Sir William Watson (Sir John William Watson) Biography
(1858–1935), (Sir John William Watson), Prince's Quest
British poet, born at Burley-in-Wharfedale, Yorkshire; he grew up near Liverpool. Two volumes of verse, Prince's Quest (1880) and Epigrams of Art, Life, and Nature (1884), preceded his move to London, where he established himself as a literary journalist. Wordsworth's Grave (1891), the title piece of which is arguably his best poem, gained him wide notice, and Lachrymae Musarum (1892), his elegies on the death of Tennyson, made him the favourite of the literary establishment of the day. The moral rectitude of his verse gained him acclaim as a champion of the traditional poetic virtues threatened by the decadent poets of the 1890s, towards whom he was publicly hostile. He was firmly proposed for the laureateship, but became ineligible as a result of untoward behaviour during a severe breakdown in 1892. He regained his standing in 1894 with Odes and Other Poems, which included the accomplished ‘Vita Nuova’, expressing gratitude for his recovery. The Year of Shame (1896), a versified critique of British foreign policy, and For England (1903), for which he was accused of voicing ‘Pro-Boer’ sentiments, made him a figure of controversy. He was knighted in 1917, allegedly as a result of good personal relations with Lloyd George. His espousal of Irish independence in Ireland Unfreed (1919) sustained his reputation for contention. A collected edition of his verse appeared in 1936. Jean Moorcroft Wilson's critical biography I Was an English Poet was published in 1982.