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Famous After Death - Ernest Dowson

Ernest Dowson

Poor Ernest.
As talented as he was, with some published success, Ernest was a troubled man. He was very sensitive, which no doubt gave rise to his enormous talent as a poet, but life itself was a struggle.
It's a story we've heard many times before but the two were certainly evident in Ernest. Creativity and Sensitivity. 

He died broke and alcoholic in 1900, aged only 32. 

As a young man, he was very social and had contributions to literary publications. Despite these minor successes he was not well known. He collaborated on two unsuccessful novels with Arthur Moore and worked on a novel of his own, Madame de Viole.  
Most of his work in later life was a translator of French literature. 

His father died when Ernest was just 26 and his mother committed suicide a year after. Ernest never recovered from these losses. 

Romantically he was unsuccessful too. Just looking at this photo, you can see the strain in his tender face.

Oscar Wilde provides a great insight into the type of man Ernest was, as sad as it is; 

"Poor wounded wonderful fellow that he was, a tragic reproduction of all tragic poetry, like a symbol, or a scene. I hope bay leaves will be laid on his tomb and rue and myrtle too for he knew what love was."

His most famous poem. 

 "Vitae Summa Brevis"

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate;
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
                     Prior to refurbishment.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes

Within a dream.


His gravestone was refurbished 110 years after his death, paid for and celebrated by many locals.

Post death fame.

Gone with the Wind, is a line from one of his poems. Margaret Mitchell loved it and used it for her novel.

In the Poems and Prose of Ernest Dowson, a 1919 memoir by Arthur Symons, Symons stated, "... a man who was undoubtedly a man of genius ... There never was a poet to whom verse came more naturally ... He had the pure lyric gift, unweighed or unballasted by any other quality of mind or emotion.."

His legacy continues. 

A comedy of masks : a novel (1893) With Arthur Moore.
Dilemmas, stories and studies in sentiment (1895)
Verses (1896)
The Pierrot of the minute : a dramatic phantasy in one act (1897)
Decorations in Verse and Prose (1899)
Adrian Rome (1899) With Arthur Moore.

Cynara : a little book of verse (1907)
Studies in sentiment (1915)
The Poems and Prose of Ernest Dowson, With a Memoir by Arthur Symons (1919)
Letters of Ernest Dowson (1968)
Collected shorter fiction (2003)

My Books

Other entries in Famous After Death.


  1. Wow - he coined the phrase and title, Gone with the Wind. I really like the poem you posted.
    Another tragic fallen artist story. Thanks for highlighting him for us, Anthony.
    Be well, friend.

    1. Yes another sad artist story. Thanks Robyn.
      The phrase, 'the days of wine and roses' was used for a movie too.

  2. Only 32, imagine if he had continued to write.

    1. I think most of his work was done earlier. But yes... sad.

  3. It is really a sad thing that so many brilliant and creative people never get to experience the fruits of the labor. Especially so when dying young. Great tribute to him Anthony...

    1. Thank you Pat. Not much of a life but so much talent. Those beautiful words still very powerful all these years on.


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