Godley, Alfred Denis (1856–1925), classicist and poet, was born 22 January 1856 at Ashfield, Co. Cavan, the eldest son of Rev. James Godley, rector of Carrigallen, Co. Leitrim, and Eliza Frances Godley (née La Touche). After attending Tilney Basset's preparatory school in Dublin, he went to Harrow and Balliol College, Oxford, graduating BA in 1878. At Oxford he became known for his classical scholarship and won several prizes, including the Craven scholarship and the Gaisford prize for Greek verse. In 1879 he was appointed assistant classical master at Bradfield College. He returned to Oxford in 1883 as tutor and fellow of Magdalen College (1883–1912). Serving as deputy public orator of Oxford (1904–6), he was elected public orator in 1910, a post he held until his death.
Godley also enjoyed renown as a writer of satiric verse and prose, beginning his literary career as a contributor to the Oxford Magazine in 1883. In 1890 he became its editor, and two years later published his first book of poems: Verses to order (1892). Later publications included Lyra frivola (1899), Second strings (1902) and The casual ward (1912). His work was very popular and two volumes, Reliquiae (1926) and Fifty poems (1927), were published posthumously. He also published numerous works of serious scholarship including Socrates, and Athenian society in his age (1896) and Oxford in the eighteenth century (1908). Noted as a translator of Herodotus, Tacitus, and Horace, he served as joint-editor of the Classical Review (1910–20). He also edited and published volumes of the poetry of Thomas Moore (qv) and W. M. Praed.
Active in political life, he served as an alderman on Oxford city council. During the Boer war (1899–1901) he organised volunteer forces, commanding a battalion of the 4th Oxfordshire Light Infantry (1900–05). He served in this capacity again during the Great War and was lieutenant-colonel of the Oxfordshire Volunteer Corps (1916–19). A staunch unionist, during the home rule crisis he supported the formation of the UVF and wrote some political verse, notably ‘The arrest’, which was popular among unionists. A pioneer in the sport of mountaineering, he was a founding member of the Alpine Club and a committee member (1908–11). He was also a member of the governing body of Harrow School. Towards the end of his career he was awarded honorary doctorates from Princeton (1913) and Oxford (1919). In 1925 he went on a tour of the Levant and contracted a fever which ultimately led to his death. He died 29 June 1925 at his Oxford home, 27 Norham Road, and was buried at Wolvercote cemetery.
In 1894 he married Amy Hope Cay, daughter of Charles Hope Cay, fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. They had no children.