AN OXFORD poet and historical biographer has died aged 79.

Professor Jon Stallworthy was a leading figure at Oxford University’s English faculty, a fellow of Wolfson College and poetry editor at Oxford University Press (OUP).

Mr Stallworthy – an accomplished poet himself – notably produced an acclaimed biography of First World War poet Wilfred Owen.

He had been re-reading Owen’s works, some years after writing a thesis on Irish poet WB Yeats, when he was invited to give the Chatterton Lecture in 1970 and gave it on Owen. It happened to be the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Owen’s poems.

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As he wrote the lecture it quickly became apparent there was scope for more. So with help from Owen’s brother, Harold, Mr Stallworthy unraveled the complex chronology of the poet’s childhood.

A year’s leave from OUP and a visiting fellowship at All Souls College gave him 12 stress-free months to carry out his research.

From birth in Oswestry, to death on the banks of the Sambre-Oise Canal in nothern France a week before the First World War ended, Mr Stallworthy retraced Owen’s footsteps and talked to people who had known him.

The resulting biography, Wilfred Owen, was hailed by critics and earned Mr Stallworthy the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize in 1975.

His style developed towards longer poems in later years, such as the book-length sequence A Familiar Tree, encompassing nine generations of Stallworthys.

And an autobiographical work about the birth of his son – including the journey through Oxford to hospital – is now part of many anthologies.

Jon Howie Stallworthy was born on January 18, 1935, in Kew, London, to parents Sir John Stallworthy and Margaret Stallworthy.

Aged seven, Mr Stallworthy started writing poetry at The Dragon School, Oxford. He traced his interest back to the The Dragon Book of Verse. “No book I have ever owned,” he wrote, “has given me more pleasure or, I believe, more profit.” He continued at Rugby School, Warwickshire, where a master gave early criticism of his work, before he went to read English at Magdalen College, Oxford.

After graduating, he stayed another year to try to earn a Blue in rugby.

As an academic excuse, he read for a degree in literature on the poet William Butler Yeats under Sir Maurice Bowra.

In an interview with our sister paper The Oxford Times he later recalled: “I had no intention of writing a thesis, but somehow the rugger didn’t go too well and Yeats became more and more absorbing.”

Sir Maurice persuaded him to go to Ireland to see Georgiana Yeats, who made available many of her late husband’s papers.

After joining OUP’s overseas editorial department as a junior editor in October 1959, he completed his degree and the press duly published his thesis in 1963.

Mr Stallworthy said: “My interest in Yeats developed because I thought it might help me develop my own poems, which I think it did.” He was to have the same experience with Wilfred Owen.

He married Gillian Meredith Waldock at Magdalen College Chapel, Oxford, on June 25, 1960. They had three children, Pippa, Nicolas and Jonathan, and lived in Wolvercote, before moving to Old Marston.

Walks between home and OUP provided much time for thinking: “When weather permits I like to walk across Port Meadow. During that 45 minutes I can think about a phrase or a line or a stanza without interruption and I might find two or three lines I can put down on paper.

“It suits me to compose in a slow but steady trickle.”

Jon Stallworthy died on November 19. He is survived by his three children. His wife Gillian passed away in 2013.