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date: 22 February 2020

Ellis, William Ashtonlocked

  • Barry Millington


(b London, Aug 20, 1852; d London, Jan 2, 1919). English writer and translator. His father was a surgeon and following medical studies at St George's Hospital, London, Ellis held the post of Resident Medical Officer at the Western Dispensary from 1878. In the mid-1870s, however, he became (in his own words) ‘a devotee of Wagner's works’ and resigned his post in 1887, devoting himself over the following 28 years to the single-minded pursuit of Wagner studies.

From 1888 to 1895 he edited (and largely wrote) the macaronically titled journal of the London Wagner Society, The Meister, founded primarily to publish English translations of Wagner's more substantial prose works. Out of this project grew the first of Ellis's chief undertakings, the eight-volume English translation of Richard Wagner's Prose Works (1892–9). His other major endeavour was the six-volume Life of Richard Wagner, which was initiated as ‘an English revision’ of the ‘authorized’ biography by C.F. Glasenapp, but which from the fourth volume omitted Glasenapp's name from the title-page, on the grounds that it had become Ellis's own work. The latter project – flawed, idiosyncratic, but containing a wealth of detail not available elsewhere – remained uncompleted: volume six takes the story only to ...

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