Robert Stephen Hawker


20 April 2013

The  Hawker Society now has its own dedicated website at The pages which were hosted here beneath the Society’s heading have been transferred across and membership enquiries can now be made directly via their contact form. The intention is for the two sites to complement each other, with the new site eventually expanding to include more articles on Hawker, his writings and his times.

4 March 2013

A new article on  Ebbingford Manor has been added at ‘Literary Places’. Ebbingford was the Bude home of the I’ans family and is presumed to have been the setting for Hawker’s proposal to his first wife, Charlotte I’ans.

3 March 2013

Click here for further details of the Hawker manuscript being offered for sale by Bonhams on 10 April 2013.

Elsewhere on their website Bonhams have posted a very nice short video of Roy Davids talking about some of the other items included in the sale.

19 JANUARY 2013

A rare Hawker manuscript is being offered for sale by Bonhams on 10 April 2013:

AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT OF A POEM, ‘The Lamb and the Snake’, signed (‘R. S. Hawker’), 12 lines in three four-line stanzas, 1 page, quarto, short tears in central horizontal fold, paper slightly darkened at edges, with an accompanying letter, both dated from Morwenstow, 8 May 1844. £2,000-3,000.

A Lamb beside a fountain lay !
Her soft white Mother far away,
Alone, she slumbered on the brink,
And by and by will bend to drink ! . . .

In the accompanying letter, addressed to George Reid, Hawker expresses pleasure that his verses have met with his correspondent’s approbation and that his autograph is to be added to his collection. Hawker informs Reid that ‘The lines are an illustration of Overbeck’s Good Shepherd for Burns and will be published soon in a pictorial volume’, and comments that he does not contribute to the magazine Reid had mentioned and supposes that the editor must have received his lines from another person.

According to Hawker’s son-in-law and posthumous editor, C. E. Byles, the poem is a translation of a piece by the German writer Guido Gorres. The translation was done by Hawker in collaboration with his first wife, Charlotte I’ans and Byles included it in ‘Cornish Ballads and Other Poems’, (John Lane, 1904), where it can be found on page 300.

No poetical manuscripts by Hawker have been sold at auction in the last forty years at least and this is a rare opportunity to acquire a piece of special interest. Hawker’s vagueness in the accompanying letter regarding the source of his material is reminiscent of his many other literary sleights of hand – ‘Trelawny’ being the most famous example – and could well increase the appeal of the item for collectors. Click here for information on catalogues, etc. . . .

11 AUGUST 2012

Over the past couple of days there have been several mentions of Hawker on the web. My favourite is from a mother upset by her son’s new tattoo who seems to think that quoting RSH on shipwrecked sailors somehow validates her prejudices. This raises special pleading to an interesting new level but sadly there was no information as to the nature of the tattoo itself which I’d hoped might be “I would not be forgotten in this land” enclosed in a scroll around the son’s left bicep.

A travel piece by a writer visiting Morwenstow from South Africa covers all the usual bases, as does a timely article from the Cornish Guardian, claiming Hawker for Cornwall. I’m currently working on a post about Hawker’s Devon roots which will hopefully put this into better perspective.

Finally Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog, which has featured Hawker before in his disguise as a mermaid, has a post on an incident which took place in Boscastle in 1858 and a subsequent letter from RSH to The Times. Hawker’s belief in punishment by weather/natural phenomena is something that I hadn’t previously given much thought to and it strikes me that this would be an interesting topic to research.

1 JULY 2012

New articles on the home page include a piece on Tonacombe Manor and an interesting guest post by Lee Robertson on the subject of ‘Carrow’s Run’. Lee has recently published two eBook novellas set in 6th century Cornwall which tell the story of a cleric and medic named Talan who travels from Wales to Hartland with King Brychan’s son, Nectan. There’s more information on Lee’s website and the Kindle versions, Talan and the Welsh Boy, and Talan and King Doniert’s Torc are available from Amazon.

Our updated Hawker Society flyer can now be downloaded from the Free Publications page and members are invited to print and distribute copies to any interested parties. The flyer features an illustration of Hawker’s Hut by the artist James Hobbs. James has family connections with Morwenstow and I’m delighted that he’s allowed us to include this lovely image.

10 MAY 2012

A new exhibition at the British Library – ‘Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands’ – runs from 11 May – 25 September 2012. The oldest manuscript in the exhibition will be the 10th Century Exeter Book with the poem ‘The Seafarer’, on loan from the Exeter Cathedral Library. If you can’t attend you can still take part by helping to create an online literary map of the ‘British and Irish Isles’, with literary works relating to specific places. The BBC website has a good audio slideshow which suggests the project will be of interest to anybody who enjoys linking literature with landscapes.

15 APRIL 2012

A digital copy of Charlotte Hawker’s translation of The Manger of the Holy Night by Guido Gorres is available to read at the Internet Archive. Tracking down a print edition, assuming any have survived, is complicated by the fact that the author is identified only as ‘C. E. H. Morwenstow’, although copies are obtainable on Amazon in a print on demand format. Unfortunately, Charlotte’s other translation, Follow Me, or Lost and Found, doesn’t appear to have been scanned as yet.

31 MARCH 2012

While doing some research into the precise location of Hawker’s grave in Plymouth, I’ve discovered the Ford Park Cemetery Trust’s excellent website.

The site is very comprehensive and includes a Publications order form to download and print. Their ‘Heritage Trail Booklet’ (£3.50 + £1.50 P&P) and ‘Plan of Cemetery’ (£1.00 + £0.50 P&P) both sound worth having, especially since the money helps to support the Trust. At one time the cemetery had fallen into a sadly neglected state – this page provides a brief pre-trust history – but the rescue seems to have been a success and the oldest quarter is now listed as a Grade II* landscape.

19 MARCH 2012

New additions to the website include a poem, ‘Hawker of Morwenstow’, by Lionel Johnson. Several extra items have also been added to the ‘Afterlife’ pages: a not-too-serious collection of Hawker-related objects acquired on eBay and elsewhere.

Following the interest shown in Hawker during the successful Stratton Book Fest, the Friends of St Andrew’s have added a link to us on their webpage which is already bringing new visitors. The recent Hugh Breton posts have been linked to by the Devon History Society, and our page view count is now standing at well over 6000 views.

2 MARCH 2012

Two posts about the Rev. H. Hugh Breton, one of Hawker’s successors as vicar of Morwenstow, have been added to the website. The first covers Breton’s booklet Hawker of Morwenstow and includes a link to a PDF file of the complete text.

A further piece in the ‘Articles’ section provides a brief biography of Hugh Breton and a list of all his publications. An article about William Maskell is currently in preparation.

22 FEBRUARY 2012

STRATTON BOOKFEST – FRIDAY 2nd AND SATURDAY 3rd MARCH. The Friends of St. Andrew’s are holding their inaugural Stratton Bookfest in just over a week’s time. It aims to be the largest book event in North Cornwall and will included a themed booksale, exhibitions and writers’ events. Meet a local poet, view a leaf from a 14th century bible and examine antiquarian books with a Cornish flavour. The new Hawker Society flyer will be making its first appearance. Read more at the Friends of St Andrews website…

11 FEBRUARY 2012

The January 2012 edition of The Pembroke Bullfrog, a magazine produced by students at Pembroke College, Oxford, includes an article on Hawker by Mike Kalisch. Hawker was admitted to Pembroke on 28 April 1823 and studied there until his marriage to Charlotte on 6 November of the same year, after which he was obliged to transfer to Magdalen Hall (now part of Hertford College). As Kalisch rightly points out, Pembroke has so far failed to provide Hawker with the recognition that he deserves, and it’s good to see this fact acknowledged. Unfortunately the article contains numerous inaccuracies. Hawker’s supposed dedication to keeping watch from his hut for the ships of smugglers, in order to ‘warn them of immediate dangers’, and his habit of providing ‘those he did not reach in time’ with a Christian burial, is a particularly inventive example, but there are many others. The Hawker Society is mentioned in the acknowledgments to the illustrations, which were provided by this website.

30 JANUARY 2012

The Alliance of Literary Societies, of which the Hawker Society is a member, will be holding their 2012 Literary Weekend and AGM in Nottingham on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 May. The weekend of talks, tours and conversations about books and writers is being hosted this year by the Dickens Fellowship: find out more at the ALS website…

11 DECEMBER 2011

The website continues to draw visitors and has now had over 4000 page views. New pages this month include Henry Sewell Stokes’ memorial poem for Hawker ‘The Plaint of Morwenstow’, along with a short biography of Stokes taken from the book West Country Poets: Their Lives and Their Works, published in 1896. There’s also a new addition to the ‘Afterlife’ pages, which will be considerably expanded when I get around to uploading the rest of the things I’ve accumulated.

In the process of putting together the piece on ‘The Poor Man and his Parish Church’ I came across an interesting article on the Exeter Cathedral website: Hooker Lecture 2010 – Exeter Cathedral (this link is to a PDF). The title of the lecture is ‘What can the Twenty-First Century Church learn from the Victorians?’ and although Hawker isn’t mentioned by name he certainly played a part in the events under discussion.

Finally, some non-Hawker news: any Keats enthusiasts who are going to be within reach of Teignmouth during the Christmas and New Year holidays may like to take a last look at the relatively untouched waterfront along Back Beach before the flood defence work commences in January 2012 – see ‘In the Footsteps of John Keats’for more on this.

15 NOVEMBER 2011

The Hawker Society has recently joined The Alliance of Literary Societies, an umbrella organisation for literary societies/groups in the UK. Their website includes a calender of some of the events on offer during the coming months  –  it’s good to note that they are spread fairly widely around the country and are by no means exclusively focused on London.

11 NOVEMBER 2011

Bonhams’ sale on 29 November of ‘Books, Maps & Manuscripts and Photographs’ includes a rare first edition of Hawker’s earliest published work, Tendrils, by “Reuben”. A search of the Open Library suggests that no digitized version is available yet, so it’s nice that the Bonhams website is offering a glimpse of the title page.


Two recent contributions from members are now available on the Hawker Society pages of the website. ‘A Visit to Robert Stephen Hawker’, an extract from an unpublished memoir by John Mitchinson, Master of Pembroke College, Oxford, from 1899-1918, has been included here by kind permission of the Master, Fellows and Scholars of Pembroke College, Oxford, along with a link to an eleven-page catalogue of the College’s Hawker papers. The second item, ‘A New Hawker Letter’, provides both the text and a photograph of a previously unknown letter in Hawker’s vigorous handwriting, dated May 5 1857, and almost certainly addressed to J. G. Godwin. Interestingly both pieces throw a little more light on Hawker’s first and second wives, who tend to be somewhat shadowy figures in many of the contemporary accounts.

An excellent article on Hawker which includes a link to this website has been published on Anglicans Online and has brought us a considerable number of new visitors. I hadn’t come across Anglicans Online before and was pleased to find that it looks like a useful site, particularly at the moment with Occupy LSX and the new report from the St Paul’s Institute currently in the news.

Finally, a beautiful sonnet by the American writer, Gamel Woolsey, ‘When I am dead and laid at last to rest’, is the latest addition to the gradually expanding ‘Poems’ pages.

14 OCTOBER 2011

During September I was able to stay for a week at Welcombe, Devon, Hawker’s second parish from 1850 until his death in 1875. I’ve brought back plenty of new photos which I’m hoping to post over the coming months and in the meantime you can read a short article, ‘Parson Hawker at Welcombe’, on my other website, Literary Places. The site covers a range of writers, mainly connected with the south west of England, so Hawker fits in well there and the article includes a link to these pages which may encourage people to find out more about him.

Hawker got a couple of mentions recently on Paul Waters’ political blog Liberal Burblings. Paul was born in Bude and when he came to write a piece on the proposed ‘Devonwall’ consituency he opened with a reference to ‘Trelawny’ and the closeness of Hawker’s parish to the Devon border. Thinking that Hawker’s connection with Welcombe might be of interest to him in this context I sent him an email, and he used this as the basis for a second article. He was also kind enough to add a link to this website which has brought us some additional visitors.

Planning is now getting under way for the first Hawker Society event in summer 2012 – more on this soon.


Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog recently included a post about Hawker’s mermaid antics, under the title ‘Cornish Merman – Half Priest, Half Fish’. Click here to read more…

The article ended with a request for further information and, as you can see, Dr Beachcombing posted my reply and kindly provided a link to this website. He also mentioned the site in his monthly email roundup which you can read here…  The description of Hawker as ‘the eccentric’s eccentric’ is rather nice, and the links have brought a number of visitors to the site who may not otherwise have found it.

The link recently added at the foot of the Robert Stephen Hawker Wikipedia page is also bringing in visitors, and I was pleased to discover that the references section of their page on the Caledonia is now citing this website’s article on the topic.