Ernest Christopher Dowson


Ernest Dowson was a poet. In the late 1890s, Dowson also translated French literature into English (including Zola, Balzac and Voltaire). He was one of a batch of young poets who represent the work of the last decade of the nineteenth century in England. He was intimately involved with the Rhymers' Club in London during this period, but died at a young age (32) from a combination of drink, depression and ill-health resulting from severe financial problems.

In 1886, Dowson entered Queen's College, Oxford. In his second year, an Indian student called Satis Chandra Mookerjee joined the college. As a result of his praise of bhang, Dowson and his friends experimented with cannabis. Dowson remained in touch with Mookerjee; they were both part of a group of four who visited the Gaiety Theatre in March 1889 (see Dowson letter to Arthur Moore, 24 March 1889).

Dowson left Oxford in 1888 and it was in London, in September 1890, that Lionel Johnson introduced Dowson to the Primavera poet and former Oxford student Manmohan Ghose. From letters to various friends, it appears that Dowson became quite enamoured with Ghose, describing him variously as 'charming' and 'beautiful lotus-eyed'. His correspondence mentions Ghose until the middle of 1891 when Dowson was planning to bring out a book called 'The Book of the Rhymers Club' which he hoped would include Ghose's work. When the book did come out, Ghose's name was not among the contributors who included Lionel Johnson, T. W. Rolleston, Arthur Symons and W. B. Yeats.

Published works: 

(in collaboration with Arthur Moore) A Comedy of Masks (1893)

Dilemmas: Stories and Studies in Sentiment (1895)

Verses (1896)

The Pierrot of the Minute (1897)

Adrian Rome (in collaboration with Arthur Moore) (1899)

Decorations: In Verse and Prose (1899)


Letter to Charles Sayle, c.25 Nov. 1890, in Flower and Maas (eds), The Letters of Ernest Dowson (London: Cassel, 1967), p. 177

Date of birth: 
02 Aug 1867

Letter telling Charles Sayle what Dowson has been up to recently. This includes seeing a lot of the 'people in Fitzroy St' and especially Lionel Johnson.


Manmohan Ghose, Lionel Pigot Johnson, Satis Chandra Mookerjee (fellow student at Queen's College, Oxford, who was called to the Bar in 1891 and entered the ICS; he introduced Dowson and Thomas to bhang), Arthur Moore (nephew of Henry Moore), Victor Plarr, Ernest Rhys, William Rothenstein, Charles Sayle, Arthur Symons, W. R. Thomas, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats.

The Rhymers' Club

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Century Guild Hobby Horse

Macmillan's Magazine

The Savoy


Another charming person, of whom I am seeing much also, & whom doubtless you know is Ghose the Primavera poet: a divinely mad person!

Secondary works: 

Flower, Desmond and Maas, Henry (eds), The Letters of Ernest Dowson (London: Cassell & Co., 1967)

Plarr, Victor, Ernest Dowson, 1888–1897: Reminiscences, Unpublished Letters and Marginalia (London: E. Mathews, 1914)

Richards, Bernard, ‘Dowson, Ernest Christopher (1867–1900)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2007) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37369]

Thomas, W. R., 'Ernest Dowson at Oxford', The Nineteenth Century and After CIII.614 (April 1928), pp. 560-6


While it is not clear why Dowson describes Ghose as 'divinely mad', this letter reveals the frequent contact that Dowson was having with Ghose and the association between Ghose and the Fitzroy St group. The letter reveals a great deal of familiarity with Ghose on the part of Dowson and his friends.

Archive source: 

Correspondence with Arthur Moore, Pierpont Morgan Library, New York

City of birth: 
Lee, Kent
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
23 Feb 1900
Location of death: 

Woodford, Essex; Fleet Street, London (where the Rhymers' Club often met).

Tags for Making Britain: 
Subscribe to RSS - drugs