John Masefield was born in Ledbury, Herefordshire, in 1878. He was orphaned at an early age and, after a brief period at the King's School, Warwick, was educated aboard the Liverpool school-ship Conway. As an apprentice, Masefield sailed round Cape Horn in 1894; as a result of sickness, he was classified a Distressed British Sailor upon arrival in Chile. After convalescence in England he secured a new position in New York. Although he crossed the Atlantic, he never reported for duty. He later noted, "I was going to be a writer, come what might." After a period of homelessness and vagrancy, bar and factory work in America, Masefield returned to England in 1897. His first published poem appeared in a periodical in 1899. The friendship of W.B. Yeats provided encouragement, and in 1902 Salt-Water Ballads was published. A distinguished literary career followed, with work across a broad range of genres. Masefield was appointed poet laureate in 1930, and awarded the Order of Merit in 1935. He died in 1967; his ashes are buried in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey.Philip Errington is an antiquarian book expert within the Department of Printed Books and Manuscripts at Sotheby's in London. A graduate of the University of London, he read for his BA, MA and PhD at University College. In 2000 he was appointed a visiting research fellow of the University of London, Institute of English Studies. He was appointed editor of The Journal of the John Masefield Society in 1997. He was responsible for, and introduced, facsimile centenary editions of Masefield's Salt-Water Ballads in 2002 and Ballads in 2003. His bibliography, John Masefield, The 'Great Auk' of English Literature, is published by the British Library.