Humbert Wolfe

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Humbert Wolfe CB CBE (5 January 1885 – 5 January 1940) was an Italian-born British poet, man of letters and civil servant.

Wolfe was born in Milan, Italy, and came from a Jewish family background,[1] his father, Martin Wolff, being of German descent and his mother, Consuela, née Terraccini, Italian. He was brought up in Bradford, West Yorkshire and was a pupil at Bradford Grammar School.[2] Wolfe attended Wadham College at the University of Oxford.

He was one of the most popular British authors of the 1920s.[1]

He was also a translator of Heinrich Heine, Edmond Fleg (1874–1963) and Eugene Heltai (Heltai Jenő). A Christian convert, he remained very aware of his Jewish heritage.[citation needed]

His career was in the Civil Service, beginning in the Board of Trade and then in the Ministry of Labour. By 1940 he had a position of high responsibility. His work was recognised with a CBE and then a CB.

Wolfe said, in an interview with Twentieth Century Authors, that he was "of no political creed, except that his general view is that money and its possessors should be abolished".[1]

Wolfe's verses have been set to music by a number of composers, including Gustav Holst in his 12 Humbert Wolfe Settings, Op. 48 (1929).

He had a long-term affair with the novelist Pamela Frankau, while remaining married.

He died on his 55th birthday.

Though his works are little read today, the following epigram from The Uncelestial City continues to be widely known and quoted:

You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! the
British journalist.
But, seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there's
no occasion to.



  • London sonnets (1920)
  • Shylock reasons with Mr. Chesterton: and other poems (1920)
  • Circular saws (1923)
  • Labour supply and regulation (1923)
  • The Lilac (1924)
  • Lampoons (1925)
  • The Unknown Goddess (1925) poems
  • Humoresque (1926)
  • News of the Devil (1926) poems
  • Requiem (1927) poems
  • Cursory Rhymes (1927) poems
  • Others Abide (1927)
  • Kensington Gardens (1924)
  • Dialogues and monologues (1928) criticism
  • This Blind Rose (1928) poems
  • Troy (1928) Faber & Gwyer, Ariel poems
  • The Moon and Mrs. Misses Smith (1928)
  • The Craft of Verse (1928) essay
  • The Silver Cat and other poems (1928)
  • Notes on English Verse Satires (1929)
  • A Winter Miscellany (1930) editor
  • Homage to Meleager (1930 Limited Edition)
  • Tennyson (1930)
  • The Uncelestial City (1930)
  • Early Poems (1930)
  • George Moore (1931)
  • Snow (1931) poems
  • Signpost to poetry (1931)
  • Reverie of policeman: A ballet in three acts (1933)
  • Now a stranger (1933) autobiography
  • Romantic and unromantic poetry (1933)
  • Portraits by inference (1934)
  • Sonnets pour Helene (by Ronsard) (1934) translator
  • X at Oberammergau : A poem (1935) drama
  • The Fourth of August (1935) poems
  • Selected Lyrics of Heinrich Heine (1935) translator
  • P. L. M.: Peoples Landfalls Mountains (1936)
  • The Pilgrim's Way (1936)
  • The Silent Knight: A Romantic Comedy in Three Acts (by Eugene Heltai)(1937)
  • Others Abide: Translated Greek Epigrams (1937)
  • The Upward Anguish (1938) autobiography
  • Out of Great Tribulation (1939) poems
  • Kensington Gardens in War-Time (1940) poems


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Wolfe, Humbert" in Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft, Twentieth Century Authors, A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature, (Third Edition). New York, The H.W. Wilson Company, 1950, (pp. 1540-1)
  2. Moggridge, Donald (1992). Maynard Keynes: An Economist's Biography. Routledge. p. 915. ISBN 978-0-415-05141-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Mick Temple, The British Press. McGraw-Hill International, 2008 ISBN 0335222978, (p. 127)

Other Sources

  • Philip Bagguley, Harlequin in Whitehall: a Life of Humbert Wolfe, Poet and Civil Servant 1885-1940 (1997).
  • Helen Ferris, Favorite Poems Old and New (1957).