Early Promise


Arts & Culture

You may be familiar with Robert Bridges, who served as England’s Poet Laureate. But chances are, you are unfamiliar with the work of Digby Mackworth Dolben, a school friend of Bridges’s who died at only nineteen. An eccentric and a zealous Anglo-Catholic, long after his death Dolben continued to exercise a compelling hold over his circle, which included Gerard Manley Hopkins. In 1915, Bridges had published a volume of his school friend’s poetry. As Carl Miller writes in the Public Domain Review,

The Poems of Digby Mackworth Dolben does have a curious interest of its own. The poems themselves are indifferent, at best the juvenilia of an artist whose promise had been thwarted by an early death, but Bridges introduced them with a lengthy memoir that depicts Dolben’s strangely troubled life with understated skill.

After his premature death by drowning, Hopkins (into whose relationship with the young man many a scholar has looked) wrote, “there can very seldom have happened the loss of so much beauty (in body and mind and life) and of the promise of still more as there has been in his case.”