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William McNeile Dixon

Professor of English Language and Literature, University of Glasgow
1866 to 1946

William Macneile Dixon was a poet, historian, and scholar of the English language. His writings, both popular and academic, were renowned in the first half of the twentieth century. Dixon studied in Dublin and was awarded his Litt.D. at the University of Glasgow where he was Professor of English Language and Literature.

Dixon was in love with his country and its language. From his collections of poems to his book The Englishman, we find a scholar and a poet whose patriotism inspired a generation. His expertise also included Hellenism, Classical Philosophy, and neo-Platonism. Dixon was a true Renaissance thinker who believed that a civilization was more indebted to the genius of its ‘intuitive’ individuals—its artists and writers—than to its politicians, engineers, scientists or leaders.

Originally, Dixon was not scheduled to deliver the 1935-1937 Glasgow Gifford Lectures, but Emil Meyerson, who had been selected to follow after William Temple, died before he could deliver any of his courses. Dixon stepped into the breach with little time to prepare. Nevertheless, Dixon’s two courses of Glasgow Gifford Lectures were well received and immediately published upon their completion in 1937. By 1944 The Human Situation had been printed in seven editions. The popularity of Dixon’s work in the first half of the twentieth century makes unfathomable the relative obscurity of his work (outside of his poetry) in the second half of the century.

Representative works include English Poetry from Blake to Browning (1894), A Primer of Tennyson, With a Critical Essay (1896), In the Republic of Letters (1898), Poetry and National Character (1915), The Fleets Behind the Fleet: The Work of the Merchant Seamen and Fishermen in the War (1917), The British Navy at War (1917), Tragedy (1924),Cinderella’s Garden (1927), The Human Situation (1937), Thoughts for the Times (1941) and An Apology for the Arts (1944).

  • Michael W. DeLashmutt, University of Glasgow