Brian.
Benjamin Britten.


Dylan Thomas   (reputation).
Vernon Watkins.
Ted Hughes.
Christopher Logue.
Keith Vaughan.
Ore magazine.
Eric Ratcliffe.
Edwin Morgan.
Roland Mathias.


Laurie Lee.
Alan Garner.
John Gordon.


Laurie Lee.
E.P. Thompson.
J.A. Baker.
Geoffrey Grigson.



Fay Godwin.
James Ravilious.
Raymond Moore.
Andy Goldsworthy.

  Popular music:

Robert Wyatt.
Syd Barrett.
Marc Bolan.
John Foxx.
Throbbing Gristle.
Genesis P. Orridge.
The Dancing Did.
Virginia Astley.
Brian Eno.
Roger Eno.

  Classical music:

Dave Heath.


Clifford Harper.


Derek Jarman.
David Rudkin.


Vivienne Westwood.


Angela Carter.
Ted Hughes.
Peter Ackroyd.
Heathcote Williams.
Keith Roberts.
Richard Cowper.
Robert Holdstock.
Susan Cooper.


Kathleen Raine.
Roland Mathias.
Gwyn Thomas.
R.S. Thomas.
George Mackay

Seamus Heaney.
Pauline Stainer.


Graham Ovenden.
Annie Ovenden.
Ann Arnold.
Robert Lenkiewicz.
John Elwyn.
Cecil Collins.
Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Andrew Logan.
Alan Reynolds.
Norman Ackroyd.
Christopher P. Wood.
Jim Leon.

  Groups & circles:

The Ruralists.
Temenos magazine.
Resurgence magazine.
Crop Circles, makers.
English Underground.

2000 - to the present:

Andrew Logan.
Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Vivienne Westwood.
Andy Goldsworthy.
Christopher Bucklow.
Peter Ackroyd.
Pauline Stainer.
Brian Eno.
Roger Eno.
Jon Aldersea.
Christopher P. Wood.
Made in Staffordshire, England.  © 2007. Last updated: 18th Jan 2007. Site search by PicoSearch.
Some of the initial E-BNR text was sourced or partly derived from Wikipedia, used here under the GNU licence.