Poet laureate of Great Britain from 1930 until his death in 1967. Masefield himself did not think he was worthy of the appointment, however, upon the recommendation of the British Prime Minister, King George V appointed Masefield, who remained in the office until his death in 1967. The only other person to remain in the office of Laureate for a longer period was Tennyson.
Masefield was born on June 1, 1878, in Ledbury, Herefordshire, England. After his father's death he was looked after by an uncle. Young Masefield wanted to be a merchant marine officer. At 13 he boarded the training ship Conway moored in the river Mersey. After two and a half years on the school ship he was apprenticed aboard a sailing ship that was bound for Chile by way of Cape Horn. In Chile he became ill and had to return to England by steamer. He left the sea and spent several years living in the United States, working chiefly in a carpet factory. At one time, in 1895, to be exact, he worked for a few months as a sort of third assistant bar-keeper and dish-washer in Luke O'Connor's saloon, the Columbia Hotel, in New York City. The place is still there on the corner of Sixth and Greenwich Avenues. He later wrote about that period of his life in an autobiographical work, 'In the Mill', published in 1941.
In 1897 he returned to England determined to succeed as a writer. He worked on newspapers at first. But he never forgot his days at sea. He returned to them again and again in his poems and stories. He wrote about the land too, about typically English things like fox hunting, racing, and outdoor life. In 1902 Masefield published his first volume of poems, 'Salt-Water Ballads'. After that he wrote steadily poems, stories, and plays. In 1903 he married Constance de la Cherois-Crommelin. They had two children.
In World War I Masefield served in the Red Cross in France and on a hospital ship at Gallipoli. His book 'Gallipoli' (1916) is an account of that campaign.
He died on May 12, 1967, near Abingdon in Berkshire, England.