Thomas Humphry Ward, ed. The English Poets. 18801918. Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Critical Introduction by Thomas Humphry Ward
Sir Francis Hastings Doyle (18101888)
[Sir Francis Hastings Doyle, 2nd Baronet; born 1810; educated at Eton and Christ Church; 1st Class Lit. Hum., Fellow of All Souls. Was Receiver-General of Customs, 184669, then Commissioner of Customs till 1883. Published Miscellaneous Verses, 1834, and some other volumes of verse at intervals; the greater part were republished in one volume in 1883. Was appointed Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1867, and held the post ten years, publishing two volumes of lectures. Died 1888.]
SIR FRANCIS DOYLE came of a family of soldiers; the Dictionary mentions five of his near relatives who were generals and colonels. It is not surprising, then, that his verses, when he came to write and publish, dealt largely with action, and that the poem by which he is best known celebrates the heroism of a British soldier. But he himself lived the quiet life of a civilian office-holderhe was Receiver-General of Customs for over twenty years of his middle life. But he was distinguished intellectually in his youth, at Eton and Oxford; his first class (1832) and his Fellowship of All Souls, and his close intimacy with Gladstone and a number of other young leaders, which began in the Eton Debating Society, marked him out as one of the chosen. He and Gladstone, however, parted company when the latter joined the Liberals, and Doyles Toryism only grew stronger with years. In 1883, when the Liberals were planning memorable measures, he wrote: I try not to despair of the future of my country, this lugubrious mood taking no account of the fact that the government of Egypt had just passed into British hands; and many of his verses, at all dates, contain little hits at Whigs, past and present. But it must be granted that, beyond a general conservatism in their outlook, the Essays and Lectures, which he delivered as Professor of Poetry at Oxford before and after 1870, do not mix party with literature, and the same may be said of the Poems. These latter are honest and strenuous, though perhaps in many cases they do not rise above the commonplace; but his translations from Pindar and Sophocles, and from several French poets, are excellent; The Private of the Buffs is, in its way, a classic, and the selections which we give from the early poem The Doncaster St. Leger are a spirited reflexion of feelings universal in West Yorkshire seventy years ago. They are a sort of Yorkshire counterpart of the racing verses of the Australian poet Lindsay Gordon which we print elsewhere.