The Book of Sonnet Sequences

By Houston Peterson | Go to book overview
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XIII -- WILFRID SCAWEN BLUNT
[1840-1922]

ONE OF the most vigorous, versatile, and fortunate figures of the past hundred years, Blunt is chiefly remembered for a few sonnets often quoted in anthologies and for the vigorous anti-imperialism of his "secret histories," especially My Diaries. His interests were too diverse for a systematic literary career and he was too much of a free lance to be a leader in organized politics. He was an English attaché at many foreign courts, a country gentleman, a daring traveller, a breeder of Arabian horses, a translator from the Arabic, an amateur architect, painter and sculptor, a man of fashion, a friend of statesmen, a patron of genius, a helper of revolutions, and a distinguished author.

The son of a wealthy landed proprietor of Sussex, Blunt grew up a Catholic, spent a colorful decade in the diplomatic service, married Annabella Noel, the grandaughter of Byron, and at twenty-nine, on the death of his brother, succeeded to the ancestral estates. In 1875, after publishing anonymously his first book, Songs and Sonnets of Proteus, Blunt and his wife began a long series of adventurous horseback journeys through Spain, Algeria, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Central Arabia which led to his ardent sympathy with Mohammedan aspirations. He also lived for extended periods in Egypt where he was the friend of leading nationalists and a bitter opponent of British power. As an advocate of Home Rule he was arrested in Ireland in 1887 while conducting a political meeting and imprisoned for two months. Most of his last thirty years were spent in comparative peace at Newbuildings Place, where he was a gracious and brilliant host, "the uncrowned king of Sussex." He had lost his

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