Savage-Armstrong, George Francis (DNB12)

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SAVAGE-ARMSTRONG, GEORGE FRANCIS (1845–1906), poet, born at Rathfarnham, co. Dublin, on 5 May 1845, was the third son of Edmund John Armstrong of Wicklow and Dublin and Jane, daughter of the Rev. Henry Savage of Glastry, co. Down, of the family of the Savages of the Ards. Edmund John Armstrong, the poet [q. v.], was his elder brother. After some early education in Jersey, he made a pedestrian tour in France with his brother Edmund in 1862, and in later years he tramped through many other continental countries. He matriculated at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1862, won the vice-chancellor's prize for an English poem on Circassia, and graduated B.A. in 1869. In 1869 he published his first volume of verse, 'Poems Lyrical and Dramatic' (2nd edit, 1872), and in the following year 'Ugone : a Tragedy' (2iia edit. 1872), a work largely written in Italy. In 1870 he was appointed professor of history and English literature in Queen's College, Cork. The hon. degree of M.A. was conferred upon him by Trinity College in 1872, and in the same year he issued ’King Saul,' the first part of his 'Tragedy of Israel.' ’King David' and 'King Solomon,' the second and third parts of his trilogy, followed in 1874 and 1876, and in 1877 he brought out an edition of his brother's 'Poems,' following it up with a collection of that writer's 'Essays' and 'Life and Letters.' A journey to Greece and Italy in 1881 led to the publication of his verses entitled 'Garland from Greece' (1882). He was made a fellow of the Royal University (1881), and in 1891 received the honorary degree of D.Litt. from the Queen's University. In 1892 the board of Trinity College commissioned him to write the tercentenary ode, which was set to music by Sir Robert Prescott Stewart [q. v.] and performed with success during the tercentenary celebrations of the summer of 1892.

In 1891, on the death of a maternal aunt, Armstrong assumed the additional surname of Savage. He continued his duties as professor at Cork and as examiner at the Royal University in Dublin until 1905. He died on 24 July 1906 at Strangford House, Strangford, co. Down.

Savage-Armstrong, who in fertility stands almost alone among Irish poets, continued publishing verse till near his death. His latest work was for the most part his best. He wrote of nature with fresh enthusiasm if in stately diction, and also showed philosophic faculty with command of passion. He has none of the Celtic mysticism of the later Irish school. His mature power is seen to special advantage in his 'Stories of Wicklow' (1886), 'One in the Infinite,' a philosophical sequence in verse (1892), and 'Ballads of Down' (1901). His other works were: 1. 'Victoria Regina et Imperatrix: a Jubilee Song from Ireland,' 1887. 2. 'Mephistopheles in Broadcloth: a Satire in Verse,' 1888. 3. 'Queen-Empress and Empire,' 1897, a loyal tribute in alliterative verse. 4. ’The Crowning of the King,' 1902. A laborious genealogical work, 'The Noble Family of the Savages o' the Ards,' appeared in 1888.

He married in 1879 Marie Elizabeth, daughter of John Wrixon, M.A., vicar of Malone, co. Antrim, who survived him, and by whom he had two sons and a daughter.

Dublin Evening Mail, 25 July 1906; Athenæum, 28 July 1906; Savages of the Ards (as above); Stopford Brooke's and Rolleston's Treasury of Irish Poetry, pp. 534-9; D. J. O'Donoghue, Poets of Ireland, 1912; Brit. Mus. Cat.; personal knowledge and private correspondence.]

D. J. O'D.