Aubrey Thomas de Vere
He was born at Curraghchase House now in ruins at Curraghchase Forest Park, Kilcornan, County Limerick, the third son of Sir Aubrey de Vere de Vere, 2nd Baronet (1788–1846) (see De Vere baronets) and his wife Mary Rice, daughter of Stephen Edward Rice (d.1831), of Mount Trenchard, Co. Limerick. He was a nephew of Lord Monteagle and a younger brother of Sir Stephen de Vere, 4th Baronet. In 1832, his father dropped the original surname 'Hunt' by royal licence, assuming the surname 'de Vere'.
Sir Aubrey was himself a poet. Wordsworth called his sonnets the most perfect of the age. These and his drama, Mary Tudor, were published by his son in 1875 and 1884. Aubrey Thomas was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and in his twenty-eighth year published The Waldenses, which he followed up in the next year by The Search after Proserpine. Thenceforward he was continually engaged, till his death in 1902, in the production of poetry and criticism, being described as 'a man of literary fashion'.
His best-known works are: in verse, The Sisters (1861); The Infant Bridal (1864); Irish Odes (1869); Legends of St Patrick (1872); and Legends of the Saxon Saints (1879); and in prose, Essays chiefly on Poetry (1887); and Essays chiefly Literary and Ethical (1889). He also wrote a picturesque volume of travel-sketches, and two dramas in verse, Alexander the Great (1874); and St Thomas of Canterbury (1876); both of which, though they contain fine passages, suffer from diffuseness and a lack of dramatic spirit. His best remembered poem is Inisfail.
The characteristics of Aubrey de Vere's poetry are high seriousness and a fine religious enthusiasm. His research in questions of faith led him to the Roman Catholic Church; and in many of his poems, notably in the volume of sonnets called St Peters Chains (1888), he made rich additions to devotional verse. He was a disciple of Wordsworth, whose calm meditative serenity he often echoed with great felicity; and his affection for Greek poetry, truly felt and understood, gave dignity and weight to his own versions of mythological idylls. But perhaps he will be chiefly remembered for the impulse which he gave to the study of Celtic legend and Celtic literature. In this direction he has had many followers, who have sometimes assumed the appearance of pioneers; but after Matthew Arnold's fine lecture on Celtic Literature, nothing perhaps did more to help the Celtic revival than Aubrey de Vere's tender insight into the Irish character, and his stirring reproductions of the early Irish epic poetry.
A volume of Selections from his poems was edited in 1894 (New York and London) by G. E. Woodberry.
- Schmidt, Michael, Lives of the Poets, Weidenfeld & Nicolson London, 1998 ISBN 9780297840145
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Catholic Encyclopedia article
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