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West Country Poets

GEORGE V. KEAST (fl. c.1850-)

The initials 'G.V.K.' are well known to newspaper readers in the Western counties, particularly those who favour theatrical topics, and are fond of humorous sketches in prose and verse.

Mr. KEAST was born at Devonport about 1850, and reared on Dartmoor for about eight years.  His parents then removed to East Stonehouse, one of the Plymouth triplet of towns.  He received his education from the late Mr. George JAGO, at the Public School, Plymouth, where he remained until the age of fifteen.  He says he was chiefly distinguished at school for writing comic essays and "mitching,", i.e. playing truant.

Leaving school, he joined the Navy, and served about eighteen months, during which time he commenced contributing to various papers, including Fun, the Weekly Budget, etc.  Being released from the service, he tried his hand at several occupations on shore, and then went on the staff of the Western Morning News as a reporter.  He posed as the comic poet of the Lantern, a small satirical Plymouth paper, and then started the Thunderbolt, the precursor of the Western Figaro, which still flourishes.  For a time he wrote and starved in London; then went to Luton, to edit a weekly paper there; from thence to South Shields in the same capacity; down again to Brighton, on the Sussex Daily News, where he remained for five years, and started the Dolphin, a comic paper, which was a great success.  In or about 1877 or 1878 he returned to Plymouth, and assisted to float the Western Figaro, a smart local quizzical paper.  This he has edited off an on for some twelve or fourteen years, contributing largely both in prose and verse.  He has written hundreds of poems, which are scattered about in all sorts of papers, from the Graphic and Detroit Free Press to the Weekly Mercury and Western Figaro.

Besides this, he has written about a dozen pantomimes, for the theatres at Brighton, South Shields, the Royal and Grand at Plymouth, and others.  Hew has written comic songs and sketches for Vance, Arthur Roberts, and others, and is now a regular contributor to the Western Independent, published at Devonport, with occasional offerings to Tit Bits and other London journals.  We append two specimens of his poetry, to show his different veins.


High on a cliff where the sea-winds quiver,
  And white-winged ships speed in from afar;
Near to the mouth of a slumb'rous river,
  Darkly mirroring moon or star;
River and sea that the winds awaken,
  Ships that by sea-winds tossed may be,
Stands there in grandeur, grim, unshaken,
  This ruined pile by the Northern Sea.

[. . .seven more verses . . .]


Across from my window at earliest dawn
  There comes with the sweetness of blossoming May
Soft through the casement and curtains drawn
  The tender trill of a thrush's lay.

And over the way, too, before I arise
  (I don't rise too early, you understand),
There's a slim sort of maiden with soft blue eyes
  Who bangs away at her semi-grand.

Transcribed by Sandra Windeatt from: Wright, W. H. K.,(1896)West-Country Poets: Their Lives and Works. London: Elliot Stock, pp.48-51

Last updated 22 Jul 2011 - Brian Randell.

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