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William Sharp (1855-1905) - Poet and Novelist

He was born on 12th September 1855 in Paisley, Scotland, the son of a merchant. He was educated at Glasgow Academy and at the University of Glasgow, but his father's death in 1876 curtailed his education and he was sent to Australia to test his prospects. Between 1877 and 1890 he worked in London, intermittently in a bank but more successfully as a journalist and editor. Much of that period was spent in travel in Europe and North America, and until his death, on 6 December 1905 in Sicily, he led a peripatetic life, often using Argyll in Scotland as a base. During his period in London Sharp became associated with the Pre-Raphaelites, and his first collection of fairly derivative verse, The Human Inheritance, The New Hope, Motherhood and Other Poems, appeared in 1882. His other collections are Earth's Voices (1884) and Romantic Ballads and Poems on Phantasy (1888). He also edited a number of editions of English poetry in the Canterbury Poets series, and for a time worked as art critic of the Glasgow Herald; but this literary hack work interfered with his own writing and he spent the winter of 1890-91 in Rome, where he produced his literary alter ego, his feminine Celtic soul, 'Fiona Macleod'. Under her name he wrote a series of visionary novels set in the ancient Celtic world, a collection of poems, songs and fragments, From the Hills of Dream (1901), and two verse dramas, The House of Usna and The Immortal Hour (1905). Sharp went to a good deal of trouble to conceal the identity of 'Fiona Macleod' even to the extent of composing a mock biography for Who's Who. And she was not just a nom de plume: there is evidence in Sharp's autobiographical writings to suggest that he was attempting to resolve his vision of the ancient world from a feminine viewpoint. His interest in Celticism had its origins in his childhood forays into the Highlands; in 1894 he was involved with Patrick Geddes in the Celtic movement in Edinburgh and he also enjoyed the friendship and support of William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). In his 'Fiona Macleod' novels Sharp attempted to rewrite Celtic folklore and traditions in popular fiction, but this method led to the creation of an unbelievable never-never-land of faery and fable. Under his own name he wrote three novels, The Sport of Chance (1888), Wives in Exile (1898) and Silence Farm (1899), as well as several collections of short stories. A memoir of his life was published by his wife in 1910.

Works; The Human Inheritance, The New Hope, Motherhood and Other Poems (1882); Earth's Voices: Transcripts from Nature; Sopistra and Other Poems (1884); ed., The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott (1885); ed., The Songs and Sonnets of Shakespeare
(1885); ed., The Sonnets of this Century (1886);ed., For Song's Sake and Other Stories (1887); Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1887); Life of Heinrich Heine (1888); Romantic Ballads and Poems on Phantasy (1888); ed., American Sonnets (1889); The Children of Tomorrow (1889); Life of Browning (1890); Sospiri di Roma (1891); A Fellowe and his Wife (1892); Flower o' the Vine (1892); The Life and Letters of Joseph Severn (1892); Pagan Review (1892); Vistas (1894); The Gipsy Christ and Other Tales (1895); Ecce puella and Other Prose Imaginings (1896); Fair Women in Painting and Poetry (1896); ed.. The Poems of Matthew Arnold (1896); Wives in Exile: a Comedy in Romance (1898); Silence farm (1899); ed.. The Poems of Swinburne (1901); The Progress of Art in the Nineteenth Century (1902);ed., The Poems of Eugene Lee-Hamilton (1903); Literary Geography (1904); as Fiona Macleod: Pharais, A Romance of the Isles (1894); The Laughter of Peter-fan (1895); The Mountain Lovers (1895); The Sin-Eater and Other Tales (1895); The Washer of the Ford (1895); Green Fire (1896); The Dominion of Dreams (1899); By Sundown Shores (1900); The Divine Adventure (1900); Iona (1900); From the Hills of Dream, Threnodies, Songs and Later Poems (1901); The Winged Destiny: Studies in the Spiritual History of the Gael (1904); The House of Usna (1905); The Immortal Hour (1905).

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