Writing Aylmers

There have been a number of author Aylmers, in a variety of genres, and one epic poem with an Aylmer protagonist.


The historian Gerald Aylmer (1926-2000) came from the seafaring branch of the family, the son of a naval officer. He became the most respected academic to bear the family name, and warrants a page of his own.

My cousin-once-removed Audrey Aylmer was until 2010 Recorder for the Bude and Stratton Old Cornwall Society, a local history society in that county. She is in addition a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd with the Bardic name of Cares Enesow, ‘Lover of Islands’, and hence qualifies for this page as both poet and historian.

Three more writers of academic bent are:

    • Kevin J Aylmer. Kevin is based in Boston, USA, and writes on contemporary music. He is particularly strong on reggae but has written too on bhangra, the Asian-British fusion style. He’s not restricted to writing, for he is active in promoting roots music in New England, and neither is he restricted to music, having written (back in 1972) on a massacre of native Americans at Piney Wood Hills.
    • Charles Aylmer is head of the Chinese section of the Cambridge University library, and has written on Chinese subjects. He started to learn Chinese aged 13, when a student at Harrow – that’s Harrow County Boys School, not the super-posh public school. A library newsletter shows him meeting Chinese president Jiang Zemin at his visit to the university in 2000.
    • Richard Grenfell Aylmer wrote a series of geography school textbooks in the 1970s.

Fenton and Felix

These most significant Aylmers were also authors in their own right; see their own pages for more information – Fenton here and Felix here.

Three contemporary writers

Janet Aylmer and Ursula Aylmer both have books in print, with very particular specialities: Jane Austen and Oxford, respectively.

Janet’s two books are Darcy’s Story (1996; retells Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the standpoint of its male protagonist) and In the Footsteps of Jane Austen (2003). The former in particular has been well received. Both are sold by the tiny press of Copperfield Books in Bath.

Ursula has been associated with four books: Town Grows Up (1971; for children), Views of Oxford (1989), Oxford Food: an Anthology (1995; editor) and Most Noble Bodley! (2005; on the university library).

Walking in Essex

Walking in Essex

The third is Peter Aylmer, who is also the manager of this site. Writing has been one facet of my career. In the 1980s I wrote the West Ham Utd match reports for the short-lived East End News. At Newham Council in the 1990s I developed the parent magazine Setting New Standards and was the launch editor for the (still-flourishing) Newham Magazine. In my final job, for the General Teaching Council for England, I wrote for and latterly edited its national-circulation title Teaching. Since retiring I have completed a commission for Cicerone Press, Walking in Essex, and published material for the outdoor magazines Adventure Travel, Country Walking, The Great Outdoors and Walk.

Read my piece written on the occasion of West Ham United’s final game at Upton Park in May 2016, Farewell Boleyn.

My other site trailman.co.uk is devoted to walking in Great Britain.

The Aylmer name in poetry

Including Aylmer subjects in poetry.

John Aylmer (d. 1672) wrote poetry in Greek and Latin, notably “Musae sacrae seu Jonas”. A Hampshire Aylmer, he was buried in the church at Havant.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Alfred Lord Tennyson, one of the most significant of Victorian poets, indeed poet laureate for many years, besmirched the Aylmer name.

Tennyson’s poem Aylmer’s Field does not show the family name in good light. Published at the height of his fame, it is, with the title piece, one of the two longest poems in the 1864 collection Enoch Arden.

In the poem, Sir Aylmer Aylmer is lord of a Suffolk manor, the latest in a long aristocratic line. He expects his only child Edith to make an appropriate match, but she is in love with the rector’s brother Leolin. Separated, she dies of a broken heart, and sensing this from afar Leolin kills himself with a dagger Edith had given him. The rector’s sermon at her funeral is full of contempt for Aylmer Aylmer’s world, which falls apart in the poem’s stark ending – Aylmer’s hall becomes an open field where “The slow-worm creeps, and the thin weasel there / Follows the mouse …”

Aylmer’s Field is not commonly thought to be the best of Tennyson. The text of the poem is available, among other places, at everypoet.com

Tennyson was Lincolnshire born, and his statue stands in the grounds of Lincoln cathedral, where Bishop John Aylmer was once archdeacon.

A generation before, an elegant little eight-line miniature was more praising.

Ah, what avails the sceptred race!
Ah, what the form divine!
What every virtue, every grace!
Rose Aylmer, all were thine.

Rose Aylmer, whom these wakeful eyes
May weep, but never see,
A night of memories and sighs
I consecrate to thee.

These lines, which date from 1846, are by Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864); they refer to the short-lived (1779-1800) daughter of the fourth Baron Aylmer, Sir Henry.