Monday, August 2, 2010

Days of Wine and Roses

This afternoon there was a short ceremony at Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery to mark the restoration of Ernest Christopher Dowson's grave on the 143rd anniversary of his birth. The original memorial has been restored as fully as possible and a new stone at the foot of the grave quotes two verses of his poetry. The restoration was paid for by public subscription after a facebook page was set up in his memory. Attendees were an ecletic mix of local authors, poets and local historians.

Dowson was an industrious translator, novelist and poet; mainly remembered for his poetry that has given us such phrases as "days of wine and roses" and "gone with the wind".

He was born in Lee, where his mother's family came from, and his father had a ship repair yard in Limehouse. The family fortunes declined in the 1890s. Ernest's father Alfred died from an overdose in 1894, the same year that Ernest contracted tuberculosis. Ernest's mother committed suicide early the following year. Ernest's only sibling Rowland Corbet Dowson emigrated to Canada a few weeks after their mother's death.

By the beginning of 1900 Ernest was in a bad way when a friend, Robert Sherard, found him wandering apparently penniless in the Euston Road and took him home to 26 Sandhurst Gardens, Catford where he died of tuberculosis and general neglect about six weeks later on 23 February 1900.

Despite his apparent poverty, in May the following year his estate was valued at £1,119 18s 7d, he did not leave a will and Rowland inherited. Rowland had moved to the United States in 1898 and married in about 1906. In 1910 he was working as a tiler and living with his wife Florence in a boarding house in Seattle, Washington. He died on 20 September 1913 and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, San Diego, California.