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Edwin Markham (Edwin Charles Edward Anson Markham) Biography

(1852–1940), (Edwin Charles Edward Anson Markham), Commonweal, San Francisco Examiner

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Madras House to Harriet Martineau Biography

American poet, born in Oregon City; he grew up in Southern California, and was largely self-educated before his enrolment at the Christian College in Santa Rosa. He became Principal of the Tompkins Observatory School in Oakland in 1890. The socialist character of his early verse, which appeared in William Morris's Commonweal and other journals from around 1886 onward, culminated in ‘The Man with the Hoe’, a response to Millet's painting of the same title; the poem, whose blank verse powerfully envisioned the rise of the working classes, appeared in the San Francisco Examiner in 1899 and was widely reprinted throughout the USA. The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems (1899) was followed by Lincoln and Other Poems (1901), which emphasized the American democratic idealism inherent in his views of social progress. Subsequent collections include The Shoes of Happiness (1915), The Gates of Paradise (1920), and New Poems: Eighty Poems at Eighty (1932); Collected Poems appeared in 1940. His reputation as a poet of social concern provided the basis for his career as a lecturer, essayist, and participant in programmes of reform. With B. B. Lindsay and G. Creel, he produced Children in Bondage (1914), a sociological study which advanced the campaign against child labour. Among his works as an editor was his voluminous and eclectic The Book of Poetry (ten volumes, 1926). He is believed to have supplied the model for Presley, the sincere but politically ineffectual poet, in Frank Norris's The Octopus (1901).

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