JOHN MASEFIELD was born in 1878 and orphaned at an early age. At the age of 15 he embarked on a career at sea with a voyage to Chile, via Cape Horn. Wishing to become a writer he failed to report for a new position on a ship in New York and became a homeless vagrant before finding work in a bar and then a carpet factory. Returning to England in 1897, his first poem was published in 1899. His first volume of poetry, Salt-Water Ballads, was published in 1902 and his last volume, In Glad Thanksgiving, in 1967. Masefield became a best-selling author with an output that included novels, children's books, plays and works of contemporary history. Appointed Poet Laureate in 1930, he was awarded the Order of Merit in 1935. He died in 1967. PHILIP W. ERRINGTON is Deputy Director in the Department of Printed Books and Manuscripts at Sotheby's. After a doctoral thesis on Masefield, he was appointed a visiting research fellow of the University of London in 2000 and honorary research fellow of University College London in 2005. His bibliography John Masefield - The 'Great Auk' of English Literature was published by the British Library in 2004. He has edited numerous volumes of Masefield including Sea-Fever: Selected Poems of John Masefield; Reynard the Fox; John Masefield's Great War; The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights.