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Edmund Ollier

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Published : 52 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 26/11/1826
Death : 19/4/1886
Views : 1981

Miscellaneous writer; son of Charles OIlier, the publisher of Leigh Hunt, Keats, and ShelIey. Privately educated. Contributed to the Athenaeum, the Examiner, the Daily News, and other periodicals. Connected in editorial capacity with the Leader, the Atlas, the London Review. Published a volume of poems.


Compiled various works for the firm of Cassell, Petter, and Calpin, e.g., The Doré Gallery, History of the United States, History of the Russo-Turkish War. Edited first series of Essays of Elia and Leigh Hunt's Tale for a Chimney Corner, and Other Essays.

Dickens had in his library a copy of OIlier's Poems from the Greek Mythology (Stonehouse, Catalogue of the Library of Charles Dickens).

A letter from Dickens to OlIier, January 2 1850, indicates that, some ten weeks before the first number of H.W. appeared, Ollier had written to ask about a possible connection with the periodical. Dickens stated that he could not "pledge himself, beforehand, to the acceptance of any article" or offer Ollier "any regular engagement" but that plans for the "projected Miscellany" called for the use of good occasional contributions.

Dickens's published letters contain no references to OIlier's H.W. prose writings. An unpublished letter to Wills, August 24 1854 (MS Huntington Library), refers to "Faces", assigned in the Office Book to OIlier, as by Morley. A letter of 1864 to OIlier concerns the points that Dickens wanted made in an A.Y.R. article.

Leigh Hunt, in the Spectator, 1859, stated that Ollier's verse contributions to H.W. (as also his prose writings) were "well appreciated by its illustrious conductor" (cited in Leigh Hunt's Literary Criticism, ed. Houtchens and Houtchens, p. 623). Dickens, in a letter to Mrs. Cowden Clarke, December 28 1852, referred to Ollier as "an excellent and true young poet, as I think"; but his letters to Wills hardly indicate great admiration for the writings of the "excellent and true" poet. Of "Sir Graelent" Dickens wrote: "Ollier's ballad will do"; in "Starlight in the Garden" Ollier was to alter a line that contradicted a preceding one; a poem "full of strange conceits and strange metre" which Dickens took to be by Ollier prompted his comment: "Tennyson is ruining all these writers"; and a poem that Ollier submitted to A.Y.R. Dickens termed "maudlin" (August 7, September 18 1853; November 24 1855; November 25 1862).

Leigh Hunt thought "Starlight in the Garden" "the most beautiful among the many beautiful things" that Ollier had written: "the whole poem, every word, is lovely, and dainty, and fanciful, and imaginative, and full of subtlest truth and feeling". Hunt planned to read the poem to Robert Bell and to talk to Bell about it, "and I am sure he will talk of it elsewhere, and make people aware of the poet they have got in Household Words" (Correspondence, II, 189-190).

Another admirer of OIlier's H.W. poems was Mrs. Cowden Clarke, who owned herself "quite smitten with this young poet's verse". In contrast with the "crabbed obscurity and far-fetched, incomprehensible mysticism" of other poets, OIlier's writing she found to be "smooth, clear, understandable, true poetry"—"quite in the genuine taste and sweet versification of Leigh Hunt's school". "The Host's Story" Mrs. Cowden Clarke thought to be "by dear Leigh Hunt" himself, until informed by Dickens that it was by OIlier (Letters to an Enthusiast, pp. 166-167).

Of the prose items listed below, "Timber-Bending" seems unrelated to Oilier's interests; the contributor's name is not clearly written in the Office Book, but seems to read "Ollier".

Harper's reprinted "Speed the Plough" and "Vampyres" without acknowledgment to H.W.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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