Prowse, William Jeffery (DNB00)

PROWSE, WILLIAM JEFFERY (1836–1870), humourist, born at Torquay on 6 May 1836, was the son of Isaac Prowse, by his wife Marianne Jeffery, a lady who had known Keats and published a volume of poems. On the death of his father in 1844, William was taken charge of by an uncle, John Sparke Prowse, a notary public and shipbroker, of Greenwich. At Greenwich he attended the school of N. Wanostrocht [q. v.], a well-known writer on cricket under the pseudonym of Felix, who inspired Prowse with his own enthusiasm for the game. Prowse was from youth deeply interested in all forms of sport and was devoted to the sea. Before he was twenty he developed a remarkable talent for humorous verse, and soon drifted into the profession of journalism. About 1856 he obtained an engagement on the ‘Aylesbury News,’ and in subsequent years contributed tales, descriptive articles, or verses to ‘Chambers's Journal,’ the ‘Lady's Companion,’ the ‘National Magazine,’ and the ‘Porcupine.’ In 1861 he was appointed a leader-writer on the ‘Daily Telegraph,’ and in that capacity mainly occupied himself with sporting topics. When in 1865, his friend, Tom Hood the younger, became editor of ‘Fun,’ Prowse contributed each week, under the signature of ‘Nicholas,’ a rambling article on horse-racing, into which he introduced much good-humoured satire on other subjects. In 1865 his health began to fail, consumption declared itself, and after passing the winters of 1867, 1868, and 1869 at Cimiez, near Nice, he died there on Easter Sunday 1870; he was buried in the protestant cemetery.

As a verse-writer Prowse had much of the wit and facility of Praed. His parodies were exceptionally successful, one of the best dealing with Coleridge's ‘Ancient Mariner.’ The references to his declining health in his latest efforts lend them a genuine pathos, which is well illustrated in his ‘My lost old Age, by a young Invalid’ (written in 1865 and reprinted in Locker's ‘Lyra Elegantiarum.’) His best comic piece was the ‘City of Prague,’ a vindication of bohemianism, with an attractively rhymed refrain.

Prowse was one of the six authors of ‘England's Workshops,’ 1864, and contributed stories to ‘A Bunch of Keys,’ 1865, and ‘Rates and Taxes,’ 1866 (Christmas volumes edited by Tom Hood). His contributions to ‘Fun’ were collected in 1870 as ‘Nicholas's Notes and Sporting Prophecies, with some miscellaneous poems.’ A portrait and a memoir by Hood are prefixed.

[Memoir prefixed to Nicholas's Notes, 1870; Prowse's writings.]

S. L.