Eva Dobell (1876–1963) was a British poet, nurse, and editor, best known for her poems on the effects of World War I and her regional poems.
Eva was the daughter of Wine Merchant and local historian Clarence Mason Dobell from Cheltenham, and the niece of the Victorian poet Sydney Dobell. She volunteered to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) as a nurse in World War I. Her experiences in the VAD prompted her to write poetry about, inter alia, wounded and maimed soldiers which has been well-thought of by many versed in the ways of poetry. She also took part in the morale-boosting work of writing to prisoners of war. Her full name was Eveline Jessie Dobell and she was born the youngest of three children on 30 January 1876 at the Grove, Charlton Kings in Gloucestershire, England. She died on 3 September 1963 at the age of 87 years at which time her home address was Abbeyholme, Overton Rd, Cheltenham. She never married. Her mother was Emily Anne Duffield a native of Manchester, England.
While she was also known in her time as a regional poet (one of her Gloucestershire poems was recently set to music), Dobell is best known today for her occasional poems from the war period, which all describe wounded soldiers, their experiences, and their bleak prospects. A few of these poems are widely dispersed on the internet, and these continue to receive some scholarly acknowledgment. "Night Duty," for instance, is cited as one of many poems by female war-poets and nurses that provide access to an experience rarely shared by male poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Perhaps the most frequently reproduced is "Pluck," especially on sites dedicated to the Great War. "Pluck" also found its way into printed anthologies such as The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the First World War, and was even set to music.
After the war, she continued to write; in all, she published half a dozen books of poetry, a verse drama, and edited a book of poems by Lady Margaret Sackville.
- "(In A Soldier's Hospital I) Pluck"
- "Advent 1916"
- "Night Duty"
- "(In A Soldiers' Hospital II) Gramophone Tunes"
Books of poetry
- Songs and Sonnets. London: Elkin Mathews, 1902.
- A Bunch of Cotswold Grasses. London: A.H. Stockwell, 1919.
- Snap-shots of Travel. London: Erskine Macdonald, 1925.
- Youths and the Swallows and Other Verse. London: Favil Press, 1942.
- A Gloucestershire Year. Bradford: Jongleur Press, 1949.
- Verses New and Old. London: Favil Press, 1959.
- A Woodland Tale: A Phantasy. London: George Allen and Sons, 1909.
- Margaret Sackville. A Poet's Return: Some Later Poems of Lady Margaret Sackville. Cheltenham: Burrow's Press, 1940.
- ^Evidenced by her inclusion in S. Fowler Wright, ed. The County Series of Contemporary Poetry No. VII, an anthology of poems by poets from or near Gloucester.
- ^"Tom's Long Post" on Johnny Coppin's The Gloucestershire Collection.
- ^Lusty, Heather (Summer 2008). "Looking Back: New Studies in the Literature of Twentieth-Century War". Journal of Modern Literature. 31 (4): 145–51. doi:10.1353/jml.0.0014 (inactive 2017-08-27). Lusty is speaking of "female medical persona like May Sinclair, Vera Brittain, Mary Henderson, and Eva Dobell, working in dressing stations and hospitals."
- ^Cummings, Randy (1995). "Female Poets of the First World War: A Study in the Diversity for the Fifth Grade Social Studies Curriculum". Poetry In and Out of the Classroom: Essays from the ACLS Elementary and Secondary Schools Teacher Curriculum Development Project. American Council of Learned Societies: Occasional Paper No. 29. Retrieved 2008-12-08.
- ^For instance, "Pluck" on From The Trenches, and on First World War Poetry.
- ^Vincent Sherry, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the First World War. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005. ISBN 978-0-521-52897-9.
- ^Seven Ages: An Anthology of Poetry with Music. Naxos Audio Books, 2000.
- ^Dowson, Jane; Entwistle, Alice (2005). A History of Twentieth-century British Women's Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-521-81946-6. .
- ^Table of contents at The County Series of Contemporary Poetry No. VII.
Born in 1876 in Gloucestershire, Eva Dobell was a poet and editor who is perhaps best known for her war time poems such as Pluck and Night Duty which were written whilst working as a nurse with the Voluntary Aid Detachment during World War I. She was brought up in a reasonably affluent family with a father who was a respected local wine maker. Her uncle was the widely read poet of the time Sydney Dobell from whom she may have gained her love of verse.
Dobell published her first collection of poetry, Songs and Sonnets, in 1902 when she was in her mid-twenties but did not produce any more until England went to war in 1914. At that time she joined the VAD and headed to France to work as a nurse, tending to the sick and wounded from the front line.
Whilst this time is probably best known for the works of male writers such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, Dobell produced a number of poems that caught the public eye at the time and have been reproduced in various anthologies over the years.
With works such as Night Duty she allows us to take an outsiders view of the lives of a group of soldiers during the war, the sudden cries and laughs as a nurse sits and watches over the physically wounded and emotionally damaged returned from the front line.
There’s no doubt that a huge amount of emotion comes through in Eva Dobell’s words which are no doubt borne out of her actual presence at the events she is describing. Her most cited and reproduced work is Pluck that uses powerful words to present a different view of the war from the male war poets who often focused on the despair and gore or even glory of a particular moment.
Pluck portrays a seventeen year old soldier, a boy, who has been brought injured back from the front and is terrified and desperate, a world away from the glory that he perhaps imagined when he first disembarked from the shores of England.
When she finally returned to England at the end of the war, Dobell did continue to write but not with the power that she had whilst working as a nurse in France. Her first collection after the cessation of hostilities was A Bunch of Cotswold Grasses published in 1919 and she produced a further 4 books over the next thirty years.
Dobell died in 1963 at the age of 86.