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Madder Music, Stronger Wine: The Life of Ernest Dowson, Poet and Decadent Paperback – 16 Nov 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Tauris Parke Paperbacks; New edition edition (16 Nov. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860647146
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860647147
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 1.8 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 728,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am working now on the world release of my Women and the Vote: A World History which will be published in 2014 by Oxford University Press. I am very excited to be seeing this project through to publication as it is the culmination of 25 years of work on radical and nationalist figures. I have been able to add to knowledge I already had and do extensive new work to create a world picture of the relationship of nationalism to radicalism seen through the prism of votes for women.

This year saw the release of my Kipling as a paperback by Haus.

I was very pleased at the attention my Gandhi: Naked Ambition received. It is published in America by Pegasus under the title Gandhi: The True Man Behind Modern India. There has been a deal of interest in foreign language editions, and a Portuguese version was published last year.

I have updated my biography of Tony Benn which originally came out in 1992. I have written new chapters to take in the last twenty years of Tony Benn's very active life, and revised previous chapters. The new book is published by Biteback.

My work has concentrated on radicals and nationalists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, hence my interest in Benn, the Nehrus, Gandhi and Pankhurst.

I have also worked on characters from the 'English Decadence' of the 1890s, such as Ernest Dowson, and I am planning a book on 'decadent women' writers.

Thank you for your interest in my work. For personal details, news etc, please refer to my website:

Product Description


'Undoubtedly the finest book that has been written about this unjustly neglected poet' - Thomas Wright, Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Jad Adams is a producer of history documentaries and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Madder Music, Stronger Wine is his third biography, his previous two being Tony Benn and Dynasty: The Nehru-Gandhi Story.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
No external facts would indicate that Ernest Dowson was cursed from birth. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer in Spain on 9 May 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Almost any account of Dowson's existence would be of interest, even impressive. Jad Adams does the job admirably, with apparent facility. The book has a solid but simple structure, and every paragraph is meaningful and illuminating. As has been pointed out, the reader will also find an excellent description of a group of poets and artists, around the figure of Dowson, in the 1890's.

But "Madder Music, Stronger Wine" is not only a well-done and informative biography. It has its own literary merits in many passages; for example, in the pages dedicated to recount the last days and death of Ernest Dowson. I think that the author of such poems as "Cynara" and "Vitae summa brevis..." has found a biographer sympathetic to his human qualities and frailties, and of a similar artistic sensibility.

Dowson was not as great and imposing a figure as other English poets of the 19th Century. But it's very likely that some of his delicate, inspired and crafted verse will stand the test of time.

This is my first review on Amazon. My mother tongue is not English, but Spanish; so please be kind to some inaccuracies and liberties you may find in these lines.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. R. Brandon TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a truly excellent book, well written in a lucid style, nicely presented and a very interesting biography. The author, Jad Adams, has done very well in charting the life of Ernest Dowson through Dowson's correspondence with the many friends that he made during his short, tragic, life.
Adams takes us from Dowson's birth in a comfortably well off, and educated, family living in south London, his early years on the Continent where he gained a knowledge of the classics, his time at Oxford, to his employment in the family firm, a dry dock business in Limehouse. From the earliest days Dowson was drawn to writing and poetry and this was his abiding interest whilst enduring his days as a clerk in the family business. This lead him to those parts of London, Fitzrovia, Soho and The Strand, where he would meet like-minded friends and begin his life long and financially unrewarding career as a novelist, poet and translator. Dowson was a key contributor to the iconic `Decadent' publications of the day, `The Yellow Book' and `The Savoy' and was a friend of virtually all the leading British bohemians of the 1890s who took their lead from the French writer Paul Verlaine. Like another key figure and close friend of this period, Aubrey Beardsley, Dowson was condemned in early life to the knowledge that he had contracted tuberculosis, a disease that had already affected several family members. Dowson was a good friend of Wilde and one of the few who continued to support him in his hour of need.
Adams is able to draw a well rounded portrait of Dowson and his close associates and we can conjure a very clear image of Dowson in the West End bars and visiting `The Poland' café in Soho, home of his unrequited love, Adelaide, aged just 13 years when Dowson first fell for her.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Hallaig on 17 Mar. 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dowson is well served by this biography which unearths a few new facts en route. Adams sums up a complex character well and is not so star-struck as to avoid painful truths both about Dowson's life and the quality of his work. He rightly stresses Dowson's prodigious work rate, given the excesses of his private life and treads a very correct line in analysing Dowson's preoccupation with young girls and Adelaide Foltinowicz in particular. He does well too to attempt to recreate the London of the aesthetes and his thumbnail biographical sketches of the main players are intriguing and revealing. The links between Dowson's poetry, prose and his own life and reading are also well-made. There are only a few less positive points to make: the quality of the plates is not as good as it should be, given modern technology, and a little more could have been told us of the wider Dowson family circle (various cousins are mentioned only en passant). Similarly, we are left ignorant as to the fate of Adelaide's children. Overall, an enjoyable and enlightening read, well-structured as the tragedy it is: "the Worthy encompassed by the Inevitable".
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Philip Walker on 14 April 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ernest Dowson, a friend of Oscar Wilde and an important, although often overlooked poet from the Victorian Decadent era.

My interest in Dowson began after seeing fresh flowers on his grave, a 110 year old grave where all around his had been forgotten. So I looked him up on Wikipedia and now, well I'm hooked. His poetry is arguably some of the most important lyrics of his time, and was considered by some a 'genius' including Oscar Wilde.

He died penniless, sleeping on a friends sofa in pain physically, and emotionally tortured (both his parents committed suicide, and the only girl he ever loved, did not feel the same about him). He died of 'consumption' at the age of 32, when he should have been in his prime.

This book has only fed my fire to find out more about Dowson, and to read his works.

The Author, Jad Adams manages to bring to life the Decedent Era, and also, and which I found very useful, is very honest, and realistic. He obviously researched the subject in great detail.

An amazing poet, a tragic life (perhaps that is why his poetry is so powerful?) and through this book Adams gives an authentic insight into the era, and into the life of Ernest Dowson.
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