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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Aubrey Thomas de Vere, Critic & Poet

aubrey-de-vereAubrey Thomas de Vere, a critic and poet who adapts early Gaelic tales, is born on January 10, 1814 at Curraghchase House, now in ruins at Curraghchase Forest ParkCurraghchase Forest Park, Kilcornan, County Limerick.

Hunt de Vere is the third son of Sir Aubrey de Vere, 2nd Baronet and his wife Mary Spring Rice, daughter of Stephen Edward Rice and Catherine Spring, of Mount Trenchard, County Limerick. He is a nephew of Thomas Spring Rice, 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon and a younger brother of Sir Stephen de Vere, 4th Baronet. His sister Ellen marries Robert O’Brien, the brother of William Smith O’Brien. In 1832, his father drops the original surname “Hunt” by royal licence, assuming the surname “de Vere.”

de Vere is strongly influenced by his friendship with the astronomer Sir William Rowan Hamilton through whom he comes to a knowledge and reverent admiration for William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He is educated privately at home and in 1832 enters Trinity College, Dublin, where he reads Immanuel Kant and Coleridge. Later he visits Oxford, Cambridge, and Rome, and comes under the potent influence of John Henry Newman. He is also a close friend of Henry Taylor.

The characteristics of de Vere’s poetry are high seriousness and a fine religious enthusiasm. His research in questions of faith leads him to the Roman Catholic Church where in 1851 he is received into the Church by Cardinal Henry Edward Manning in Avignon. In many of his poems, notably in the volume of sonnets called St. Peters Chains (1888), he makes rich additions to devotional verse. For a few years he holds a professorship, under Newman, in the Catholic University in Dublin.

In A Book of Irish VerseW. B. Yeats describes de Vere’s poetry as having “less architecture than the poetry of Ferguson and Allingham, and more meditation. Indeed, his few but ever memorable successes are enchanted islands in gray seas of stately impersonal reverie and description, which drift by and leave no definite recollection. One needs, perhaps, to perfectly enjoy him, a Dominican habit, a cloister, and a breviary.”

de Vere also visits the Lake Country of England, and stays under Wordsworth’s roof, which he calls the greatest honour of his life. His veneration for Wordsworth is singularly shown in later life, when he never omits a yearly pilgrimage to the grave of the poet until advanced age makes the journey impossible.

de Vere is of tall and slender physique, thoughtful and grave in character, of exceeding dignity and grace of manner, and retains his vigorous mental powers to a great age. According to Helen Grace Smith, he is one of the most profoundly intellectual poets of his time. His census return for 1901 lists his profession as “Author.”

Aubrey de Vere dies at Curraghchase on January 20, 1902, at the age of eighty-eight. As he never married, the name of de Vere at his death becomes extinct for the second time, and is assumed by his nephew.

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Opening of the Catholic University of Ireland

The Catholic University of Ireland in Dublin is opened and lectures commence on November 3, 1854, with the registration of seventeen students, the first being Daniel O’Connell, grandson of the notable Catholic politician Daniel O’Connell.

The university is founded in 1851 following the Synod of Thurles in 1850, and in response to the Queen’s University of Ireland and its associated colleges which are non-denominational. Cardinal Paul Cullen has previously forbidden Catholics from attending these “godless colleges.” On May 18, 1854 the university is formally established with five faculties of law, letters, medicine, philosophy, and theology with John Henry Newman as the Rector.

In 1861, Dr. Bartholomew Woodlock, the rector from 1860–1879, tries to secure land for a building near Holy Cross College Clonliffe, the establishment to be known as St. Patrick’s University. Plans are drawn up by architect J.J. McCarthy and a foundation stone laid. Cardinal Cullen is against the idea of educating lay and clerical students on the same premises. However, this plan is shelved because of the expansion of the railway line. A church and monastery are eventually built on the site. Under the name St. Patrick’s University night classes are advertised by the University under Dr. Woodlock’s name.

Some feeder secondary schools are established for the Catholic University of Ireland. The nearby Catholic University School is joined by St. Flannan’s College in County Clare and Catholic University High School in Waterford.

The Catholic University is neither a recognised university so far as the civil authorities are concerned, nor an institution offering recognised degrees. Newman has little success in establishing the new university, though over £250,000 has been raised from the laity to fund it. Though they hold the foundation money as trustees, the hierarchy in 1859 sends most of it to support an Irish Brigade led by Myles O’Reilly to help defend Rome in the Second Italian War of Independence. Newman leaves the university in 1857.

Subsequently the school goes into a serious decline, with only three students registered in 1879. The situation changes in 1880 when the recognised Royal University of Ireland comes into being and students of the Catholic University are entitled to sit the Royal University examinations and receive its degrees.

In 1909 the Catholic University essentially comes to an end with the creation of the National University of Ireland, with University College Dublin as a constituent, however the Catholic University of Ireland remains a legal entity until 1911.

(Pictured: J. J. McCarthy’s design for the Catholic University of Ireland)