Walter de la Mare was born in born in Charlton, Kent, England in April of 1873. He was one of three sons born to father, James Edward de la Mare, a principal at the Bank of England, and Lucy Sophia Browning. De la Mare also had four sisters, one of whom died in infancy. He was known as ‘Jack’ as a youth, not taking on the name Walter until later in life.
Early Life and Education
As a boy, he attended St. Paul’s Cathedral School. This institution ended up marking the end of his formal education. When he left St. Paul’s he immediately went to work for the statistics department of the London office of Standard Oil. He remained in this job for over eighteen years. It was a requirement as he had a family to support. De la Mare met and married Elfrida Ingpen, who was at the time the lead in a dramatic production he worked on. She was ten years older than him and the couple would go on to have four children together.
Although he was deeply entrenched in his work and family life, he still found time to write. He spent a great deal of time writing poetry while working in the offices of the company. De la Mare’s first published story appeared in the journal Sketch, in 1895. It was titled, “Kismet.”
His first collection of poetry titled, Songs of Childhood, was published in 1902. It is now considered to be a major work in his career and has been recognized as a prime example of children’s literature. The work also showed the beginnings of the “romantic imagination” for which del la Mare would come to be known. It was followed by his first novel, Henry Brocken, two years later. His next major work was Poems, published in 1906. At this point, he was granted a Civil List pension. This allowed him to focus exclusively on his writing.
Later Life and Death
Throughout the early 1900s, the family lived in Beckenham and Anerley. In 1940 Elfrida was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She spent the next three years living as an invalid before her death in 1943. De la Mare lived in Twickenham for the rest of his life. In the mid-1900s he won the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association for his volume, Collected Stories for Children.
In 1947 de la Mare had a heart attack and then a second to which he succumbed, in 1956. His final year had been spent bedridden. He was buried in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral.