George William (‘AE’) Russell Biography
(1867–1935), The Candle of Vision, Homeward: Songs by the Way, The Earth Breath
Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: M(acha)L(ouis) Rosenthal Biography to William Sansom [Norman Trevor Sansom] Biography
Irish poet, editor, and agronomist, born in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, of an Irish Protestant family, educated at Dublin's Metropolitan School of Art, where he began a lasting friendship with his fellow student W. B. Yeats. ‘AE’, as he was generally known, was an abbreviated form of ‘Aeon’, a pseudonym he had once used. Yeats was influenced by Russell's wide knowledge of esoteric philosophies and Irish mythology; The Candle of Vision (1918) is the fullest exposition of his mystical beliefs. His first collection of verse, Homeward: Songs by the Way (1894), contained numerous fusions of Theosophy and Irish mythology. His subsequent collections include The Earth Breath (1897), The Divine Vision (1904), Voices of the Stones (1925), and Midsummer Eve (1928). Collected Poems appeared in 1913. While much of his verse is of a rather nebulously visionary character, occasional pieces form attractively simple adaptations of folk themes; elsewhere, touches of wry humour and idiosyncratically precise diction produce memorable effects. A leader of the Irish Revival, Russell was involved in the establishment of the Abbey Theatre, which produced his play Deirdre in 1902. Between 1905 and 1923 he was editor of The Irish Homestead; he wrote prolifically on cultural and agricultural topics, outlining his ideas on rural economy in Co-operation and Nationality (1912). From 1923 to 1930 he edited The Irish Statesman, a literary and political journal which encouraged numerous distinguished authors. Although a proponent of Irish independence since his youth, and latterly an eminent public figure, he declined the invitation to become a senator of the Irish Free State. His later publications include The Avatars (1933), a prose fantasy based on his mystical conceptions of evolution, which forms his most compellingly imaginative work. H. Summerfield's biography That Myriad-Minded Man appeared in 1975.
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