Victorian poets are often interesting, either because of their own eccentricity, or else because they were so popular with contemporary readers. John Keble’s motto, ‘Don’t be original’ kept him well out of the former class, but he certainly comes into the latter. Unlike Keble, who had been an Oxford student before he became a don there, Sir Henry Taylor was largely self-educated. He made his name as a poet with a historical drama, Philip van Artevelde. Another self-educated poet was William Barnes, a Dorsetshire farmer’s son who became a polymath, with special interests in languages and grammar. A more accessible poet was Richard Henry Horne, who was educated for the army. His best-known poem is Orion. None of the other poets born in the first decade of the century deserves much attention here. Robert Stephen Hawker, the Vicar of Morwenstow, was a fascinating character who wrote rather dull poems.
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