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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Sir Aubrey de Vere (1788–1846)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
AT Curragh Chase, in the picturesque county of Limerick, Ireland, Aubrey Hunt was born in 1788. On the death of his father he succeeded to the baronetcy and took the name of De Vere. Though his deep love of nature prompted him while very young to write descriptive verses, it was the drama that first seriously attracted him. This form he chose for his first painstaking work, ‘Julian the Apostate.’ The play opens at the time when Julian, having renounced the faith of his household oppressors, is allowed as a pagan worshiper to participate in the Eleusinian mysteries; when, it is said, he consented to the assassination of his uncle the Emperor Constantius. It found an admiring and enthusiastic audience and received unstinted praise from the critics. One wrote, “Lord Byron has produced nothing equal to it;” and another, “Scott has nothing so intellectual or so elevated among his exquisite sketches.”  1
  ‘Mary Tudor,’ a drama written two years before his death in 1846, is his “most considerable work,” says his son, and “an expression of his sympathy with great qualities obscured by great errors and great calamities.” The sonnet was however the form of composition he preferred, and as a sonneteer he will be remembered. His sonnets are mainly historical, though he wrote also some religious and descriptive ones which Wordsworth considered “the most perfect of our age.” His earlier ones, modeled after those of Petrarch and Filicaja, are inferior in imagery, phraseology, and nobility of thought to those produced under the influence of Wordsworth, a poet whose genius De Vere was among the first to acknowledge, and whose friendship he regarded as one of the chief honors of his life.  2
  Like his friend, De Vere was a patriot, and in his historical sonnets he has recorded his love for the land of his remoter ancestors, whereas in the ‘Lamentations of Ireland’ he has expressed with great ardor his love for the land of his birth. In 1842 he published ‘The Song of Faith,’ which with the exception of a few translations was all he gave the world in twenty years. Devoted to his occupations as a country gentleman, and being of a singularly modest disposition, he neither loved nor courted fame, nor found in it any incentive to action.  3
  Sir Aubrey De Vere was not in the modern acceptance of the term a national poet, nor was he, as so many of his contemporaries, anti-Irish. He modeled his poems on the great English writers, but all he wrote is pervaded with a deep sympathy for Ireland, and that at a time when such sympathy was rare.  4
 
 
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