John Drinkwater (playwright)

John Drinkwater (1 June 1882 – 25 March 1937) was an English poet and dramatist.

John Drinkwater
Drinkwater in 1919
Born(1882-06-01)1 June 1882
Died25 March 1937(1937-03-25) (aged 54)
Spouse(s)Cathleen Orford (née Kathleen Walpole)
Daisy Kennedy

Life and career

Drinkwater was born in Leytonstone, Essex, (now Greater London), to actor/author Albert Edwin Drinkwater (1851-1923) and Annie Beck (née Brown), and worked as an insurance clerk. In the period immediately before the First World War he was one of the group of poets associated with the Gloucestershire village of Dymock, along with Rupert Brooke and others.

In 1918 he had his first major success with his play Abraham Lincoln. He followed it with others in a similar vein, including Mary Stuart and Oliver Cromwell. In 1924, his Lincoln play was adapted for a two-reel short film made by Lee DeForest and J. Searle Dawley featuring Frank McGlynn Sr. as Lincoln, and made in DeForest's Phonofilm sound-on-film process.[1]

He had published poetry since The Death of Leander in 1906; the first volume of his Collected Poems was published in 1923. He also compiled anthologies and wrote literary criticism (e.g. Swinburne: an estimate (1913)), and later became manager of Birmingham Repertory Theatre...

He was married to Daisy Kennedy, the ex-wife of Benno Moiseiwitsch.

Papers relating to John Drinkwater and collected by his stepdaughter are held at the University of Birmingham Special Collections.

John Drinkwater made recordings in Columbia Records' International Educational Society Lecture series. They include Lecture 10 – a lecture on The Speaking of Verse (Four 78rpm sides, Cat no. D 40018-40019), and Lecture 70 John Drinkwater reading his own poems (Four 78rpm sides, Cat no. D 40140-40141).[2]

Death and commemoration

Drinkwater died in London in 1937. He is buried at Piddington, Oxfordshire, where he had spent summer holidays as a child.

A road in Leytonstone, formerly a 1960s council estate, is named after Drinkwater, as is a small development of modern houses in Piddington.


  1. Lee de Forest and Phonofilm at Virtual Broadway website
  2. Catalogue of Columbia Records, Up to and including Supplement no. 252 (Columbia Graphophone Company, London September 1933), pp. 371, 374.
  • John Drinkwater memorial site
  • Special Collections and Archives Catalogue University of Gloucestershire Archives and Special Collections
  • Works by John Drinkwater at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about John Drinkwater at Internet Archive
  • Works by John Drinkwater at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Discussion of John Drinkwater's play Abraham Lincoln
  • "Archival material relating to John Drinkwater". UK National Archives.
  • Archival Material at Leeds University Library
  • Plays by John Drinkwater at Great War Theatre

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