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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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
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...
ENTRY: Watkins, Vernon
Vernon Watkins (b. June 27, 1906 — d. October 8, 1967) was a poet and painter, called by
Kathleen Raine "the greatest lyric poet of my generation."
He was born in Maesteg in Glamorgan, and brought up mainly in Swansea. He schooled at
Repton School, and went up to Magdalene College, Cambridge. He was reading modern
languages at Cambridge: but left before completing his degree, the start
of a very troubled period in his life at the end of the 1920s. He wanted to
travel abroad, but family pressure made him take a bank job in Cardiff;
it ended in a breakdown that marked him permanently. He would remain in a
Swansea branch of Lloyds Bank, with little responsibility, for much of his life.
His ambitions were for his poetry; in critical terms they were not to be
fulfilled. On the other hand, he became a major figure in Anglo-Welsh
poetry, and his poems were included in major anthologies.
He met Dylan Thomas, who was initally to be a close friend, in 1935 when Watkins
had returned to his job in a bank in Swansea. Letters to Vernon Watkins by Thomas
was published in 1957, by which time the two were essentially estranged. The 1983
book Portrait of a Friend by Watkins' wife Gwen (nee Davies) deals with the
Watkins had met Gwen at Bletchley Park, where he worked during the Second World War
as part of the cryptographic team. During the war he was for a time associated with
the New Apocalyptics group. With his first book Ballad of the Mari Llwyd (1941)
accepted by Faber and Faber, he had a publisher with a policy of sticking by
their authors. All Watkins's poetry was published by Faber & Faber.
Watkins knew W.B. Yeats, David Jones,
Philip Larkin (whose "And that will be England gone" poem might be thought to be in broad sympathy
with the spirit of English neo-romanticism), R.S. Thomas
and Kathleen Raine.
He died in 1967, while under consideration for poet laureate.
Since his death, while his memory is kept alive in small poetry magazines,
he has been almost completely forgotten from public memory.