Date of Award

Spring 1950

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Abstract

Ernest Christopher Dowson has been dead fifty years. He died in his thirty-third year, on February 23, 1900, and was buried in the Roman Catholic plot of Lewisham Cemetery, London, on February 27. His brief life was unimpressive, singularly devoid of any accomplishment that might arrest the attention of anyone save the student of literature interested in that decade of Victorian letters loosely labeled the 90's. No historian of that period, however, dares omit his name from that list of writers who have created a literature which will ever continue to delight readers for many and diverse reasons. Dowson's place in the period is, perhaps, slight, but secure nonetheless. The meager output of his pen serves to shed greater light on an era characterized by disillusionment, doubt, and dispair. It serves, too, to bring into focus the manifold aspects of a movement in letters questioned for its orthodoxy, suspected for its sincerity, and often misjudged for its intentions. The Victorian period in English literature is rich in Catholic thought. All too little has been done to mine this rich vein, to bring its inherent grandeur to men's minds, to shift it from the bulky mass of literature born of the period. The purpose of this paper is to display the riches, definitely Catholic, one of the writers, little suspected of having contributed anything to the cause of Catholic belles-lettres. Not that Ernest Dowson led a Catholic life; not that his pen sketched abundantly the beauties of Catholic truth. A cursory study of his life will convince the reader that Dowson was at best a nominal Catholic. But he has echoed sentiments worthy of the noblest of God's troubadours; he has boiced thoughts, occasionally, vibrant with a spirituality which is synonymous with true Catholicism. This study will show, however, that Dowson, though not militantly Catholic, did have more than Catholic leanings. There runs through practically all his writings a note consonant with Catholic belief; there is in many of his poems and in some of his stories a preoccupation with thoughts amazingly Catholic. Since scarcely any work has been done on this specific subject, it will be the burden of this paper to indicate and bring forth the happy tendency in Dowson to display a Catholic mind.

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