Edmund Blunden, courtesy My Poetic Side.

Edmund Blunden
Born November 1 1896(1896-Template:MONTHNUMBER-01)
London, England
Died August 2 1973(1973-Template:MONTHNUMBER-02) (aged 76)
Long Melford, Suffolk, England
Occupation Poet, critic
Nationality United Kingdom English
Notable work(s) Poems 1913 and 1914; An Elegy, and other poems; Cricket Country; Poems on Japan.
Notable award(s) Military Cross; C.B.E.; the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry;
Spouse(s) Mary Daines
Sylva Norman
Claire Margaret Poynting
Domestic partner(s) Aki Hayashi
Children seven

Edmund Charles Blunden, MC (1 November 1896 - 20 January 1974) was an English poet and critic. Like his friend Siegfried Sassoon, he wrote of his experiences in World War I in both verse and prose. For most of his career, Blunden was also a reviewer for English publications and an academic in Tokyo and later Hong Kong. He ended his career as Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford.


Youth and World War IEdit

Born in London, Blunden was the eldest of the nine children of Charles Edmund Blunden (1871–1951) and his wife, Georgina Margaret née Tyler, who were joint-headteachers of a London school.[1][2] Blunden was educated at Christ's Hospital and The Queen's College, Oxford.[3]

In August 1915 Blunden was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Sussex Regiment[1] and served with them right up to the end of World War I, taking part in the actions at Ypres and the Somme, and winning the Military Cross in the process. Unusually for a junior infantry officer, Blunden survived nearly two years in the front line without physical injury, but for the rest of his life bore mental scars from his experiences.[1] With characteristic self-deprecation he attributed his survival to his diminutive size: he made "an inconspicuous target".[4] Although he wrote war poems, he avoided the graphic edge that characterises the work of Sassoon or Wilfred Owen, and his memoirs of war service, though beautifully written, lack the immediacy of those of Sassoon or Robert Graves . His own account of his frequently traumatic experiences was published in 1928 under the title Undertones of War.[2]


Blunden left the army in 1919 and took up the scholarship at Oxford that he had won while still at school.[1] On the same English Literature course was Robert Graves, and the two were close friends during their time at Oxford together, but Blunden found university life unsatisfactory and left in 1920 to take up a literary career, at first acting as assistant to Middleton Murry on the Athenaeum magazine.[2] An early supporter was Siegfried Sassoon, who became a lifelong friend. In 1920 Blunden published a collection of poems, The Waggoner, and with Alan Porter edited the poems of John Clare (mostly from Clare's manuscript)[1][2]

Blunden's next book of poems, The Shepherd, published in 1922 won the Hawthornden Prize, but his poetry, though well reviewed, did not provide enough to live on, and in 1924 he accepted the post of Professor of English at the University of Tokyo. He returned to England in 1927, and was literary editor of Nation magazine for a year. In 1927 he published a short book, On the Poems of Henry Vaughan, Characteristics and Intimations, with his principal Latin poems carefully translated into English verse (London: H. Cobden-Sanderson, 1927), expanding and revising an essay that he had published in November 1926 in the London Mercury. In 1931 he returned to Oxford as a Fellow of Merton College, where he was highly regarded as a tutor.[1] During his years in Oxford, Blunden published extensively: several collections of poetry including Choice or Chance (1934) and Shells by a Stream (1944), prose works on Charles Lamb; Edward Gibbon; Keats's publisher; Percy Bysshe Shelley; John Taylor; and Thomas Hardy; and a book about a game he loved, Cricket Country (1944).[2] He returned to full-time writing in 1944, becoming assistant editor of The Times Literary Supplement. In 1947 he returned to Japan as a member of the British liaison mission in Tokyo. In 1953, after three years back in England he accepted the post of Professor of English Literature at the University of Hong Kong.[1]

Blunden retired in 1964 and settled in Suffolk. In 1966 he was nominated for the Oxford Professorship of Poetry in succession to Robert Graves; with some misgivings he agreed to stand and was elected by a large majority over the other candidate, Robert Lowell. However, he now found the strain of public lecturing too much for him, and after two years he resigned.[1]

He died of a heart attack at his home at Long Melford, Suffolk, on 20 January 1974, and is buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford.

Personal lifeEdit

Blunden was married three times. While still in the army he met and married Mary Daines in 1918. They had three children, the first of whom died in infancy. They divorced in 1931, and in 1933 Blunden married Sylva Norman, a young novelist and critic. That marriage, which was childless, was dissolved in 1945, and in the same year he married Claire Margaret Poynting, a former pupil of his; they had four daughters. Blunden then met Aki Hayashi in Japan, and Aki moved to England with Blunden. The relation later changed from a partner to a friend, but they remained in contact for the rest of her life.[1]

Blunden's love of cricket, celebrated in his book Cricket Country, is described by the biographer Philip Ziegler as fanatical. Blunden and his friend Rupert Hart-Davis regularly opened the batting for a publisher's eleven in the 1930s (Blunden insisted on batting without gloves).[5] An affectionate obituary tribute in The Guardian commented, "He loved cricket ... and played it ardently and very badly",[4] while in a review of Cricket Country, George Orwell described him as "the true cricketer":

The test of a true cricketer is that he shall prefer village cricket to 'good' cricket [.... Blunden's] friendliest memories are of the informal village game, where everyone plays in braces, where the blacksmith is liable to be called away in mid-innings on an urgent job, and sometimes, about the time when the light begins to fail, a ball driven for four kills a rabbit on the boundary.[6]

In a 2009 appreciation of the book and its author, Bangalore writer Suresh Menon writes:

Any cricket book that talks easily of Henry James and Siegfried Sassoon and Ranji and Grace and Richard Burton (the writer, not the actor) and Coleridge is bound to have a special charm of its own. As Blunden says, "The game which made me write at all, is not terminated at the boundary, but is reflected beyond, is echoed and varied out there among the gardens and the barns, the dells and the thickets, and belongs to some wider field. Perhaps that is what all books on cricket are trying to say.[7]

Blunden had a robust sense of humour. In Hong Kong he relished linguistic misunderstandings such as those of the restaurant that offered "fried prawn's balls" and the schoolboy who wrote, "In Hong Kong there is a queer at every bus-stop."[8]

His fellow poets' regard for Blunden was illustrated by the contributions to a dinner in his honour for which poems were specially written by Cecil Day-Lewis and William Plomer; T.S. Eliot and Walter de la Mare were guests; and Siegfried Sassoon provided the Burgundy.[9]


Blunden's public honours included Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 1951; the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry , 1956; The Royal Society of Literature's Benson Medal; the Order of the Rising Sun, 3rd Class (Japan), 1963; and Honorary Membership of the Japan Academy.[3]

On 11 November 1985, Blunden was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey[10] The inscription on the stone was written by fellow Great War poet, Wilfred Owen. It reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."[11]

Blunden's output was prolific. To those who thought he published too much he quoted Walter de la Mare's observation that time was the poet's best editor.[12]



  • Poems 1913 and 1914. Horsham, UK: Price, 1914.
  • The Barn, with certain other poems. Uckfield, UK: J. Brooker / G.A. Blunden, 1916.
  • The Silver Bird of Herndyke Mill; Stane Street; The Gods of the World Beneath. Uckfield, UK: J. Brooker / G.A. Blunden, 1916.
  • The Harbingers: Poems. Framfield, Sussex, UK: G.A. Blunden, 1916.
  • Pastorals: A book of verses. London: E. Macdonald, 1916.
  • The Waggoner, and other poems. London: Sidwick & Jackson, 1920.
  • The Shepherd, and other poems of peace and war. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1922.
  • Old Homes: A poem. Clare, UK: W.T. Ward, 1922.
  • To Nature: New poems. Westminster, UK: Beaumont, 1923.
  • Dead Letters. London : Printed for Holbrook Jackson at the Pelican Press, 1923.
  • English Poems. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1925.
  • Edmund Blunden. London: Ernest Benn, 1925.
  • Masks of Time: A new collection of poems principally meditative. London: Beaumont, 1925.
  • Japanese Garland. London: Beaumont, 1928.
  • Retreat. Garden City, NY: Doubleday-Doran, 1928.
  • Winter Nights: A Reminiscence. London: Faber & Gwyer, 1928.
  • Near and Far: New Poems. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1929.
  • The Poems of Edmund Blunden, 1914-1930. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1930.
  • A Summer's Fancy (1930);
  • To Themis: Poems on famous trials, with other pieces. London: Beaumont, 1931.
  • Constantia and Francis: An autumn evening,. London: privately printed for the friends of Elkin Mathews Ltd., 1931.
  • Halfway House: A miscellany of new poems. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1932.
  • Choice or Chance: New poems. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1934.
  • Verses: To H.R.H. The Duke of Windsor, (1936);
  • An Elegy, and other poems. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1937.
  • On Several Occasions. London: Corvinus Press, 1938.
  • Poems, 1930-1940. London: Macmillan, 1940.
  • Shells by a Stream: New poems. London: Macmillan, 1944.
  • After the Bombing, and other short poems. London: Macmillan, 1949.
  • Records of Friendship: Occasional and epistolary poems written during visits to Kyushu. Kyushu, Japan: Kyushu University Press, 1950.
  • A Hong Kong House: A poem. London: Poetry Book Society, 1959.
  • A Hong Kong House: Poems 1951-1961. London: W. Collins, 1962.
  • Selected Poems. Manchester, UK: Carcanet, 1962.
  • Eleven Poems. Cambridge, UK: Golden Head Press, 1967.
  • Poems on Japan: Hitherto uncollected, and mostly unprinted. Tokyo: Kenkyusha, 1967.
  • The Deceitful Calm: Poems by Edmund Blunden: A new selection (edited by Rennie Parker & Margi Blunden). Holt / Laurel, 2006.


  • We'll Shift Our Ground; or, Two on a tour: Almost a novel (with Sylva Norman). London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1933.


  • The Bonaventure: A random journal of an Atlantic holiday. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1922.[13]
  • On the Poems of Henry Vaughan: Characteristics and intimations. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1927.
  • Votive Tablets: Studies chiefly appreciative of English authors and books. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1929; Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1967.
  • Nature in English Literature. London: Hogarth Press, 1929; New York: Harcourt-Brace, 1929.
  • Leigh Hunt: A biography. London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1930.
  • Charles Lamb and his Contemporaries. Cambrige, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1933.
  • The Mind's Eye: Essays. London: Jonathan Cape, 1934; Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries, 1967.
  • Edward Gibbon and His Age. Bristol, UK: Printed for the University of Bristol by J.W. Arrowsmith, 1935.
  • Keats's Publisher: A memoir of John Taylor (1781-1864). London: Jonathan Cape, 1936.
  • essay in On Shelley (three essays; with Gavin De Beer & Sylva Norman). London: Oxford [University Press], 1938.
  • English Villages. London: W. Collins, 1941.
  • Cricket Country. London: W. Collins, 1944.
  • Shelley: A life-story. New York: Viking, 1947.
  • Shakespeare to Hardy: Short studies of characteristic English authors given in a series of lectures at Tokyo University. Tokyo: Kenkyusha, 1948; Folcroft, PA: Folcroft Press, 1969.
  • Sons of Light: A series of lectures on English writers. Tokyo: Hosei University, 1949.
  • John Keats. London & New York: Published for the British Council by Longmans Green, 1950.
  • Favourite Studies in English Literature: Lectures given at Keio University in 1948 and 1950. Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1950.
  • Three Young Poets: Critical sketches of Byron, Shelley and Keats. Tokyo: Kenkyusha, 1959; Folcroft, PA: Folcroft Library Editions, 1973.


  • The Midnight Skaters: Poems for young readers (selected & introduced by Cecil Day-Lewis). London: John Lane, 1968.

Collected editionsEdit

  • Edmund Blunden: A selection of his poetry and prose (selected by Kenneth Hopkins). London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1950.


  • Poems Translated from the French (July, 1913 - January, 1914). Horsham, UK: Price, 1914.
  • Eastward: A selection of verses original and translated. Tokyo: 1950.


  • Wayside Poems of the Seventeenth Century: An anthology gathered by Edmund Blunden and Bernard Mellor. Hong Kong; Hong Kong University Press, 1963.
  • Wayside Sonnets, 1750-1850 (selected with Bernard Mellor). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1971.
  • Overtones of War: Poems of the First World War (with Martin Taylor). London: Duckworth, 1996.


  • More than a Brother: Correspondence between Edmund Blunden and Hector Buck, 1917-1967. London: Sexton Press, 1996.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[14]

Audio / videoEdit

Concert Party Busseboom Poem01:46

Concert Party Busseboom Poem

  • Interview with Edmund Blunden (tape). London: British Council, Recorded Sound Dept., 1964.
  • Poems by Edmund Blunden (LP). Jupiter, 1966.
  • Edmund Blunden: Reading his own poems. London: Audio-Visual Production, [198-?]

Except where noted, discographical information courtesy WorldCat.[14]

See alsoEdit

Preceded by
Robert Graves
Oxford Professor of Poetry
Succeeded by
Roy Fuller



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Bergonzi, Bernard, "Blunden, Edmund Charles (1896–1974)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 28 Nov 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2003 accessed 28 November 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Blunden, Edmund Charles", Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2007; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007 accessed 28 Nov 2008
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Guardian obituary
  5. Ziegler, pp. pp and 116-17
  6. Quoted in Menon 2009.
  7. Menon 2009.
  8. Hart-Davis, Volume 5, Letter of 5 June 1960
  9. Ziegler, p. 150
  12. The Times obituary
  13. The Bonaventure: A random journal of an Atlantic holiday (1922?), Internet Archive. Web, Dec. 25, 2013.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Search results = au:Edmund Blunden, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Dec. 25, 2013.

External linksEdit

Audio / video
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