The 5 Heads of Humbert Wolfe (1885-1940)
Sculptures of Poet & Civil Servant Wolfe, to mark the 75th Anniversary of his death & 135th Anniversary of his birth.
Jan 5th to 19th 2015
Westminster Reference library
Private View Soiree/Drinks Reception – Mon Jan 5th 2015, 6.30 – 8.30
Humbert Wolfe was a best-selling poet in the 1920s and 30s, in the running for Poet Laureate in 1931. He was practically a household name in the last 15 years of his life. He published over 40 books of his own poetry and prose, 10 books of literary criticism, and numerous anthologies and literary translations.
During WWI in Whitehall, Wolfe was responsible for the organisation of the supply and regulation of labour in the Ministry of Munitions. Without his efforts in determining the new logistics of war the British troops would have been inadequately equipped.
Anthony Padgett (Wolfe’s great-grand nephew) has cast 5 different sculpture heads to reflect the 5 main areas of Wolfe’s life and work. 2015 is the 75th anniversary of his death and 135th anniversary of his birth. “The 5 Heads of Wolfe” project will be launched on the day of his birth and death, 5th January, at London Westminster Reference Library.
Anthony Padgett (B.A., M.A., P.G.C.E.) is an award-winning sculptor and writer. He says: “I sculpted a bust of Humbert Wolfe (1885-1940), the best selling British Poet and Whitehall Civil Servant. This was then cold-cast in bronze, silver, gold, marble and granite and each will go to key cities associated with his life and works. (Bradford, Oxford, London, New York) Most people would have just one bust but Wolfe lived so many lives, each with great intensity and productivity, that it seemed appropriate to have one associated with each life.”
Attached are images of the 5 heads and a single head to be sited. Wolfe was painted by Sir William Rothenstein in 1931 and this and his other portraits are held in the National Portrait Gallery. However until now no sculpture of him existed. In addition to using Rothenstein’s portrait, Padgett also used photographs of Wolfe and drawings by his wife Jessie Wolfe, who studied at the Slade.
Padgett has also edited and published a collection of quotations from Wolfe’s works – “The 5 Heads of Humbert Wolfe”, copies of which will be available at the exhibition and on Amazon and Kindle.
FURTHER BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS
Wolfe was a pupil at Bradford Grammar School, then Oxford Wadham College where he gained a 1st, then rose to a high position in the Civil Service at Whitehall, with the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour. Humbert became CBE in 1918 and CB in 1925 and also became the British representative on the International Labour Organisation. From 1935-40 he was also the 1st president of the Society of Civil Service Authors.
He began publishing poetry in the 1920s to great acclaim. His poems, e.g. “Requiem: The Soldier” (1916), are read at Remembrance Sunday events and the first half of this poem was the epigraph to “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” by Louis de Bernieres. Wolfe’s verses were also set to music by a number of composers, including Gustav Holst in his 12 Humbert Wolfe Settings, Op. 48 (1929).
In 1931 he became a Fellow of Royal Society of Literature and was one of the favourites to become the Poet Laureateship against Rudyard Kipling, Edith Sitwell, W.B.Yeats and others. His work was put in the same anthologies as Siegfried Sassoon, P.G. Woodhouse, T.S. Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Walter de la Mare, G.K.Chesterton,
In 1938 Humbert was appointed Deputy Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and he was responsible for equipping the country’s labour force for war. On the outbreak of the Second World War Wolfe was one of those responsible for drawing up a list of writers who could better serve as propagandists than in the British Army. Humbert Wolfe died in 1940 without, as Philip Bagguley notes in his biography, receiving the knighthood that was confidently predicted for him.
SOME QUOTES BY WOLFE
As well as the traditionally used quotes, below are some other entertaining and contemporary ones.
‘Down some cold field in a world outspoken the young men are walking together, slim and tall, and though they laugh to one another, silence is not broken; there is no sound however clear they call.
They are speaking together of what they loved in vain here, but the air is too thin to carry the things they say.
They were young and golden, but they came on pain here, and their youth is age now, their gold is grey.
Yet their hearts are not changed, and they cry to one another, ‘What have they done with the lives we laid aside?
Are they young with our youth, gold with our gold, my brother?
Do they smile in the face of death, because we died?’
Down some cold field in a world uncharted the young seek each other with questioning eyes.
They question each other, the young, the golden hearted, of the world that they were robbed of in their quiet paradise.
I do not ask God’s purpose. He gave me the sword, and though merely to wield it is itself the lie against the light, at the bidding of my Lord, where all the rest bear witness, I’ll deny.
And I remember Peter’s high reward,
and say of soldiers, when I hear cocks cry, ‘As your dear lives (’twas all you might afford) you laid aside, I lay my sainthood by.’
There are in heaven other archangels,
bright friends of God, who build where Michael destroys, in music, or in beauty, lute players.
I wield the sword; and though I ask nought else of God, I pray to Him: ‘But these were boys, and died. Be gentle, God, to soldiers.’
Requiem (London 1927, New York 1927) pp27-28
You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God ! the
But, seeing what
the man will do
No occasion to.
The Uncelestial City (London 1930, New York 1930) p37
Here they publish,
fresh and fresh,
news of the devil
and news of the flesh.
And as for the world,
they take the view
that it simply consists
of the other two.
News Of The Devil (London 1926, New York 1926) p7
“In the City
they sell and buy,
and nobody ever
asks them why.
But since it contents them
to buy and sell,
God forgive them !
They might as well.”
The Uncelestial City (London 1930, New York 1930) pp19-20