Alfred Austin, English poet, born at Hedingley, near Leeds, in 1835, educated at Stonyhurst and St. Mary's College, Oscott; took the degree of B.A. at London in 1853, was called to the bar and practised, but gave up law for literature in 1861. He published, in 1861, a satire called The Season, followed by many poems, including The Human Tragedy, The Golden Age, Savonarola (a tragedy), English Lyrics, Fortunatus the Pessimist, Lyrical Poems, Narrative Poems, Prince Lucifer, Alfred the Great, A Tale of True Love, Flodden Field (a tragedy), &c. His works in prose include The Garden that I love, In Veronica's Garden, Spring and Autumn in Ireland, Haunts of Ancient Peace, The Bridling of Pegasus, &c. He was made Poet Laureate in 1896, about four years after the death of Tennyson. He died in 1913.
In 1861, after two false starts in poetry and fiction, he made his first noteworthy appearance as a writer with The Season: a Satire, which contained incisive lines, and was marked by some promise both in wit and observation. In 1870 he published a volume of criticism, The Poetry of the Period, which was conceived in the spirit of satire, and attacked Tennyson, Browning, Matthew Arnold and Swinburne in an unrestrained fashion. The book aroused some discussion at the time, but its judgments were extremely uncritical.
As poet-laureate, his topical verses did not escape negative criticism; a hasty poem written in praise of the Jameson Raid in 1896 being a notable instance. The most effective characteristic of Austin's poetry, as of the best of his prose, was a genuine and intimate love of nature. His prose idylls, The Garden that I love and In Veronica's Garden, are full of a pleasant, open-air flavour. His lyrical poems are wanting in spontaneity and individuality, but many of them possess a simple, orderly charm, as of an English country lane. He had, indeed, a true love of England, sometimes not without a suspicion of insularity, but always fresh and ingenuous. A drama by him, Flodden Field, was acted at His Majesty's theatre in 1903.
Among his works are Pacchiarotto, Prince Lucifer and The Human Tragedy (1862). His autobiography was published in 1911.