John Dover Wilson

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John Dover Wilson

Also Known As: "John Dover Wilson"
Birthdate: (87)
Birthplace: Mortlake, Surrey, England
Death: January 16, 1969 (87)
Immediate Family:

Son of Edwin Wilson and Elizabeth Dover
Husband of Dorothy Mary Wilson and Elizabeth Emma Arkwright
Father of Godfrey Baldwin Wilson; Audrey Helen Margaret Lawson and Caroline Elizabeth Wilson
Brother of Lancelot Dover Wilson; Lieutenant Edwin Walter Dover WILSON; (Elizabeth) Angela Wilson; Michael Dover Wilson and Winifred Moore Wilson

Managed by: Susan Mary Rayner (Green) ( Ryan)
Last Updated:

About John Dover Wilson

CH 1936, MA LittD FBA etc Hon Fellow of Gonville & Caius Coll

Educ: C.H., Litt., D., F.B.A., M.A.

C.H. 1936 M.A. ;Litt D (Camb) FBA Hon LL.D (Natal and Edinburgh.) Hon D Lit. (Durh and Leics) D es L Hon (Lille) Hon D Lit (London) Hon Fell. Of Gonville and Caius Coll Cambridge.

Educated Lancing College, Gonville and Caius College Cambridge (History Scholar, Members'Prizeman 1902, Harness Prizeman 1902, second class history Tripos 1903; BA 1903. MA 1908. Assistant Master Whitgift Grammar school 1904-5. English Lector in the University of Helsingfors, finland 1906-9. Lecturer in English language and literature at Goldsmiths' College,

University of London 1909-12.

H.M.I. (Adult education and Continuation Schools)1912-24

Professor of Education in the University of London, King's College. 1924-35 Editor of the Journal ofAdult Education 1927-29. Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature,University of Edinburgh 1935-45 Trustee of Shakespeare's birthplace since 1931 (life trustee 1951). Trustee Nat Library of Scotland since 1946 (Vice Chairman 1951-57) Mem. General Council of Friends of the National Libraries since 1949 Leverhulme research fellow 1933-34, 1945-46 Clark lecturer , Cambridge 1942-43 President scottish Classical Association 1950-51. Chichele lecturer Oxford 1949.


Life in Shakespeare's England 1911 The War and democracy 1914 Humanism in the continuation school 1921 Shakespeare's land in the play of Sir Thomas More 1923 The essential Shakespeare 1932 The new Shakespeare (editor) 1921-66 The schools of england (editor0 1928 M. Arnold's Culture and Anarchy (editor) 1932 The manuscript of Shakespeare's Hamlet 1924. What happens in Hamlet 1935. The fortunes of Falstaff 1943 A.W. Pollard, a memoir 1948. Shakespeare's happy comedies 1962 Shakespeare's sonnets -an introduction for historians and others 1963 Milestones on the Dover Road 1969.

Name: JOHN DOVER WILSON College: CAIUS Entered: Michs. 1900 Born: July 13, 1881 More Information: Adm. at CAIUS, Oct. 1, 1900. [Eldest] s. of Edwin, scientific artist, of Cherryhinton Road, Cambridge (and Elizabeth Dover). B. July 13, 1881, at 10, St Leonards, Mortlake. Schools, Kenley and Lancing College. Matric. Michs. 1900; Scholar; Members' prize, 1902; B.A. 1903; Harness prize, 1904; M.A. 1908; Litt.D. 1926. Hon. Fellow, 1936. F.B.A., 1931. C.H., 1936. English Lector at Helsingfors University, Finland, 1906-9; Lecturer in English Language and Literature at the Goldsmiths' College, London University, 1909-12. H.M. Inspector of Schools (adult education), 1912-24. Professor of Education at King's College, London, 1924-35. Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at Edinburgh, 1935-45. Member of the Departmental Committee on the Teaching of English, 1919-21. Sandars Reader in Bibliography at Cambridge, 1932; Leslie Stephen Lecturer, 1939. A Trustee of Shakespeare's birthplace. Married, July 30, 1906, Dorothy May, only dau. of the Rev. Edward Curtis Baldwin, V. of Harston, Cambs., and had issue. Author, Life in Shakespeare's England; Shakespeare's Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More; The Essential Shakespeare; What Happens in Hamlet; and other works on Shakespeare. Editor of The New Shakespeare. Of Three Beeches, Balerno, Midlothian, in 1951. (Venn, III. 405; Who's Who.)

Wilson, John Dover: A List of his Published Writings Presented to John Dover Wilson on his Eightieth Birthday. Cambridge UP 1961. 32p sewn booklet, VG PKM 59333 £6 or in Euros € 9.84

Wilson, John Dover (1881–1969), by Robert Lyon, 1955

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From daughter -

Since he became an Inspector of Schools (approximately 1912) he was always called "John DOVER Wilson" because there was another John Wilson: an Inspector in the adjacent District (cf. pp71-72 in "Milestones on the Dover Road" [Faber and Faber, London - 1969]. There are, unfortunately, some inaccuracies in this autobiography as it was only written in the last months of his life and published posthumously in 1969.


Person Code NA22437


Forenames John Dover Surname Wilson


Dates 1881-1969 Epithet Shakespeare scholar Activity He was born at Mortlake, Surrey, 13 July 1881, the eldest of the six children of Edwin Wilson, engraver and scientific illustrator, and his wife, Elizabeth Dover. He won scholarships to Lancing College, where his uncle was headmaster, and to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he took the historical tripos with a second class in each part (1902-3). In 1904 he carried off the valuable Harness prize for an essay on John Lyly (1905). This brought him to the notice of (Sir) A. W. Ward, who assigned him two chapters of the Cambridge History of English Literature and through whom, after a year's teaching at Whitgift Grammar School, Croydon, he became English Lektor at Helsingfors (Helsinki) in 1906. In that year he married Dorothy Mary, daughter of Canon Edward Curtis Baldwin, vicar of Harston, near Cambridge. He relinquished his post in 1909 and then became lecturer in English literature at Goldsmiths' College, London. His Elizabethan researches, especially on the Marprelate tracts, had brought him into the orbit of the bibliographical triumvirate of A. W. Pollard, (Sir) W. W. Greg, and R. B. McKerrow. With Pollard there developed an intimate friendship which became ?one of the chief influences? in his life. Alongside scholarly articles (from 1907) and reprints he brought out his successful anthology Life in Shakespeare's England (1911). But in 1912 an invitation to become an inspector for the Board of Education meant that for over twenty years literary scholarship had to accommodate itself to the demands of another career. During his first half-dozen years as an inspector, while he lived in Leeds and did a perpetual round of evening schools throughout the northern counties, his ideal of culture for industrial workers was strengthened by experience. He wrote a commissioned memorandum on Humanism in the Continuation School (1921), on which he was warmly congratulated and when the scheme for such schools in the 1918 Education Act was ultimately dropped he felt this a betrayal of the nation's youth. He served on the committee on the teaching of English set up in 1919 under Sir Henry Newbolt and wrote part of its report. When he was appointed to the chair of education at King's College, London, in 1924, a wide familiarity with the practicalities of teaching as well as a vision of its high ends underlay his jest that he was not sure what a professor of education was supposed to do. He began the Journal of Adult Education in 1926 and, with more enthusiasm, a series of ?Landmarks in the History of Education?, for which he did a notable edition (1932) of Arnold's Culture and Anarchy. The professor of education was, however, overshadowed by the Shakespeare scholar he had now become. He became ?possessed? with Hamlet and confronted with the problems of its text, was led on to those of Shakespeare's text in general just when the work of Pollard had suggested that the printed versions might be closer to Shakespeare's manuscripts than it was the custom to suppose. He seized on the clues contained in spellings, misprints, or mislineations; he collected evidence for Shakespeare's Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More (edited by Pollard, 1923). Notes and articles leapt from his pen, and in 1919 the Cambridge Press, looking for a textual expert to join with Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in editing the New Cambridge Shakespeare, inevitably chose him. This edition (1921-66) henceforth dominated his life. It was Dover Wilson's analysis and treatment of the text which caused the remarkable impact of the early volumes on the academic world. He also prepared a strongly innovatory text for the beautiful Cranach Hamlet (1930), and his long absorption in the problems of this play had its outcome in the appearance of the New Cambridge Hamlet (1934), together with The Manuscript of Shakespeare's ?Hamlet? (1934) and What Happens in ?Hamlet? (1935). With the last of these and his ?biographical adventure?, The Essential Shakespeare (1932), he captured the imagination of the general public to a degree probably unequalled by any other Shakespeare scholar. Quiller-Couch had withdrawn from the edition on the completion of the comedies, and with the histories Dover Wilson was able to range beyond the text to a vigorous critical reappraisal, which had The Fortunes of Falstaff (1943) as an important consequence. He derived satisfaction from becoming at length a professor of English when he was appointed to the regius chair of rhetoric and English literature at Edinburgh in 1935, but in 1945 the claims of his edition, still only half way through, prompted an early retirement. With steady progress and presently the aid of younger collaborators Alice Walker, his pupil G. I. Duthie, and especially J. C. Maxwell just after reaching the age of eighty he saw the last play out. Then, after the long-projected Shakespeare's Happy Comedies (1962), he was able to add the sonnets before at length becoming blind. He was elected FBA in 1931 and was appointed CH in 1936. Also in 1936 his Cambridge college made him an honorary fellow. He had taken his Cambridge doctorate in 1926, and subsequently received honorary doctorates from Durham, Edinburgh, Leicester, Lille, London, Natal, and Cambridge. He was a trustee of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust from 1931, and of the National Library of Scotland from 1946. He had one son, who died on active service in 1944, and two daughters. His wife died in 1961, and in 1963 he married his widowed cousin, Dr Elizabeth Wintringham, daughter of Sir Joseph Arkwright, bacteriologist. He died at Balerno, near Edinburgh, 15 January 1969.


Associated records

GB233/Acc.12697 Signed and annotated copies of works by Professor John Dover Wilson with copies of works on Shakespearean scholarship (some annotated by JDW) presented to him nd GB233/MS.10798 Joyce Cary: 'To be a Pilgrim' 1942 GB233/MS.10799 Joyce Cary: letters 1942-1955 GB233/MS.14306-14322 Dover Wilson: Correspondence 1892-1964 GB233/MS.14306-14400 Dover Wilson 1892-1968 GB233/MS.14323-14355 Dover Wilson: Shakespeare 1919-1968 GB233/MS.14356-14369 Dover Wilson: Education and English Literature 1892-1968 GB233/MS.14370-14375 Dover Wilson: Autobiography 1958-1969 GB233/MS.14376-14400 Dover Wilson: Printed Material 1749-1943

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John Dover Wilson's Timeline

July 13, 1881
Mortlake, Surrey, England
July 31, 1908
Age 27
January 4, 1911
Age 29
January 16, 1969
Age 87
Shakespearian Scholar