We are the music-makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;
World losers and world forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
The Victorian gentleman in this photo is not one you are likely recognise, but you will know the term ‘movers & shakers’ that he came up with in his poem ‘Ode”
Arthur O’Shaughnessy was born in London in 1844. At seventeen years of age he began work at the British Museum in a junior clerical position, later he gained a senior role in the museums Zoological department despite having no previous experience in the field, rumours abounded that his appointment was due to the intercession of Sir Edward Bulwar-Lytton, a mover and shaker of the time, an attempt was made by the Zoological Society of London to have him removed from his post on the grounds that Arthur was unfit for the position, but he stayed & went on to become something of an expert in his field, six species of reptile are named after him, but his real passion was for poetry & the Arts. He was a friend of Rossetti & others in thePre-Raphaelite movement. As an author & poet he published three books in his twenties, indeed you could say that the future for Arthur was bright, more so when at 29 he married Eleanor, a writer with a literary heritage. Eleanor & Arthur soon had two children & perhaps that’s why they decided to write children’s books together.
Just as Arthurs life must, from his perspective have held a bright future tragedy struck, first one child then another died, then two years later Eleanor also died. Arthur did not publish any other work in his lifetime, though this was brief, for two years afterwards at thirty six years of age Arthur also died. His cause of death was described as a chill, brought on by walking home from the Theatre on a rainy January evening.
Whimsical as his ending sounds I think I prefer to imagine that really he died of a broken heart, I think that’s a more poetical ending for him.
Arthur is buried in Kensal Green Cemetry, maybe if you happen to be wandering in that neck of the woods – on a summers day with a cloudless sky maybe pause for a moment if you come across his headstone & say a kind word or two for Arthur dreamer of dreams.