Poet, biographer and essayist Austin Dobson (1840–1921) was an English poet and essayist. On first acquaintance in November 1869, at the Pen and Pencil Club (mentioned below), Munby described him as "a clever young poet of vers de société" (Hudson 276). They became good friends, and Dobson was one of those whom Munby invited to stay with him when he acquired his country cottage in Pyrford, Surrey (Hudson 408). Munby dedicated his Poems: Chiefly Lyric and Elegaic to him as his "friend of forty years."

Nevertheless, during those years, Dobson seems to have been quite unaware of Munby's marriage. He treats him here mainly as a fellow-poet, admiring his poetry's "absolute sincerity, its scholarship, its technical skill, its descriptive power, and its keen feeling for and close observation of nature and rural life." But, having been well aware of Munby's "glorification of the working woman," Dobson was perhaps less surprised than most to learn of his marriage to Hannah Cullwick.

In his anonymous obituary in the Times (see Hudson 434), Dobson expresses his regret that Munby "never received the recognition he deserved," and, without mentioning the marriage here, suggests that "if his Diaries should ever be published they cannot fail to be interesting," adding rather cryptically, "they are sure not to offend against good taste."— Jacqueline Banerjee

unby, Arthur Joseph (1828–1910), poet and civil servant, born in 1828, was eldest of six sons and one daughter of Joseph Munby of Clifton Holme, Yorkshire, solicitor, a member of an old Yorkshire family, by his wife Caroline Eleanor Forth (see Memorial of Joseph Munby, by A. J. Munby, 1876). He was educated at St. Peter's School, York, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1851, proceeding M.A. in 1856. He entered Lincoln's Inn on 11 June 1851, and was called to the bar on 17 Nov. 1855. From 1858 to 1888 he held a post in the ecclesiastical commissioners' office, retiring at the age of sixty. A competent and conscientious official, he was known to his friends as an accomplished poet and man of letters. His first volume, entitled Benoni, was issued in 1852. Seven years later he was a competitor for the fifty-guinea prize offered by the Crystal Palace Company for a poem on the Burns centenary of 1859, when he was one of six competitors whose excellence was held to be not far short of that of the winner, Miss Isa Craig, afterwards Mrs. Craig-Knox.... Others of the six were Gerald Massey ... and Frederic William Henry Myers.... To Benoni succeeded, in 1865, Verses New and Old, a collection of contributions to Fraser, Macmillan, Temple Bar, Once a Week, and other magazines. In 1880 came Dorothy, a "country story," in the elegiac verse which its writer had employed for his Burns poem. Published anonymously, and dedicated to a lifelong friend, the novelist, Richard Doddridge Blackmore, its idyllic grace and vivid pictures of country scenes and life obtained for it a recognition which had not been accorded to its acknowledged predecessors. Robert Browning, to whom a copy had been forwarded through the publisher, received it with the warmest admiration, praising especially its signal "exquisitenesses of observation" and consummate craftsmanship; and it was speedily reprinted in America, going into three editions in 1882. Vestigia Retrorsum (Rosslyn series of poets) followed in 1891. This included a sonnet which in the previous year had received the diploma of the committee of the Beatrice Exposition at Florence. Vulgar Verses [that is, "verses of common life"] in dialect and out of it, written under the pseudonym of "Jones Brown" (1891); Susan, a Poem of Degrees (1893); Ann Morgan's Love, a Pedestrian Poem (1896); Poems, chiefly Lyric and Elegiac (1901); and a final volume, Relicta (1909), make up the sum of Munby's metrical output. To this last collection he prefixed the following Landor-like quatrain:

There was a morning when I follow'd Fame
There was a noonday when I caught her eye
There is an evening when I hold my name
Calmly aloof from all her hue and cry.

He also produced a few magazine articles and a compilation entitled Faithful Servants: Epitaphs and Obituaries (based on an earlier anthology of 1826), which included "A Historical Preface and a Prefatory Sonnet."

Munby's poetry is characterised by its absolute sincerity, its scholarship, its technical skill, its descriptive power, and its keen feeling for and close observation of nature and rural life. Outside this, his dominant note may be said to have been what has been called "the glorification of the working woman," with especial insistence on the dignity of manual labour.

Munby travelled widely, was a clever raconteur, and an F.S.A. with a genuine love of antiquity. For many years he was a regular contributor to Notes and Queries; and he was a warm supporter of the Working Men's College, then in Great Ormond Street, where, between 1860 and 1870, he taught a Latin class. He was a member of the Pen and Pencil Club which assembled, circa 1864–74, at Aubrey House, Notting Hill, under the auspices of Mrs. Peter Taylor. A selection from its proceedings, entitled Auld Lang Syne, was printed privately in 1877, and includes verses by Munby.

Pyrford Church, and a brass plaque on the wall there in his memory.

Munby died at his little cottage at Pyrford, near Ripley in Surrey, on 29 Jan. 1910, and was buried at Pyrford. The publication of his will in the following July disclosed the fact that on 14 January 1873 he had married his servant, Hannah Cullwick, who had died in July 1909. Owing to the refusal of his wife to quit her station, the marriage (ran the will), though known to her relations and to three of her husband's friends, had never been made known to his own family. The circumstances supply an explanation of many passages in Munby's poems which must otherwise remain obscure to his readers; and several of the pieces contained in his last volume, Relicta, issued after his wife's death, read in this light, have great beauty and pathos. He left no issue.

Munby's unmarked grave in the graveyard.

He bequeathed many of his books to Trinity College, Cambridge; and to the British Museum two deed-boxes containing photographs, MSS., diaries, &c., on condition that they were not to be opened or examined before 1 Jan. 1950.

Photographs by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to the Victorian Web or cite it in a print document.]


Dobson, Austin. "Munby, Arthur Joseph," poet and civil servant." Dictionary of National Biography. Second Supplement. Vol. II Faed-Muybridge. Internet Archive. Contributed by Hooghly Mohsin College, India. Web. 15 April 2020.

Hudson, Derek. Munby: Man of Two Worlds. The Life and Diaries of Arthur J. Munby, 1828-1910. 1972. London: Abacus, 1974.

"Obituary: Mr. Arthur Munby." Times. 5 February 1910: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 15 April 2020.

Created 15 April 2020