Authors: John Masefield

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English poet, playwright, and novelist

Author Works


Salt-Water Ballads, 1902

Ballads, 1903

The Everlasting Mercy, 1911

The Widow in the Bye Street, 1912

The Story of a Round-House, and Other Poems, 1912

Dauber: A Poem, 1913

The Daffodil Fields, 1913

Philip the King, and Other Poems, 1914

Good Friday, and Other Poems, 1916

Sonnets and Poems, 1916

Lollington Downs, and Other Poems, 1917

The Cold Cotswolds, 1917

Rosas, 1918

A Poem and Two Plays, 1919

Reynard the Fox: Or, The Ghost Heath Run, 1919

Enslaved, and Other Poems, 1920

Right Royal, 1920

King Cole, 1921

The Dream, 1922

Sonnets of Good Cheer to the Lena Ashwell Players, 1926

Midsummer Night, and Other Tales in Verse, 1928

South and East, 1929

The Wanderer of Liverpool, 1930 (poems and essay)

Minnie Maylow’s Story, and Other Tales and Scenes, 1931

A Tale of Troy, 1932

A Letter from Pontus, and Other Verse, 1936

Ode to Harvard, 1937

Some Verses to Some Germans, 1939

Guatama the Enlightened, and Other Verse, 1941

Natalie Masie and Pavilastukay: Two Tales in Verse, 1942

Wonderings (Between One and Six Years), 1943

I Want! I Want!, 1944

On the Hill, 1949

Poems, 1953

The Bluebells, and Other Verse, 1961

Old Raiger, and Other Verse, 1961

In Glad Thanksgiving, 1967

Long Fiction:

Captain Margaret, 1908

Multitude and Solitude, 1909

Lost Endeavour, 1910

The Taking of Helen, 1923

Sard Harker, 1924

Odtaa, 1926

The Hawbucks, 1929

The Bird of Dawning, 1933

Victorious Troy: Or, The Hurrying Angel, 1935

Basilissa, 1940

Short Fiction:

A Mainsail Haul, 1905

A Tarpaulin Muster, 1907


The Campden Wonder, pr. 1907 (one act)

The Tragedy of Nan, pr. 1908

Mrs. Harrison, pb. 1909 (one act)

The Tragedy of Pompey the Great, pr., pb. 1910

The Witch, pr. 1911 (adaptation of a Norwegian play)

Philip the King, pr. 1914 (one act)

The Faithful, pr., pb. 1915

The Sweeps of Ninety-Eight, pr., pb. 1916

Good Friday: A Dramatic Poem, pb. 1916

The Locked Chest, pb. 1916 (one act)

Esther, pr. 1921 (adaptation of Jean Racine’s play)

Melloney Holtspur: Or, The Pangs of Love, pb. 1922

A King’s Daughter: A Tragedy in Verse, pr. 1923

Tristan and Isolt: A Play in Verse, pr. 1923

The Trial of Jesus, pb. 1925

The Coming of Christ, pb. 1928

Easter: A Play for Singers, pr. 1929

End and Beginnings, pb. 1933

A Play of St. George, pb. 1948


Sea Life in Nelson’s Time, 1905

On the Spanish Main, 1906

Shakespeare, 1911

Gallipoli, 1916

The Battle of the Somme, 1919

Chaucer, 1931

The Conway from Her Foundation to the Present Day, 1933

The Nine Days’ Wonder, 1941

In the Mill, 1941

New Chum, 1944

So Long to Learn, 1952

Grace Before Ploughing, 1966

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

Martin Hyde, 1910

Jim Davis, 1911

The Midnight Folk, 1927

The Box of Delights, 1935


A Book of Both Sorts: Selections from the Verse and Prose, 1947


John Masefield was born June 1, 1878, the son of George and Caroline Parker Masefield. His father, a Ledbury solicitor, died when the boy was very young, leaving him in the care of his mother and an uncle. Masefield attended King’s School in Warwick, but he left at the age of thirteen to board the Conway, a training ship in the merchant service. By the time he was sixteen, he had been apprenticed on a windjammer bound for Iquique, Chile; there he became ill and had to return home. When he recovered, he was given a station on the Adriatic; it sailed to New York, and he decided before the return voyage to stay in the United States for a time.{$I[AN]9810001454}{$I[A]Masefield, John}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Masefield, John}{$I[tim]1878;Masefield, John}

John Masefield in 1935

(Library of Congress)

When he returned to London in 1897, Masefield had decided upon a literary career. In 1902 he published Salt-Water Ballads, which contains the well-known “Sea-Fever.” Over the next fifteen years he established a reputation as a poet, playwright, and novelist. In particular, he displayed an unusual ability in narrative verse, combining robust characters and realism in such poems as The Everlasting Mercy. During World War I, Masefield took part in the Red Cross Service in France and on a hospital ship at Gallipoli. In 1916 and 1918 he gave lectures in the United States in support of the Allied cause.

During the war, Masefield published Gallipoli, a vivid account of the horrors he witnessed while serving with the Red Cross. In 1919, he published Reynard the Fox, his most famous long narrative poem. He returned to the novel with Sard Harker, an engaging portrayal of a rugged adventurer.

During the 1920’s his fiction extended into the genre of children’s literature, at first an easy step in adventure stories. With the publication of The Midnight Folk in 1927, however, Masefield demonstrated his ability to handle fantasy brilliantly, at a time when children’s fantasy writing was at a low ebb. Its sequel, The Box of Delights, was not as successful, but the two fantasies have ensured a place for Masefield in the canon of British children’s literature. By contrast, his plays are now largely forgotten.

In 1930 Masefield was appointed poet laureate of England, and in 1935 he was admitted to the Order of Merit. Like other poets laureate, Masefield willingly wrote occasional verse which was less durable than his more private work; many of the poems he published during World War II are little better than propaganda. Nevertheless, he remains a figure of interest, chiefly for the energy and realism of his long narrative poems.

BibliographyBabington-Smith, Constance. John Masefield: A Life. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1978. This full biography was prepared with the active cooperation of Masefield’s family and friends. The circumstances of individual plays are discussed but little critical evaluation is attempted. Includes a select list of books by Masefield and an index.Binding, Paul. An Endless Quiet Valley: A Reappraisal of John Masefield. Woonton, Almeley, Herefordshire, England: Logaston, 1998. Binding provides a critical analysis of Masefield’s works, examining them within their historical framework. Includes index.Drew, Fraser. John Masefield’s England: A Study of the National Themes in His Work. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1973. As the title suggests, this work looks at the specific qualities of Masefield’s “Englishness” through the corpus of his work. Includes bibliography and index.Dwyer, June. John Masefield. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1987. This volume covers the whole corpus of Masefield’s work. Includes a bibliography and an index.McDonald, Jan. The New Drama, 1900-1914. Basingstoke, Hampshire, England: Macmillan, 1986. A chapter on Masefield’s The Campden Wonder and The Tragedy of Nan sets Masefield within the context of the Court Theatre and Harley Granville-Barker but sees him as somewhat atypical of the other “new dramatists.” The chapter argues that these two early plays show evidence of a power and originality of style that could have befitted English drama had Masefield developed them. Includes bibliography and index.Spark, Muriel. John Masefield. Rev. ed. London: Hutchinson, 1992. A biography and critical study of selected works. Includes bibliographic references.Sternlicht, Sanford. John Masefield. Boston: Twayne, 1977. This volume covers both life and works in a clear, well-focused way. Contains bibliography and index.
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