Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Richard Watson Dixon

Richard Watson Dixon (May 5, 1833 - January 23, 1900), English poet and divine, son of Dr James Dixon, a Wesleyan minister.

He was educated at King Edward's school, Birmingham, and on proceeding to Pembroke College, Oxford, became one of the famous "Birmingham group" there who shared with William Morris and Burne-Jones in the Pre-Raphaelite movement. He took only a second class in moderations in 1854, and a third in Literae Humaniores in 1856; but in 1858 he won the Arnold prize for an historical essay, and in 1863 the English Sacred Poem prize.

He was ordained in 1858, was second master of Carlisle high school, 1863-1868, and successively vicar of Hayton, Cumberland, and Warkworth, Northumberland. He became minor canon and honorary librarian of Carlisle in 1868, and honorary canon in 1874, he was proctor in convocation (1890-1894), and received the honorary degree of D.D. from Oxford in 1899. He died at Warkworth.

Canon Dixon's first two volumes of verse, Christ's Company and Historical Odes, were published in 1861 and 1863 respectively; but it was not until 1883 that he attracted conspicuous notice with Mano, an historical poem in terza rima, which was enthusiastically praised by Mr Swinburne. This success he followed up by three privately printed volumes, Odes and Eclogues (1884), Lyrical Poems (1886), and The Story of Eudocia (1888).

Dixon's poems were during the last fifteen years of his life recognized as scholarly and refined exercises, touched with both dignity and a certain severe beauty, but he never attained any general popularity as a poet, the appeal of his poetry being directly to the scholar. A great student of history, his studies in that direction colour much of his poetry. The romantic atmosphere is remarkably preserved in Mano, a successful metrical exercise in the difficult terza rima.

His typical poems have charm and melody, without introducing any new note or variety of rhythm. He is contemplative, sober and finished in literary workmanship, a typical example of the Oxford school. Pleasant as his poetry is, however, he will probably be longest remembered by the work to which he gave the best years of his life, his History of the Church of England from the Abolition of the Roman Jurisdiction (1878-1902). At the time of his death he had completed six volumes, two of which were published posthumously. This fine work, covering the period from 1529 to 1570, is built upon elaborate research, and presents a trustworthy and unprejudiced survey of its subject.

Dixon's Selected Poems were published in 1909 with a memoir of the author by Robert Bridges.