We were recently contacted by Charlotte Longepe, the great-granddaughter of Robert William Service (1874-1958), the Scottish-Canadian poet and writer. She was investigating the Robert W Service Prize, set up in 1961 by his widow, Germaine, which is still awarded annually on the recommendation of the Professor of English Language and Literature for distinction in the work of the Ordinary class of English.
We learned from his great-graddaughter’s online biography of Service (also available in French) that he enrolled at the University for one year (1893-94) to attend the English Language and Literature class of Andrew Cecil Bradley, Regius Professor of English Language and Literature at the University from 1889-1900, and described as “arguably the greatest literary critic of his day.” For the class final project, Service wrote an essay on the play Hamlet by Shakespeare, focusing on the character of Ophelia, which was not received well by Bradley.
Undeterred by this early criticism at University, his enthusiasm and talent for writing grew and in 1907 he published his first book, Songs of a Sourdough, while working as a bank clerk in Yukon, Canada. This was only the first in a series of poems and novels that would make him a popular name in English literature.
We would like to thank the Service Longepe family for getting in touch and sharing their ancestor’s international story.