written note.jpg
Editor's written-note

Full Title:
Editor's preface

North Country Poets: Poems and Biographies of Natives or Residents of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, Durham, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Book Details:
This book was found in the University of Victoria library. It is a black hardcover book with thick clean edge pages. The book itself is a compilation of various poems and biographies of the authors who wrote them. There is a handwritten note on one of the opening pages addressing a man named James Burnley, dated 27th December 1889. On another page there is a printed preface by the author, dated 1st October 1889 at the Hall Literary Club.

Another introductory page contains the full title, name of the author/editor, along with the place and date of publication: “London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co. Manchester: Abel Heywood & Son. Hull: A. Brown & Sons, and J.R. Tutin. 1889” (Andrews)

The book is arranged by starting with an author’s name and a description of the author, and then presenting multiple poems from that particular author. This pattern repeats for each new author that the book introduces. Authors are not introduced in alphabetical order nor are the poems offered in chronological order.

A list of “Contributors of Sketches” is included right before the various poems and authors are presented. No pictures of anybody are included, but there are some small decorative illustrations contained on certain pages (such as page 2 of the poem "The Rebound" by George Hull, found below) and an Index/Table of Contents contained at the end of the book.

Intro page with book title

About the Editor and Poets:
William Andrews (the book editor) was an editor and writer on folklore and local history, known to be a lover of literature. He founded the Hull Literary Club in 1879, whose goal was to promote literature and art, protect the interests of authors in Hull and District, and to publish works of local literature and form a library of works by local authors in the Hull area (Hull 1). His other published works include Historic Yorkshire, Historic Romance and Modern Yorkshire Poets (Andrews).

As the book’s full title indicates, each poet whose work is contained in the book hails from a different part of Northern England. Some examples include John Harbottle from Newscastle, William Billington aka “The Blackburn Poet” from Samlesbury, Mrs. Laura A. Whitworth from Manchester and John Ryley Robinson from Dewsbury (Andrews 1, 14, 33, 71).

About the Poems:
Certain poems will contain a footnote at the bottom of the page which explains something uncommon that the poem contains (such as the meaning of an adjective or significant information relating to a noun). Based on the poems contained in the book, a common rhyme scheme that these authors utilized are A-B-A-B and A-B-B-A, often in iambic pentameter or iambic tetrameter. A considerable number of the poems are quatrains and octets.

For an example, see the poem “The Rebound” by George Hull below. It is a quatrain with an A-B-B-A rhyme scheme, written in iambic tetrameter. Also, a decorative banner is visible at the bottom of the 2nd page of the poem:
the rebound.jpg
"The Rebound" part 1
the rebound2.jpg
"The Rebound" part 2
the rebound3.jpg
"The Rebound" part 3

Importance of the book:
While the book and a number of the poets featured in it are currently not widely recognized, North Country Poets can be seen as a valuable resource when discussing Victorian Poetry. Every poet featured in the poem hailed from somewhere in Northern England. Readers can therefore use North Country Poets to gain a fair understanding of life in Nineteenth Century Northern England. It can also provide us with an idea of what Victorian poetry coming from these regions was like (ex. its subject matter, poetic devices, rhyme schemes, tone, etc.). Although not every featured poem talks about life in Northern England (or in any specific location), a fair number of them do.

Below is one poem that describes life in Nineteenth Century Northern England, from a poet’s perspective: “Ye Old Labourers of England” by Alfred Lishman:

"Ye Labourers of England" part 1

"Ye Labourers of England" part 2

Despite not growing up as a member of the working class, Alfred Lishman (who himself came from Leeds, in West Yorkshire, England) appears to display an earnest appreciation of the English working class in this poem (Andrews, 59). At the same time, he is also giving us his own description of the average day in Northern England. We know this due to the poem’s title and due to the author’s use of repetition of the phrase “Ye Labourers of England”, which is used at the beginning of every stanza. The frequent use of the word “labourers” and the given description of the people's "toil" makes it clear that we are reading a poem which is specifically about members of the working class.

He begins by describing the “labourers of England” as patient, hard-working and skilled in what they do: “Ye children of the soil!/With ready skill, and steadfast will, How patiently ye toil!” (stanza 1, lines 2-4). He then continues on to describe some of the work that they must endure, they are tasked "To make the landscape shine/To pluck the metals from their home/And tempt the dismal mine." (stanza 1, lines 6-8).

Lishman describes Northern England as both "...great/With fruitful vales and pleasant dales" (stanza 2, lines 2-3) and as a "...brave old state" (stanza 2, line 4). It is clear that he was fond of the country he lived in. In the same stanza he reminds the labourers of their worth, insisting that it is the labourers who made such beauty possible through their hard work, as it is them "Who make our country great.../...Whose gallant hearts and sinewy hands/Beneath far distant skies/Still raise new homes, still till new lands/And bid new England rise." (stanza 2, lines 2-8). Furthermore, he suggests that it is also the labourers "Who make our country wise.../...Comes genius from a lowly place" (stanza 3, lines 2-7), meaning that although they may be lacking in the education they have received, although they come "from a lowly place" (compared to the middle and upper class), they are still intelligent in other ways.

Lishman ends the poem by telling the labourers that "...England ne'er need fear the strife/With you to guard and love" (stanza 5, lines 7-8). As long as England had the working class, toiling away at their work day after day, it would remain a beautiful and robust country. This is ironic, as urbanization would slowly diminish the country's natural beauty.

You can read the full book online here

Works Cited:
Andrews, William. North Country Poets. Volume 2. London. 1889. Print. Call # PR105A1V2

Modern English literature and drama subject guide – Hull Literary Club”. The University of Hull. The University of Hull. 10 February 2016. Web.

Page edited by: J.P.Engl386.UVic.Spring2016