The Reverend Edwin Emmanuel Bradford (1860-1944) was a clergyman, poet and novelist.
He was born in Torquay where his family owned a jeweller’s shop on the Strand, and baptised along with some of his sisters at St Luke’s in Warren Road.
Edwin was educated at Castle College School in Torquay and at Exeter College, Oxford University. He graduated in 1884 with third-class honours in Theology, proceeded to a Masters in 1901, achieved a Bachelor of Divinity in 1904 and a Doctor of Divinity in 1912.
After ordination in the Church of England in 1884, Edwin served curacies at High Ongar and Walthamstow in Essex. He went to St Petersburg as assistant chaplain to the English Church in 1887-1889 and then to Paris where he was an assistant curate in 1890-1899.
Back in England Edwin was given two more curacies, at Upwell and Eton. In 1907 he wrote a traditional religious tract called ‘Sermon sketches for the Sundays of the Christian year’.
He got a parish of his own in 1909 and remained as vicar of Nordelph, Norfolk, until his death.
So far, Edwin appears quite a modest and traditional clergyman. However, he was also part of an informal group of English “Uranian” poets and he produced copious amounts of homoerotic poetry.
His prose was very popular during his lifetime, with WH Auden and John Betjeman being admirers.
Many of his poems are directed towards young males, who go by the names of Willie, Eric, Dick, Guy, Frank, Jock, Aubrey and Silvester.
Here’s a couple of examples:
Hilary is seventeen
Hopeful, though his home’s an attic,
Optimistic and serene,
Though his future’s problematic:
Full of love is he I ween —
So all say, and so I see, too:
What remains still to be seen
Is — has he love to spare for me, too?
O Willie, Willie, Willie, summer holidays are coming,
And I know that you are coming with the holidays, too:
And Love, little chum, beats a heart like a drum,
Rat-a-tat! rat-a-tat! rat-a-tat! tum! tum!
In a sort of merry devilish tattoo.
Edwin saw many of his young male friends die in both world wars and wrote this heartfelt condemnation of war:
So some men counsel: “Breed and multiply!”
The most prolific race at last will win.
Send forth your sons in myriads to die
Or kill their fellows. Till next war begin,
Breed on with fury; pour your children in
Till every shop and factory be full,
And labour cheap. What if they’re starved and thin?
— I have no heart to procreate
Earth children for the sword:
The Love that links me to my mate,
Himself is his reward.
It doesn’t appear as if the Bishop ever noticed what his local vicar was writing.
Edwin is now recognised as a leading gay poet of the early 20th century