Image of Walter de la Mare


Lifetime: 1873 - 1956 Passed: ≈ 67 years ago





Walter de la Mare

Walter John de la Mare was an English poet, short story writer, and novelist. He is probably best remembered for his works for children, for his poem "The Listeners", and for a highly acclaimed selection of subtle psychological horror stories, amongst them "Seaton's Aunt" and "All Hallows".

In 1921, his novel Memoirs of a Midget won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, and his post-war Collected Stories for Children won the 1947 Carnegie Medal for British children's books.

De la Mare was born in Kent at 83 Maryon Road, Charlton[5] (now part of the Royal Borough of Greenwich), partly descended from a family of French Huguenots, and was educated at St Paul's Cathedral School. He was born to James Edward de la Mare, a principal at the Bank of England, and Lucy Sophia Browning (James's second wife), daughter of Scottish naval surgeon and author Dr Colin Arrott Browning. The suggestion that Lucy was related to poet Robert Browning has been found to be incorrect. He had two brothers, Francis Arthur Edward and James Herbert, and four sisters Florence Mary, Constance Eliza, Ethel (who died in infancy), and Ada Mary. De la Mare preferred to be known as 'Jack' by his family and friends as he disliked the name Walter.

He worked from 1890 in the statistics department of the London office of Standard Oil for eighteen years to support his family, but nevertheless found time to write. In 1908, through the efforts of Sir Henry Newbolt he received a Civil List pension which enabled him to concentrate on writing.

In 1892, de la Mare joined the Esperanza Amateur Dramatics Club, where he met and fell in love with Elfrida Ingpen, the leading lady, who was ten years older than he. They were married on 4 August 1899, and they went on to have four children: Richard Herbert Ingpen, Colin, Florence and Lucy Elfrida de la Mare. The new family lived in Beckenham and Anerley from 1899 till 1924. It was in Beckenham at Mackenzie Road that the children were born; his first book of poems, Songs of Childhood, published (under the name Walter Ramal); and Henry Brocken written. Their house at Anerley in south London was the scene of many parties, notable for imaginative games of charades.

In 1940, his wife Elfrida was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and spent the rest of her life as an invalid, eventually dying in 1943. From 1940 until his death, de la Mare lived in South End House, Montpelier Row, Twickenham, the same street on which Alfred, Lord Tennyson, had lived a century earlier. For the Collected Stories for Children (Faber and Faber, 1947), he won the annual Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject. It was the first collection to win the award.

De la Mare suffered from a coronary thrombosis in 1947 and died of another in 1956. He spent his final year mostly bed-ridden, being cared for by a nurse whom he loved but never had a physical relationship with. His ashes are buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral, where he had once been a choirboy.

Books by Walter de la Mare

Ophelia Cover image


Poetry Fiction

Ophelia loved Hamlet, was repulsed by him, and went insane. She drowned in a stream, gathering flowers of remembrance. This is one of a number of poems that De La Mare wrote about Shakespeare characters.  Ophelia, read by twelve readers. This was pub...

Collected Poems 1901-1918  Cover image

Collected Poems 1901-1918

Children Poems Childhood Songs Poetry

Early poems written by Walter de la Mare. de la Mare is best remembered for his works for children.

The Three Mulla-mulgars  Cover image

The Three Mulla-mulgars

Fairy Tale
Children Adventure Kingdom Children's Literature Journey Myths Wildlife Legends

This is a magical tale of three monkey brothers who go in search of their father, and have great adventure along the way.

Peacock Pie: A Book of Rhymes Cover image

Peacock Pie: A Book of Rhymes

Young Children Poems Childhood Prose Imagination Inspirational

These wonderful, whimsical poems from the incomparable Walter de la Mare describe the bliss of childhood, explore the marvel of a child's imagination and portray the intriguing landscapes of existences both lived and imagined by a young mind in a mag...

The Disguise Cover image

The Disguise

Mystery Disguise Poems Reflection Honesty Verses Fortnightly

The poem is a haunting exploration of the concept of disguise, delving into the ways in which people hide their true selves from the world around them. De la Mare's use of language is both lyrical and evocative, drawing readers in with his vivid des...

Return Cover image


A story of psychological horror, The Return explores ideas of identity, love, and alienation. Arthur grapples with the reactions of his family and community, and his own sanity, when he experiences a sudden and mysterious "transformation". ( Summary...

Listeners Cover image


This year's Hollowe'en offering is an eerie tale by Walter de La Mare. ( David Lawrence )

Crossings: A Fairy Play Cover image

Crossings: A Fairy Play

Under the terms of a will, the Wildersham children have to relocate from the family house in the city to "Crossings" in the country, and to spend the first fortnight alone fending for themselves in the house. The children encounter interesting countr...

Sunken Garden and Other Poems Cover image

Sunken Garden and Other Poems

This fantastic adventure into the realms of the imagination is a superb example of the incomparable skill of poet Walter de la Mare. In this collection the poet explores the intersection of reality and fantasy within the context of an earth-centeredn...

Motley, and Other Poems Cover image

Motley, and Other Poems

From English poet Walter De la Mare comes an early collection of poems reflecting on loss, mortality, and universal questions. - Summary by Larry Wilson

Riddle and Other Stories Cover image

Riddle and Other Stories

Walter de la Mare has entertained generations with his lyrical and fantastical stories of lost childhood and the magic hidden within plain sight. At times, these themes manifest as psychologically complex tales of faith and regret. At other times,...