Aubrey Thomas Hunt de Vere
Poet, critic, and essayist, b. at Curragh Chase, County Limerick, Ireland, January 10, 1814; died there, January 21, 1902
De Vere, AUBREY THOMAS HUNT, poet, critic, and essayist, b. at Curragh Chase, County Limerick, Ireland, January 10, 1814; died there, January 21, 1902. He was the third son of Sir Aubrey de Vere and Mary Spring Rice, sister of the first Lord Mont-eagle. Aubrey Vere, second son of the sixteenth Earl of Oxford, was his direct ancestor. Aubrey de Vere early showed his rare poetic temperament. His young imagination was strongly influenced by his friendship with the astronomer, Sir William Rowan Hamilton, through whom he came to a knowledge and reverent admiration for Wordsworth and Coleridge. In 1832 he entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he devoted himself to the study of metaphysics, reading Kant and Coleridge. Later he visited Oxford, Cambridge, and Rome, and came under the potent influence of Newman. He also visited the Lake Country of England, and he afterwards spoke of the days under Wordsworth’s roof as the greatest honor of his life. His veneration for Wordsworth was singularly shown in after life, when he never omitted a yearly pilgrim-age to the grave of that poet until advanced age made the journey impossible.
From his study of Coleridge, Aubrey de Vere received his first impulse towards Catholicity, which was developed by events following the conversion of Manning, and he was received into the Church, November, 1857, in the archbishop’s chapel at Avignon. His unusual sweetness of character won for him many friends, and this important change in his life did not separate him from them. Among these friends Sara Coleridge and Sir Henry Taylor are preeminent, and his long correspondence with them, with Miss Fen-wick, with Gladstone, and many others of literary and political fame, is of marked interest. The famine year in Ireland was one of the most important in his earlier life, and he then showed a practical and vigorous interest in politics. In 1848 he had published a book on English misrule and Irish misdeeds, which was criticized as a work of great value, notably by Mill and Carlyle and Lord John Manners. His brother, Sir Stephen de Vere, the translator of some of the Odes and Epodes of Horace, also made heroic efforts at this time to better the condition of Irish emigrants; and the intimate friendship between the brothers led to their almost daily correspondence throughout their long lives.
It is as a poet that Aubrey de Vere is best known. His work is in part historical and in part literary, his aim being to illustrate the supernatural in the form of supernatural truth by recording the conversion to Christianity of Ireland and England. The quality of his verse is strong and vigorous, musical, and remarkably spiritual. A critic in the “Quarterly Review” of 1896 says of his poetry, that next to Browning’s it shows the fullest vitality, resumes the largest sphere of ideas, covers the broadest intellectual field since the poetry of Wordsworth. He never strove for ornate effect in his poetry, which is marked by sublime and serious conviction as he traces the progress of spiritual thought in the development of the nations, notably Ireland, in “The Legend of St. Patrick” (London, 1872), and of Spain in his eloquent portrayal of the Cid. “The Children of Lir” is one of the most exquisite lyrics in the language, and his classic knowledge, his richness of imagination, his combined grace and dignity of thought are revealed in his “Search after Proserpine” (London, 1843). In his “Alexander the Great” (London, 1874) he represents the Greek ideal in remarkable purity, and this historical play, with his “Saint Thomas of Canterbury” (ibid.), reveals him as a dramatist unequalled in his century, except by Sir Henry Taylor, Browning, and his father, the elder de Vere. His memorial sonnets are characterized by strong and deep thought, and his odes show a descriptive power, and a spontaneous lyric charm and grace.
In addition to the above-mentioned works, all published in London, he also wrote: “Legends and Records of the Church and Empire” (1887); “May Carols and Legends of Saxon Saints” (1857); “Mediaeval Records and Sonnets” (1898); “Legends of the Saxon Saints” (1879); “May Carols” (1857); “Saint Peter’s Chains” (1888); “Essays Literary and Ethical” (1889); “Es-says chiefly on Poetry” (1887); “Picturesque Sketches of Greece and Turkey” (1850).
As a critic, Aubrey de Vere shows discriminating power in the two volumes of “Essays” in which he writes of Sir Henry Taylor, Keats, Landor, and others, and of the power and passion of Wordsworth. He would have been satisfied to be known solely as the interpreter of Wordsworth, whom he considered the greatest poet after Milton. His charm of description is shown in two early volumes of “Sketches of Greece and Turkey”. In a volume of “Recollections” (London, 1897) may be found reminiscences of many notable people and events. The personality of Aubrey de Vere was singularly charming. He was of tall and slender physique, thoughtful and grave in character, of exceeding dignity and grace of manner, and retained his vigorous mental powers to a great age. He was undoubtedly one of the most profoundly intellectual poets of his time. As he never married, the name of de Vere at his death became extinct for the second time, and has been assumed by his nephew.
(2) SIR STEPHEN EDWARD DE VERE, poet and philanthropist, born at Curragh Chase, July 12, 1812, died at Foynes Island, November 10, 1904, second son of Sir Aubrey Hunt de Vere, and brother of the above. At the death of his eldest brother, Sir Vere de Vere, succeeded as fourth baronet to the title, which became extinct at his death. From his early youth he labored for the amelioration of the conditions, social and political, of the Irish people. In 1847 he made the voyage to Canada in the steerage of a ship, sharing the privations of the emigrants that an accurate report of their treatment might be given to the public and to Parliament. On his return to England in 1848, his letter describing the sufferings he had witnessed was read in the House of Lords, and the “Passenger Act” was amended. Sir Stephen de Vere became a Catholic from his observation of the peasantry whom he had taught, fed, and nursed in his own house. He had his residence at Foynes Island in the river Shannon, where he made his remarkable translations from Horace. He also built there a charming Gothic church, and died at the great age of ninety years. He was of small and slender physique, and, like his brother, was unmarried. He was Member of Parliament for Limerick, 1854-1859.
HELEN GRACE SMITH