Walter de la Mare's The Listeners, Essential Revision Notes
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Walter de la Mare is considered one of modern literature's chief exemplars of the romantic imagination. His complete works form a sustained treatment of romantic themes: dreams, death, rare states of mind and emotion, fantasy worlds of childhood, and the pursuit of the transcendent.
De la Mare's life was outwardly uneventful. As a youth he attended St. Paul's Cathedral School, and his formal education did not extend beyond this point. On graduation he went to work for the Anglo-American (Standard) Oil Company, remaining with the firm for eighteen years. De la Mare began writing short stories and poetry while working as a bookkeeper in the company's London office during the 1890s. His first published short story, ‘Kismet,’ appeared in the journal Sketch in 1895.
In 1902 he published his first major work, the poetry collection Songs of Childhood, which was recognized as a significant example of children's literature for its creative imagery and variety of meters. Critics often assert that a childlike richness of imagination influenced everything de la Mare wrote, emphasizing his frequent depiction of childhood as a time of intuition, deep emotion, and closeness to spiritual truth.
In 1908, following the publication of his novel Henry Brocken and the poetry collection titled Poems, de la Mare was granted a Civil List pension, enabling him to terminate his corporate employment and focus exclusively on writing. He died in 1956.
The appearance of Songs of Childhood introduced de la Mare as a talented author of children's literature, a genre in which he produced collections of fiction and verse, and several highly praised anthologies. Conrad Aiken, writing in his Scepticisms: Notes on Contemporary Poetry in 1919 found that de la Mare's Peacock Pie ‘contains some of the most delightful work he has done.’ The world ...