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West Country Poets


Portrait Drawing of Frank Curzon

FRANK CURZON (1819-)

Mr. Frank CURZON, artist, poet, and orator, was born in the city of Exeter in the year 1819, where his father was a bookseller.  He was educated at Exeter, at private academies, and was originally intended for an artist; and though he did not formally adopt this profession, he has, in the best sense of the phrase, been a successful artist throughout his career.

He was one of the founders of the Exeter Literary Society, established in 1841; this institution has become one of the most important literary centres in the West of England.  He thus describes the early days of this society:  'In 1841 I and twenty-seven others, started the Exeter Literary Society.  I borrowed a room for a year, rent-free, went and swept the room out for them every week; lent them my library, which was not a mean one, as my father was at one time a most successful bookseller; and we spent every half-penny in books.  In 1891 I paid them a visit, and they now number 900 members.'

In 1846 he published a volume of poems, 'Lays and Legends of the West.'  This work reached a second edition, and was well received by the leading papers.  In 1848-9 he was editor of the Drawing-room Magazine, in 1850 he published a monthly periodical called the Christian, and in 1853 he was editor of the Warrington Guardian.

At this time, as, indeed, for some years previously, Mr. CURZON had conjoined with his study of literature that of art, and had painted a number of portraits.  He has many interesting reminiscences of his artist days in London.  Mr. CURZON had long been actively engaged in his leisure in promoting the foundation of educational institutes in London and elsewhere, and became the honorary secretary of several of these associations.  In 1853 he was appointed secretary of the Warrington Mechanics' Institute; he then removed to Huddersfield, in the same capacity, and went to Leeds, where he still resides, in 1871.  Since that time he has been the 'head centre' or organizing secretary of the Yorkshire Union of Institutes, and most remarkable success has attended his efforts.  The union now includes nearly 300 separate institutes, with an aggregate of 62,000 members.  He also superintends the Yorkshire Village Library, which is doing immense good in the rural districts of that great county.

Mr. CURZON has been a popular lecturer for more than half a century, and in that character has probably visited every mechanics' institute and literary institution in the kingdom.  He gave his first lecture in the year 1840.  All his lectures are illustrated by sketches on the blackboard, made in the presence of the audience; and one of the lectures, 'Our faces and how we have come by them,' has been delivered upwards of five hundred times.  Mr. CURZON lectures without notes, and is able thus to adapt his address to the character of his audience or the interests of the locality; whilst his training as an artist has enabled him to make his blackboard illustrations rapid and graphic.  In this way he has been the means of imparting a love of Art to the masses of the people, and it is pleasant to know that very many have been induced to decorate their homes with works of art suggested by his lectures.

Mr. CURZON's poem 'Annie Linden' was reprinted in 1888, at the request of Lord Lytton, who had admired it very greatly.  It is a Devonshire narrative.  Many of his ballads have been set to music.

DEAR OLD DEVON

Oh, the roses! oh, the roses of our dear old land!
  How they redden in the sunshine, how they sparkle in the dew!
How they climb the cottage window for the maiden's lilied hand!
  How they blush upon her bosom, and her dainty cheek shine through!

[ . . .seven more verses . . .]

Oh! I love our dear old Devon
  For the grand hearts we recall;
For the good men God has given,
  Oh!   I love it best of all.

Transcribed by Sandra Windeatt from: Wright, W.H.K., (1896) West-Country Poets:  Their Lives and Works. London: Elliot Stock, pp.130-132..

Last updated 22 Jul 2011 - Brian Randell.

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