1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/De Vere, Aubrey Thomas

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DE VERE, AUBREY THOMAS (1814–1902), Irish poet and critic, was born at Curragh Chase, Co. Limerick, on the 10th of January 1814, being the third son of Sir Aubrey de Vere Hunt (1788–1846). In 1832 his father dropped the final name by royal licence. 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 de Vere 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 on the 20th of January 1902, in the production of poetry and criticism. 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. 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 Church; and in many of his poems, notably in the volume of sonnets called St Peter’s 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 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.