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T.E. Brown Poet Wrote Letters to H. Graham Dakyns


Newly Discovered Letters OF T.E Brown Two Book Editor Andrew Graham Dakyns. Thomas Edward Brown is the undisputed national poet of the Isle of Man. He achieved success in his lifetime with four books of poems.


Two books of Letters edited by Andrew Graham Dakyns & Belinda Robinson

Thomas Edward Brown
The Poet of the Isle of Man

Newly Discovered Letters of T. E. Brown, edited by Andrew Graham Dakyns and Belinda Robinson

Published by the Manx Heritage Foundation, 2004 ISBN 0 - 9547180 - 0 - 3

A G Dakyns for More Information

Old Cliftonian (School) Magazine in October 2004.
The success of The Collected Poems
Readers are now presented for the first time
Henry Graham  Dakyns (1838-1911) was a master at Clifton
Horatio Brown (1854-1926
Although Brown corresponded with Horatio Brown

Customers outside UK please contact for total price including shipping.
Obtainable From:

Mr. Andrew Dakyns,
1 Holywell Close,
East Sussex,
BN20 7RX.



Has inherited the extensive correspondence conducted by his grandfather, H. Graham Dakyns (1838-1911), with friends who included several prominent literary and academic figures of the Victorian age.

The Dakyns Collection comprises batches of letters – some extending over decades – from Thomas Edward Brown (1830-1897); John Addington Symonds (1840-1893); Horatio Forbes Brown (1854-1926); John Rickards Mozley (1840-1931); W.E. Henley (1849-1903); Sir A.T. Quiller-Couch (1863-1944); Sir T. Herbert Warren (1853-1930); Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958); Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s wife, children, daughter-in-law and grandchildren; Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900); Sidney T. Irwin (1848-1911); John Roche Dakyns (1836-1910).

Andrew Dakyns (MA Oxon) was, like his father Arthur (1883-1941), educated at Clifton and Balliol, where he too read Greek & Latin (Lit. Hum). He spent the first half of his career as a journalist on the Continent, mostly in Germany; the remainder in London at British Gas HQ.

T.E. BrownThe Poet

T.E. Brown is the undisputed national poet of the Isle of Man.  He achieved success in his lifetime with four books of poems: Fo’c’s’le Yarns, The Doctor, The Manx Witch and Old John. After his death these poems, plus others found in The New Review, The National Observer and elsewhere, together with some unpublished work, were published by Macmillan in 1900 as The Collected Poems of T.E. Brown, edited by H.F. Brown, H.G. Dakyns and W.E. Henley.

This volume was still in the press when A.T. Quiller-Couch was putting the finishing touches to the Oxford Book of English Verse. The Clarendon Press telegraphed “Q” at the last moment, telling him to axe fifty pages.  This left room for only four of T.E. Brown’s short poems, despite his intention to include some longer ones as well. However, in the Oxford Book of Victorian Verse, chosen by Quiller-Couch and published later by Oxford’s Clarendon Press, “Q” made amends by including seven poems by T.E. Brown, only two of which had already appeared in the previous Anthology.

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The success of The Collected Poems, the second edition embellished with a glowing introduction by W.E. Henley, persuaded Macmillan that a smaller, popular edition was called for. Poems of T.E. Brown, selected and arranged by HFB and HGD, came out in their Golden Treasury series in 1908. The two books confirmed Brown’s enduring reputation as a poet.

Brown is less well known as a prose writer. The Manx novelist, Sir Hall Caine,  thought Brown “was, perhaps, the last of the great letter writers”.  He enjoyed writing letters, and it has been estimated he wrote at least a thousand during his last five years in the Isle of Man.  “Q” was as impressed with Brown’s letters as he was with his poetry.  Requesting Graham Dakyns’s help in obtaining permission from Macmillan for some of Brown’s poems to appear in the Oxford Book of English Verse, he wrote: “The letters seem to me so good as literature - so extraordinarily good - that I distrust my judgment, & am keen to hear what the critics say who never knew him”.  He was referring to Sidney Irwin’s two-volume edition of the Letters of T.E. Brown, published by Constable in July 1900.

In Manx Worthies, published in 1901, A.W. Moore writes: ‘Brilliant and interesting as much of his prose writings are, especially those in which he dealt with such subjects as “Manx Character” and “Old Manx Parsons,” none of them are equal as literature to his letters ... Most of Tom Brown’s letters cannot, for excellent reasons, be published for many years to come ... but those that have been published suffice to justify [Irwin’s] claim that “the man who wrote them was rarely gifted”.

In his preface to the Letters, Irwin, a classics master at Clifton, explaining a delay in their publication, said “they were too private for an intelligent copyist, and too difficult to be left to an unintelligent one ... I have also been compelled to cut down the material at my disposal, it being thought desirable that the book should not be large ... My special thanks are due to Mr. Mozley and Mr. Dakyns for most helpful suggestions and unsparing labour”.

Irwin (1848-1911) was a colleague and close friend of Brown’s for many years.  He and his sister were the only surviving relatives of Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol, and thus chief mourners at his funeral in October 1893.  After Brown’s death, Irwin was gratified to be asked to edit and publish the poet’s letters and the book was indeed a success, running to several editions.

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Readers are now presented for the first time with well over 150 newly transcribed and unabridged manuscript letters, chiefly to Dakyns, which show Brown’s personality in a new light.  Further correspondence, immediately after the poet’s death, between Dakyns and Brown’s daughters and his friends, reveals why Irwin was chosen as editor and how he managed the material.  Irwin’s version can now be compared with the full text of some of the letters he selected.

John Rickards Mozley (1840-1931) was one of T.E. Brown’s oldest friends, having come to Clifton as a mathematics master in 1864.  Although he left Clifton in 1865 to become an Inspector of Schools, later Professor of Pure Mathematics at Manchester University, he never lost touch with Brown and often visited him in the Isle of Man.  Mozley gives pride of place to Brown in his book, Clifton Memories, published in 1927.  In a letter to Dakyns of the 1890s, Mozley recalls the “series of walks in the Isle of Man which has left in my mind memories like a rhythm of music”.

Fourteen letters from Brown to Mozley were published in Irwin’s Letters, but there must have been a great deal more. The Dakyns Collection contains several hundred letters from Mozley to HGD; spanning a period of 40 years, they often refer to Brown.

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Henry Graham  Dakyns

Henry Graham  Dakyns (1838-1911) was a master at Clifton from 1862, and had been teaching on the classical side for a year before Brown was appointed Head of the Modern side in 1863 and subsequently Second Master (Vice-Principal). He stayed at Clifton for twenty-seven years, although with a break  to work in Greece on his edition of the complete works of Xenophon, published by Macmillan, 1890-97.  In his history of the school an old pupil, Octavius Christie, writes: “I venture to select, as the four outstanding Masters of my own time Dakyns, [T.E.] Brown, Bartholomew and Norman Moor, and of these Dakyns was the most unforgettable.  There can never surely be another Master, perhaps never another man, like Dakyns”.

Brown and Dakyns formed a strong friendship which flourished for 34 years, until Brown’s death in 1897. Earliest written communications from Brown took the form of brief notes and hurried scribblings - sometimes in rhyme - which Dakyns kept, together with some others he rescued from Brown’s waste-paper basket.  Over time, and particularly when one or other was away from Clifton, the letters grew longer and more intimate, and Brown sent Dakyns many of his poems.  All the letters, postcards, poems and notes were carefully retained by Dakyns, and so preserved for posterity.

Of the letters in the present book, 32 are from Brown to the Rev. Frederick La Mothe (1843-1921), a pupil at King William’s College on the Isle of Man during Brown’s six years as Vice-Principal.  He became a scholar of Corpus, Cambridge, in the early 1860s and would have renewed contact with Brown in 1870 on moving to a curacy in Bristol.  Returning to the Isle of Man, La Mothe was curate to Archdeacon Moore at Andreas from 1875 to 1887, his later career being with the church in Lancashire and the IOM.  Brown put great value on his friend’s Island lore, looking to La Mothe for poetic inspiration (“as a perpetual conduit of Manx thought and feeling”) while he toiled as a schoolmaster at Clifton.

Only 18 of the letters to Dakyns - and not one of those to La Mothe - were included in Irwin’s work. All those printed were subjected to rigorous censorship, and so lost ‘much of their brilliancy’, in the words of  Horatio Brown, another old Cliftonian.

An example of such pruning is Brown’s last letter to Dakyns, dated October 27 1897, which has a magnificent description of the death of ‘poor Jupp’ and the ‘ghastly proceedings’ that followed.  This is omitted from the published letter, Irwin justifying the cuts in a letter to Dakyns as necessary to avoid ‘a want of respect for the dead in printing particular words’.  Irwin was ultra-zealous in the wish not to offend or embarrass anyone mentioned in the letters. Though he indicates with a few dots where something has been omitted, there is no means of telling how much.

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Horatio Brown (1854-1926) was another friend and admirer of T.E. Brown. His widowed mother, Guilelmina Brown had moved from Scotland to Bristol to educate her two sons at Clifton, and Horatio entered the school in January 1864, leaving in 1873 with an Exhibition to New College, Oxford.  Later, in 1885, Horatio Brown and his mother, to whom he was devoted and with whom he lived until her death, bought a house in Venice. Here he spent the remainder of his life, having considerable success as an historian of Venice and winning recognition in the world of letters for many topographical works, historical studies and translations.  His consuming passion was for Venice and things Venetian, but he often travelled and on several occasions visited Brown in the Isle of Man. The two were unrelated.

Horatio Brown first met T.E. Brown as a boy at Clifton and in his ‘Reminiscences of an Old Pupil’ in the Introductory Memoir to the Letters, writes:  “I and some other boys were going in for History Scholarships at Oxford.  The Head Master allowed us to attend a special history class under T.E. Brown ... My recollection is that his was the most vivid teaching I ever received ... He made one feel that there was something beyond the school, beyond successful performance at lessons or at games; there was a whiff of the great world brought in by him.”  Horatio Brown was one of a number of Brown’s former pupils who achieved literary fame - they include W.E. Henley, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and Sir Henry Newbolt, all of whom would work to consolidate the reputation of Brown as a poet.

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Although Brown corresponded with Horatio Brown, and these letters were passed to Irwin for possible inclusion, only three were chosen.  The Dakyns Collection has two further such letters.  One of these was dubbed “The Happy Sceptic” letter and was circulated by Dakyns and Horatio Brown to a circle of friends after the poet’s death, for the insight it gave into T.E. Brown’s philosophy.

Brown’s death prompted discussion, among his Clifton and Oxford friends, about what to do with his literary remains, including the possible writing of a biography.  It is indeed fortunate that Dakyns kept almost every letter he received, and also that he requested friends to return his own when read. Thus there is a written record in the Dakyns Collection of the many voices raised with differing views as to the fate of Brown’s work, among them those of his three daughters, Edith, Ethel and Dora Brown; his close friends Irwin and Miss Graves; ex-pupils W.E. Henley and Horatio Brown; as well as the reported views of Canon James Wilson, who succeeded Percival as Headmaster of Clifton; Herbert Warren, another ex-pupil of Brown’s and by this time President of Magdalen College, Oxford; and the novelist Sir Hall Caine. This correspondence records in detail events leading up to the publication of the Letters, Dakyns’s collaboration with W.E. Henley and Horatio Brown on The Collected Poems and the further collaboration of Dakyns and Horatio Brown on the Golden Treasury edition.

Now, over a hundred years after the poet’s death, it is finally possible to present readers with a large number of T.E. Brown’s letters spanning some forty years, their brilliance undimmed by the censorship necessary in Irwin’s day.  The story is told first through Brown’s own words - the full text of his letters to Dakyns and others, published in date order with footnotes.  Also included are Dakyns’s prompt notes for the farewell encomium he delivered when Brown retired, and also extracts from Brown’s private diary, shown to Dakyns by the Misses Brown, and hurriedly copied by him on the back of an envelope, not omitting some uncomplimentary remarks about himself!

The second part is told through the extended two-way correspondence between Dakyns and Horatio Brown, interspersed with letters from others who were involved.  Apart from those mentioned earlier, there are letters from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and Ralph Vaughan-Williams.  The years brought with them a sense of satisfaction that Brown’s work had finally been recognised.  As Quiller-Couch wrote in his letter to Dakyns of June 26th 1908: ‘Brown’s fame is now secure of the future, as it never was in his life-time.  It will have its ups and downs:  but one or two of you - & you chiefly - have started him, & now you can say with Marvell “Enough; & leave the rest to Fame”.’


Andrew Graham Dakyns
Editor of Newly Discovered Letters of T.E. Brown

Click here to contact the editor.

Below is a cutting from Old Clifton (School) Magazine in October 2004.


Here is a cutting from the Old Cliftonian Magazine of October 2004:
Graham Dakyns, probably T.E. Brown's best friend at Clifton, died on the eve of the Coronation day in 1911 while waiting for some visitors at Haslemere station. His splendid 'Tudorbethan' house in the town (worth a few million these days) was sold and the effects dispersed among his children. His daughter Frances looked after a locked trunk which remained unopened until, after her death in 1960, it passed to her nephew Andrew Dakyns. It proved to be full of letters, many of them from T.E. Brown, and hitherto unknown. Andrew resolved to edit them one day and this has now come to pass with the help of the Manx Heritage Foundation, which is funded by Tynwald.

The two paperback volumes contain letters ranging from 1863 to 1911 and they give fresh insights into the school’s first Head Master, Dr. Percival (who was apparently loved by another as well as his wife)

The volumes also shed new light on Brown, Dakyns, subsequent headmasters Wilson and Glazebrook (whom Brown clearly could not stand), life at Clifton and on the Isle of Man during those years and give a good deal of information about holidays in the Lake District, Italy and Switzerland. After Brown's sudden death in 1897 there was much anxiety among his friends and family about who should have the privilege of publishing his letters, editing his poetry and writing his biography.

Very interesting, beautifully edited, and at £16.99 for both volumes (heavily subsidised by the Manx taxpayer), highly recommended.

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