Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Anster, John

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ANSTER, JOHN (1793–1867), regius professor of civil law in the university of Dublin, and translator of Goethe's 'Faust,' was son of John Anster, Esq., of Charleville, co. Cork, where he was born in 1793. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1810, and obtained a sholarship in 1814. In 1815 he printed in Dublin a collection of short poems, but thought fit to have it suppressed soon after publication. Four years later he obtained a prize offered by the authorities of Trinity College for a poem on the death of the Princess Charlotte; and in the same year, 1819, appeared his volume of 'Poems, with some Translations from the German' (Blackwood, Edinburgh, pp. 244), which included, with several pieces from the suppressed pamphlet, his prize poem, a blank verse poem entitled 'The Times' (written immediately after the battle of Waterloo), which shows the influence of Coleridge, 'Zamri,' a fragment of an Eastern tale, in Byron's manner, and various translations, the most important of these being a rendering of Goethe's 'Bride of Corinth.' In 1820 appeared in 'Blackwood's Magazine' translations by Anster of some passages from Goethe's 'Faust,' the first rendering into English of any part of that poem. In Easter term, 1824, Anster was called to the Irish bar; in the following year he took the degree of doctor of laws. He was married in 1832 to Elizabeth, eldest daughter of W. Blacker Bennett, Esq., of Castle Crea, co. Limerick. The complete translation of the first part of 'Faust,' with notes, appeared in 1835 ('Faustus, a Dramatic Mystery,' Longman, Rees, and Co., pp. 491). Its high merits were at once recognised (see Edinburgh Review, October 1835). Occasionally somewhat lacking in conciseness, it is throughout the translation of a poet by a poet. Two years later he published 'Xeniola: Poems, including translations from Schiller and De la Motte Fouqué' (Dublin, Milliken and Son, pp. 174). It reprints several of the poems of the 1815 volume, the principal addition being translated scenes from Fouqué's drama, the 'Pilgrimage.' In the same year, 1837, Dr. Anster was appointed registrar to the high court of admiralty in Ireland. From 1837 to 1856 he was a frequent contributor of prose and verse to the 'Dublin University Magazine.' Among these articles, mainly historical and literary, may be found a series on Italian poets. At a later date, from 1847 onward, he contributed to the 'North British Review,' first dealing with Irish affairs at a critical moment, 1847-49, then choosing literary topics ('Life and Writings of Shelley,' 'Swift and his Biographers,' 'Southey's Life and Correspondence,' 'Life and Letters of Campbell,' 'Autobiography of Leigh Hunt,' 'Dante'). In 1841 Dr. Anster was granted a pension on the civil list. In 1850 he was elected regius professor of civil law in the university of Dublin, a position which he held until his death. His introductory lecture, 'On the Study of the Roman Civil Law,' has been published (Dublin, Hodges and Smith, 1851, pp. 51). Many fragments of the second part of 'Faust' having been rendered into verse by Anster, 'a member of my family,' he writes, 'became interested in the subject, and felt it desirable to arrange such passages as could be found among papers disregarded and almost forgotten by me. This accident led me to complete the poem.' 'Faustus, the Second Part, from the German of Goethe,' with copious notes, was published in 1864 (London, Longmans and Co., pp. 485). "While adhering more closely to the original than did the translation of the first part, it possesses a like poetical quality (reviewed in Saturday Review, 1 Oct. 1864). The first part, long out of print in England, was twice reprinted in Germany during Anster's life. For some time before his death he was engaged in revising his translation for a third German edition, which appeared in the Tauchnitz series (Leipzig, 1867) after the translator's death. Dr. Anster died in Dublin, 9 June 1867, aged 73, leaving two sons and three daughters. His social charm, kindly wit, and wide literary culture rendered Anster a delightful companion. A portrait of him at the age of forty-six will be found in the 'Dublin University Magazine,' November 1839. To "Wills's 'Lives of Illustrious Irishmen' Anster contributed the life of Gerald, sixteenth Earl of Desmond.

[Gent. Mag. August 1867; Dr. Waller, in Imperial Dict. of Biog.; materials furnished by Miss Anster.]

E. D.