(1868 – 1941, North London Collegiate 1883 – 1886)
When we talk of the poetry of World War I, we tend not to think of female poets, but Jessie Pope wrote a large number of poems on the war, and was a significant name of the period. Many of her poems were printed in The Daily Mail, and in 3 books of poetry, and she also published a large number of stories for children.
Born in 1868, the daughter of Richard Pope, a commercial traveller, Jessie spent 7 or 8 years at school in Leicester, and then became a pupil at North London Collegiate School in 1883. Entries in the school magazine of the time rarely included the full names of pupil contributors. However, it is intriguing to wonder whether she is the author of a very literary account of a lecture, signed J.P., in an issue of Our Magazine dated July 1886. Certainly she showed early promise as a writer, having won a prize for her Holiday Work in English, in 1885.
As a woman, she never experienced life in the trenches, but her verse aimed to encourage recruitment ("Who’s for the trench — Are you, my laddie?"). Her work is often dismissed as jingoistic – their rhymes dismissed as “twee” or predictable - but her tone is extremely patriotic. Significantly, she was the inspiration for Dulce et Decorum Est, written by Wilfred Owen as an angry reaction to her verse. Some drafts were dedicated directly to her, and some to “A Certain Poetess”.