Category: 2. Background

Re-animated Newbolt reads “Vitai Lampada”

Henry Newbolt was most famous as a poet, and his most famous poem was Vitaï Lampada (1892).  It plays on themes of duty via Cricket… seriously… it became ridiculously famous during WWI, to the point that Newbolt got sick of reciting it.

But do you want to see something creepy?

Poetryreincarnations animates photos of old poets with real audio to make pseudo-videos of them reading poetry.

So Newbolt is on YouTube… check out Vitaï Lampada:


More Vitai Lampada

Newbolt’s poetry was famous in his time, but as I mentioned before, his best known was “Vitaï Lampada” (1892).

The famous refrain, “Play up! play up! and play the game!”, even adorns a relief statue at Lord’s Cricket Ground:

"Relief depicting the Ashes being awarded: At Lords in London, England." Happy A. CC BY-NC-SA.

“Relief depicting the Ashes being awarded: At Lords in London, England.” Happy A. CC BY-NC-SA.


There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night—
Ten to make and the match to win—
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
“Play up! play up! and play the game!”

The sand of the desert is sodden red,—
Red with the wreck of a square that broke;—
The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England’s far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
“Play up! play up! and play the game!”

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind—
“Play up! play up! and play the game!”

Henry Newbolt, 1862-1938

Henry Newbolt was seen as the ultimate Victorian: respectable and proper, praising virtues and duty to the British Empire.  A virile cultivated man, a lawyer, editor, historian, and, above all, poet.  And he looked the part too:

"Henry Newbolt, No. 2," etching, by William Strang. British Museum, London. 1898. Public Domain.

“Henry Newbolt, No. 2,” etching, by William Strang. British Museum, London. 1898. Public Domain.

However, his personal life might have been a bit less Properly Victorian than it seemed… Susan Chitty, in Playing the Game: Biography of Sir Henry Newbolt (London: Quartet Books, 1997), provides some interesting tidbits. Henry courted Margaret Edina Duckworth (of Duckworth Publishing Company) who he called “Dear Lad”, but she was in love with Ella Coltman.  Henry convinced Margaret to marry him, but Ella also lived with them, apparently in a three-way relationship.

Henry, continued

Sorry to have a little bit of fun with Henry in the last posts…

The point is he was well known as a poet in his own time.  He was also known as a figure in government circles, associated with the UK Liberal Party.  His most famous works were the patriotic poems of Admirals All and Other Verses (London: Elkin Mathews, 1898) and the nostalgic poems of Clifton Chapel and Other School Poems (London: John Murray, 1908).

But, Aladore is his only “fantasy” novel.  It has some relation to his earlier historical romance novels, or the historical-timeslip novel The Old Country: A Romance (New York: Dutton, 1906).  However, it goes much further into the realm of fantasy than any of his other works.

Although it was published in the middle of his writing career, Aladore was Newbolt’s last novel.  As Robert Reginald remarks:

“that such a novel, with its emphasis on love and companionship at all levels, should appear on the eve of World War I is indeed ironic; Newbolt, who later wrote the official history of the British Navy in that conflict, never wrote another novel.”

[Robert Reginald, “Paladorean Idylls: Sir Henry Newbolt’s Aladore”, in Xenograffiti: Essays On Fantastic Literature (Wildside Press, 1996), 98.]

For a good (but brief) biography, check out The Poetry Foundation (an awesome resource for finding great poetry):

**Note: the Poetry Foundation bio gives Henry’s dates as 1862-1924, which is wrong–he died in 1938.

There is a lot more we could learn about Henry, but for the purposes of this project–we must move on!

Illustrated by Lady Hylton

Before moving on, I wanted to check out the illustrator of Aladore, “Lady Hylton.”

Okay, I am American.  If you pay attention to those things, you may have noticed I don’t bother with the ridiculous special titles for Henry.  Peerage, bleh…

So it is hard to trace correct Lady Hylton.  The lady who illustrated Aladore was Alice Adeliza [Hervey] Jolliffe Hylton.  I couldn’t find much about her, other than a genealogical listing on a Peerage website.

However, she did work with Newbolt on one other book:

The book of cupid: Being an Anthology from the English poets, with 23 illustrations by Lady Hylton and introduction by Henry Newbolt (London: Constable & Co. 1909)

There are no digital copies available that I could find–you might get a copy from Rare Books and Special Collections somewhere…

So she is not well known as far as I can tell!

To Aladore!

Finally lets move on to Aladore itself!

Song of the children in Paladore

To Aladore, to Aladore,
Who goes the pilgrim way?
Who goes with us to Aladore
Before the dawn of day?

O if we go the pilgrim way
Tell us, tell us true,
How do they make their pilgrimage
That walk the way with you?

O you must make your pilgrimage
By noonday and by night,
By seven years of the hard, hard road
And an hour of starry light.

O if we go by the hard, hard road
Tell us, tell us true,
What shall they find in Aladore
That walk the way with you?

You shall find dreams in Aladore
All that ever were known:
And you shall dream in Aladore
The dreams that were your own.

O then, O then to Aladore,
We’ll go the pilgrim way,
To Aladore, to Aladore,
Before the dawn of day.


p.s. if you adore this song, British classical composer Granville Bantock set it to music, so you could comb sheet music archives to find a copy:
Song of the Children in Paladore. Two-part Song for Children’s Voices, poem by H. Newbolt, by Granville Bantock (J. Curwen & Sons, 1929)

If you find a copy let me know, also if you could sing it–I would love to hear it!

More on Alice Hylton and Aladore

I mentioned Lady Alice in an earlier post, but to give some more juicy interest to Aladore, we need to revisit her.

First of all, lets step back to one of Henry’s earlier novels, The Old Country: A Romance (1906).

The main character is a novelist, who visits a historic manor and falls in love with the woman who lives there.   He reads a great history of place and wanders in the ruins of the old house… and somehow ends up in the 14th century (time slip!).  He gets to experience a bunch of interesting history (and a lot of church debate), but eventually makes it back to the present and his love…

In 1889, Henry married Margaret Duckworth (with Ella Coltman along for the ride, of course) at the island chapel of her family estate, Orchardleigh.  Well learned, radical, and from a publishing family, Margaret influenced Henry to shift from practicing law to focusing on literary pursuits.

It turns out that The Old Country is fictionalized Orchardleigh.  It enacts a romantic ideal that Margaret’s childhood home deeply tied them to its ancient heritage through the land itself–and acts as a testament of his deep love for her.

Well, we know Henry’s married love life was complicated (i.e. Henry, Margaret, Ella triangle), and it gets more so.  Soon, he met Alice Hylton, who lived with her husband (the Baron Hylton) and children at Ammerdown, fine estate not far from Orchardleigh.  Apparently they started a spiritual, poetic, artistic affair–lots of exciting meetings at beautiful gardens and galleries in London.  And lots of love poems.

Margaret and Ella did not like Alice…

By 1909 we get the lovey-dovey collaboration The Book of Cupid: Being an Anthology from the English poets (London: Constable & Co. 1909).  Its a collection of old English love poems edited by Henry, with some not very good illustrations from Alice.  I couldn’t find any information about Alice as an illustrator or artist–because she is not known as one… However, she is known for garden design.  With a bit of professional help, she designed a new Italian formal garden for Ammerdown featuring yew trees, fountains, and statues.

Now if you have read Aladore, maybe she is starting to sound familiar.  Henry worked closely with Alice while writing Aladore and would have her read every chapter as he wrote it.  It was apparently based on vivid dreams.  But, also his real life:

Alice becomes the mysterious lover Aithne.  Alice’s childhood home Bamburgh Castle becomes Aithne’s Castle Kerioc.  Ammerdown and its gardens become Aladore.

And while Henry wrote Aladore, Alice made the illustrations.

Note: most of this gossip comes from Susan Chitty, Playing the Game: A Biography of Sir Henry Newbolt (London: Quartet Books, 1997).  Chitty’s husband is related to Newbolt, allowing her access to huge numbers of private letters still in the hands of various friends and family.  Lucky for us that Victorians were such great letter writers!  For a much less interesting bio, see: Derek Winterbottom, Henry Newbolt and the Spirit of Clifton (Bristol: Redcliffe Press, 1986).