Tuesday, 24 August 2010
Palgrave? Who he?
Yesterday I wrote about my father's poetry book, 'Palgrave'. As several people have asked who he was I thought I would give you a bit more information today.
Francis Palgrave was educated at Balliol and after working in education he eventually became Professor of Poetry at Oxford, from 1885 - 1895. We have to remember that to the masses Education was a relatively new phenomenon - compulsory education, that is.
My father was born in 1888, near enough to the 1870 Education Act to have parents who really valued education - it was seen as a way out of poverty and the work house.
My mother was terrified of the work house mainly because as a child she could remember the horrors of it. At the age of eleven my father won a scholarship to Grammar School but his parents were too poor to allow him to go (he was one of seven children), but there were books in the house, both his parents could read and did read widely and so he grew up surrounded by reading matter.
Palgrave brought out his 'Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics' in 1861. It was well-received by the generation who were thirsty for knowledge and was quite frequently updated and reprinted - Palgrave got valuable information as to what he should include from his close friend Tennyson.
By the time I came along, our house was also full of books. My mother was an avid reader of novels - the one she read over and over again was 'Red Wagon' by Lady Eleanor Smith - I think she almost knew it off by heart. But my father was made of sterner stuff - The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, Gilbert White's History of Selborne - but above all Palgrave's Golden Treasury. He had a book shelf and a small table by the side of his armchair by the fire and Palgrave lived, not on the shelf, but on the table - and if it was missing father sould say,'Who's been reading my Palgrave?'
He never lost his interest in poetry throughout his life. He never lost his interest in education and encouraged us (I am one of three) to do our best in everything. I was the first person of my generation in our family to go on to further education and to get a degree. He was very proud of that.
Maybe Palgrave is a bit old hat now but for me it has very treasured memories and it is the first place I look for a poem I want to read.