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Robert Stephen Hawker

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Published : 9 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 3/12/1803
Death : 15/8/1875
Views : 2978

Divine; poet. B.A. Oxford, 1828; M.A. 1836. In December 1834, instituted to vicarage of Morwenstow, a village on the Cornish coast with which his name has ever since been associated. In last hours of his life received into Roman Catholic church, a proceeding that aroused a bitter periodical controversy. Distributed some of his verses first as fugitive leaflets; contributed to Notes & Queries, Willis's Current Notes, the Lamp, and other periodicals. Published Tendrils, 1821; Records of the Western Shore, 1832; Ecclesia, 1840; Echoes from Old Cornwall, 1846; The Quest of the Sangraal, 1864; and other works.


Hawker came into correspondence with Dickens in 1852, as a result of the appearance in H.W., October 30, of Forster's article "The Reason Why", which quoted, as in entirety an ancient ballad, a version of Hawker's Trelawny ballad. In a "chip" in a following number, Forster corrected "our mistake", and gave praise to Hawker's Ecclesia (in which the ballad had appeared) as a volume of poems "remarkable for their feeling and grace of expression", deserving more recognition than they had received.

The incident led to Hawker's being asked to contribute to H.W. "I am in cordial correspondence with Dickens", wrote Hawker, November 30, to his brother, "and I am to contribute to Household Words, and 'cannot send MSS. too often'”. Hawker sent only three contributions, but he noted with satisfaction that Dickens "does pay" (Byles, Life and Letters of R. S. Hawker, pp. 249, 252). It was not until Hawker began contributing to A.Y.R. some ten years later that he found occasion to complain of Dickens's edi!torial arrangements: the remuneration was "Scrivener's pay"—no more than a solicitor paid his copying clerk; expected cheques failed to arrive; Wills neglected to acknowledge contributions; he gave absurd or irrelevant reasons for rejecting papers; and he mutilated Hawker's articles. From one paper he cut out the "best parts" and put in "some trash of his own"; from another he cut out a paragraph and inserted it in a paper not by Hawker. " ... [I]t is most debasing to have one's MSS. at the mercy of such a Man as Wills". Nor did Dickens escape unscathed: mentioning "The Uncommercial Traveller" and one of his rejected papers, Hawker commented: "It does not really annoy me that I cannot write down to the Cockney slipslop of modern serial literature" (Life and Letters, chap. xxiii, passim).

[See also Charlotte Elizabeth HawkerDJO Ed.].

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

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Clergy of the Church of England Database

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