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Emanuel Eaton - The Fairyland Poet

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Emanuel Eaton first came to my notice as a neighbour of one of my ancestors who lived at Whitley Carr. He was a character who deserves to be remembered, and when I recently found his grave whilst looking for relatives in the cemetery at Ecclesfield, I thought I would see what I could find.

Mr Eaton is mentioned in the History of Ecclesfield (1862) : "an eccentric character, who having realised independence by his own exertions, has retired to this sheltered nook to pass the remainder of his days, far from the sound of the tilt-hammers amid which his younger days were spent. Emanuel Eaton, such is the worthy's name, occupies himself with cultivating choice flowers, fiddling, and writing verses; the latter, if not quite (as he thinks) in the style of Burns, except in one, and that not the most creditable point of resemblance, are still curious emanations from such a source".

A Collection of Original Poems by Emanuel Eaton was published in 1867, now a rare collectors’ item. The advertisement for it is below:

The following year the Independent published a tongue in cheek review of his poetical works. “Emanuel has received letters, from persons who ought to know, which conclusively prove (to his satisfaction) that Homer, Horace, Shakespeare, Burns, Milton, Tennyson and all the rest are mere duffers, that the best they have written is no more to be compared with his compositions than a parrot’s talk is to be compared to Mr.Gladstone’s eloquence” – in full below:

White's 1871 directory had an entry for him: Mr Emanuel Eaton, Wood End, Barnes Green, Grenoside.

A letter from Juliana Horatia Ewing (nee Gatty) to C.T.(Charles) Gatty, written on January 4th, 1874, recalls Emanuel:

"Price ner object," as Emmanuel Eaton (the old Nursery man) (very appropriately) named his latest Fuchsia, when he saw us children turning down the Wood End Lane in the Donkey Carriage on a birthday, flush of coppers—and bashful about abating prices!

He was christened on 3rd April 1791 at Ecclesfield,​ his father was Joseph Eaton. Emanuel’s first marriage was to Elizabeth Lea on 25th December 1815 at Bradfield.

Emanuel’s second marriage was to Sarah Walker of Felkirk near Barnsley, on 30th January 1825 at Rotherham. Sarah Walker was born on 5th September 1803, christened on 2nd October 1803 at Felkirk, her father was Joseph Walker,​ her mother Hannah.

At the 1841 census he was a Tilter living at Oughtibridge with his wife Sarah. By the 1851 census he was living at Whitley Carr with wife Sarah and grandson Joseph (3). In 1861 he was a “Landed Proprietor” living at Whitley Carr with Sarah. His first son, Joseph Eaton Lee (born in 1815 to Elizabeth) was a Tilter living at Lees Houses, Bradfield, with his wife Rose, sons Joseph Eaton Lee (13), Willoughby Eaton Lee (11) Elijah (9), and daughter Elizabeth Eaton Lee (15).

In 1871 Emanuel aged 80, and “retired from steel forging” lived with Sarah at Wood End, Whitley. After Emanuel’s death in 1875 there was a dispute about his will, between the Walker and Lee families:

His widow Sarah in 1881 was living with her stepson Joseph (66), now an unemployed Tilter in Oughtibridge, with unmarried offspring Elizabeth (35), Elijah (28) a groom and Dennis Eaton Lee (20) a forgeman. Nearby lived Willoughby Eaton Lee, 31, Steel Forgeman.

A transcription of his gravestone in Ecclefield Cemetery (an impressive stone in the corner next to Gatty Hall):













Sarah’s death notice:

Emanuel still had some eccentricity to display even after his death – in 1886 a stash of sovereigns buried by the Fairyland Poet was unearthed from underneath one of his fruit trees:

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Here is an OCR'd version of the Independent article - well worth reading





Ten cities contended for the honour of having given birth to Homer. Sheffield, more fortunate, has given birth to a greater poet without having her merit claimed by any envious rival. In future ages, her soot will be forgotten, her crimes will be condoned, and she will be famed in history and in song as the "classic" mother of the mighty minstrel of the world. Foot-sore but enthusiastic pilgrims will come from far to pay their homage at the poet's shrine; fragments of moss, scraps of stone, leaves from the trees in the garden of " Fuschia Cottage, Palmerston place, near Grenoside," will find their way into the distant east, the glorious west, the chilly north, the sunny south, and will there be treasured, revered - aye, even worshipped as mementos of him who sang by Greno`s woods till the trees hushed themselves to listen, whose fiddle charmed the rocks and caves by Wharncliffe’s crags till the dragon pricked his ears and paused for two whole minutes in his work of devouring a syren, while the hares and the rabbits and the squirrels gathered round and danced to the dulcet tones on the tips of their tails. One enthusiastic little rabbit indeed, it is recorded, danced so long that he had no tail left to sit on. When the time comes for every author to be properly appreciated, there will be no more talk of “Three poets in three distant ages born." The one great poet of our own age will eclipse all the rest, and it is probable the "parliament of the world ” will pass an Act entitling him alone of all others, past, present, or to come, to use the honourable designation. Is it possible that any of our readers can be so grossly ignorant as to ask the name of the poet? Benighted mortals, shameful fact! Yet we fear education is still so limited as to compel us to inform all men, by these presents, that “ Emanuel Eaton, Fairyland Poet, Fuschia Cottage, Palmerston place, near Grenoside," is the overpowering genius to whom we refer, and if any man doubts our estimate of his powers we can only say that Emanuel has received letters, from persons who ought to know, which conclusively prove (to his satisfaction) that Homer, Horace, Shakespeare, Burns, Milton, Tennyson, and all the rest are mere duffers, that the best they have written is no more to be compared with his compositions than a parrot`s talk is to be compared to Mr.Gladstone’s eloquence. And on this last point we entirely agree with Mr. Eaton. That we may not be misunderstood we quote one of the many testimonies Eaton (we drop the "Mr." for who would think of writing " Mr. Shakspeare," or “ Mr. Milton," and shall our poet be made inferior to these?) has received :-


“ Broomhall Park, Oct. 30th, 1867.

“ SIR,—I write to express my most sincere thanks for the beautiful piece of poetry with which you have favoured me, and which, I assure you, at home meets the highest marks of admiration. It surpasses those of Byron and Burns, which I am extremely well acquainted with, and I was far more interested in your book of poems than I was when I perused the volumes of Shakspeare. I picture you in my mind as a second Homer, who was the most celebrated poet among the ancient Greeks, and I consider you together with your retired country house, with your flowers ever blooming, and your gooseberries and other fruit maturing by the heat of summer, under the shade of the lofty oaks, a Horace indeed, of whom I have no doubt you have read, and was a famous Roman poet of lyric verse, indued with the same gifts with which you are gifted. You certainly appear to have one of the nine Muses in your breast, who is continually breathing poetry through your mouth.

"I was particularly struck with your idea of the beauties of nature, which you introduce into your poems with a surpassing melody to the ear. It can plainly be seen that there is a vein of poetic blood which is ever flowing freely through your veins. I must now conclude, still thanking you for your poetry.

Yours truly, A. WALTON."


Our readers will be pleased to hear that the presence of “ one of the nine Muses in his breast" does not at all incommode the Fairyland poet. He “ bears his body seemly" notwithstanding, and the poetry she breathes "through his mouth" comes with all the force of their united lungs, and is well calculated to deafen the unwary auditor. Another of the nine Muses has kindly and thoughtfully removed Eaton's own power of hearing, so that he himself experiences no discomfort from the noise his own particular Muse makes. But Eaton’s own comments on the above letter must not be omitted. Though brief, they show conclusively the power of his mind, the accuracy of his orthography, the beauty of his grammar, the keen appreciation he has of the advantages of punctuation, and the excessive modesty which does not prevent him from esteeming himself more highly than so-called poets of whom he " knows no more than the man in the moon." He says - “ The writer of this beautiful note says no doubt I have read Horace if any one will read the PREFACE in my Coppies, will see my schooling ceased Just gone my 7th year my Fiddle and flowers was and is my Horace. I have paid so much attention in my working days to make myself more acquainted with the Victoria yellow-boys than to know who Horace Homer and Shakespeare was, that apears in this note) for I know no more of them than the man in the moon." But it is hardly fair our readers should not have the power of judging of the poet’s powers for themselves. We take the following at random :-


“Strolling through our wood I beheld a lovely sight,

Some charming young ladies very g a y,

A beauty among them I viewed with delight,

Was culling wild flowers by the way.

Kind nature in beauty had decked every tree,

Occupied by the sweet-feathered throng.

This very lovely sight how poetical to me:

So l promised the girl a new song."


After this does not the following remark from the author’s preface bear evidence of undue humility? “You must not view my poems as a criterion of my talent ; if you want to see me in the true light of my capacity, fix me in a suitable company, and there you will find me kindling up into lovely flame, lovely ladies and bonny lasses." It is to be hoped the "lovely flame" will not set fire to the Muse that dwells within the poet's breast. We quite agree with the gentleman whose " testimonial" the author publishes that the " Fairyland Poet" is “a thorough original."


We regret to say that the above estimate of the Muse’s power does not meet with universal approval, and we have with pain received a letter stating upon what grounds our correspondent “opposes” the views we expressed, and giving reasons why the " Fairyland poet" is not entitled to so high a niche in the temple of fame as we were disposed to assign to him. The present letter is, we fear, too Iibellous for insertion, as the writer does not confine himself to criticism of the poet`s works, but attacks him on more personal grounds. The poetic faculty seems to run strong in the breasts of the Grenoside people, and our correspondent, finding that sedate prose is no longer a sufficiently powerful medium for the expression of his indignation, breaks forth into an impassioned denunciation which we cannot resist the temptation to quote. Having premised that the innocent object of his wrath " stiles himself the Fairey land King," he writes :-


“How vein and wickerd his the King

For on the Sunday he will sing

The recherd Poems he has made

Wich are not Fit For man To read

I wonder wheir you think you'll go

A vain A wickerd King like you

I wonder that you do not Shame

Oh Fairey King I the[e] disdain"


Whatever may he thought of the vigour and beauty of this apostrophe it cannot but be regretted that greatness should be liable to be thus misunderstood and assailed. Alas! it always has been that genius has not been properly appreciated till too late to do it fitting honour, and we must fain admit that we were mistaken when we supposed that we had at last found a poet who received the honour that was his due, in his own country and in his own time.


from Sheffield Independent February 15th 1868

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Great reading!

I get the impression that most of what was written about him was - quote - 'tongue-in-cheek'

And what happened to Fuscia Cottage, the 'poets shrine' ?

Did the enthusiastic pilgrims carry away fragments of moss, scraps of stone and the leaves from the trees until there was nothing left?

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  • 3 years later...
Guest judyking

Hi Edmund

I have suddenly received my membership for this site, many many months after my application, but better late than never!

My husband Lionel is one of the 3xgreat grandsons of Emanuel Eaton, and we were delighted to find your article here. Thank you so much for all of your efforts and respect for this forgotten ancestor. Emanuel's son Joseph Eaton Lee (1815-1898) had two sons who migrated to Australia - Arthur in 1880 and Elijah in 1886. They were both moderately successful businessmen who raised families in Sydney, where some of their descendants still live. Their niece Rose Ethel migrated to Queensland much later, in the 1950s.

I have also followed up on Emanuel's book of poetry, and the University of Sheffield library has supplied me with a scanned copy, which has now been donated to the State Library of New South Wales.

We are going to visit Sheffield on a visit to the UK in July this year, and I hope we will be able to see the gravestone for ourselves in Ecclesfield Cemetery.

Again, many thanks for your work and for posting it here for me to find,

Best regards,

Judy King

A collection of original poems / by E. Eaton, the Fairyland Poet


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