Authors: Æ

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Irish poet and political philosopher

Author Works

Poetry:

Homeward: Songs by the Way, 1894

The Earth Breath, and Other Poems, 1897

The Divine Vision, and Other Poems, 1903

The Nuts of Knowledge: Lyrical Poems Old and New, 1903

By Still Waters: Lyrical Poems Old and New, 1906

Collected Poems, 1913, 1919, 1926, 1935

Gods of War, with Other Poems, 1915

Voices of the Stones, 1925

Midsummer Eve, 1928

Dark Weeping, 1929

Enchantment, and Other Poems, 1930

Vale, and Other Poems, 1931

The House of the Titans, and Other Poems, 1934

Selected Poems, 1935

Long Fiction:

The Avatars, 1933

Short Fiction:

The Mask of Apollo, and Other Stories, 1904

Drama:

Deirdre, pr. 1902

Nonfiction:

Some Irish Essays, 1906

The National Being, 1916

The Candle of Vision, 1918

The Interpreters, 1922

Song and Its Fountains, 1932

Some Passages from the Letters of Æ to W. B. Yeats, 1936

The Living Torch, 1937 (Monk Gibbon, editor)

Æ’s Letters to Mínánlabáin, 1937

Letters from Æ, 1961

Miscellaneous:

The Descent of the Gods: Comprising the Mystical Writings of G.W. Russell “A.E.,” 1988 (Raghavan Narasimhan Iyer and Nandini Iyer, editors)

Biography

The biblical name Æon was the pseudonym that George William Russell signed to an early manuscript; he adopted Æ (ay ee) after the inadvertent dropping of the last two letters in printer’s proof. Born into a Protestant family of three children, of which he was the youngest, he attended Rathmines School in Dublin, where the Russells moved when he was ten. After two years, young George William studied at the Metropolitan School of Art, where he formed a friendship with William Butler Yeats, an association of great importance to both and of long duration. (There were a few difficult years during which Æ’s somewhat incongruous friendship with George Moore caused Yeats concern.){$I[AN]9810000462}{$I[A]Æ[AE]}{$S[A]Russell, George William;Æ}{$I[geo]IRELAND;Æ[AE]}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Æ[AE]}{$I[tim] 1867;Æ[AE]}

In 1887 the visionary young man became a Theosophist, but he left the society two years later to devote himself to the Irish Agricultural Organization Society, to home rule, and especially to the Irish Literary Renaissance as one of the founders of the famed Abbey Theatre. From 1898 to 1932 he was married to Violet North, with whom he had two sons. Her own Theosophist viewpoint made the marriage successful in spite of long separations, and her death devastated Russell.

From 1904 to 1923, Russell edited The Irish Homestead, after which he edited the Irish Statesman, from 1923 to 1930. He was politically but not militarily aligned with the Sinn Féin movement, though he grew disenchanted with home rule later and moved to England. He did not wish to be remembered as a political figure or reformer but as a poet, artist, and friend of humankind. His greatest talent was perhaps painting, an activity he pursued only as an avocation; he gave his works to friends.

Though lean in his early years, he is most often remembered as corpulent, shabbily dressed, friendly, and loquacious, with a russet beard and mouse-colored hair which he cut himself, blue-gray eyes, and a rural accent. His mystical views are apparent in his prose and poetry, and they are often compared with those of his friend Yeats. Æ is considered one of the architects of the modern Irish nation, in both a practical and a philosophical sense, for his many works on the nation as a living entity.

BibliographyÆ. Some Passages from the Letters of Æ to W. B. Yeats. 1936. Reprint. Shannon, Ireland: Irish University Press, 1971. Æ was perhaps his own best biographer in this work.Davis, Robert Bernard. George William Russell (“Æ”). Boston: Twayne, 1977. The first chapter sketches the external events of Æ. His varied interests are elaborated in six succeeding chapters, with focuses on the mystic, the poet, his drama and fiction, the economist, the statesman, and the critic. A brief conclusion assesses Æ’s contributions. Provides a chronology, notes, an index, and an annotated, select bibliography.Kain, Richard M., and James H. O’Brien. George Russell (Æ). Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1976. The first three chapters, by Kain, present a biography of Æ by examining his personality, his early success, and his decline. The last two chapters, by O’Brien, examine Æ’s interests in Theosophy and his work as a poet. Contains a chronology and a select bibliography.Kuch, Peter. Yeats and Æ: The Antagonism That Unites Dear Friends. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1986. This work examines the relationship between William Butler Yeats and George Russell from their first meeting in art class to their split in 1908. Kuch provides excellent background on the inner workings of the London-Dublin esoteric worlds which shaped both men. Especially valuable is his ability to sort through the many branches of the esoteric tradition.Loftus, Richard J. Nationalism in Modern Anglo-Irish Poetry. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964. Chapter 5, “The Land of Promise,” is a substantial examination of Æ’s attitudes toward Irish nationalism. His optimism turned to anger, then to disillusionment. Rarely did he include his private political feelings in his public verse. The House of the Titans is analyzed for nationalistic implications. Supplemented by notes, a bibliography, and an index.Mercier, Vivian. “Victorian Evangelicalism and the Anglo-Irish Literary Revival.” In Literature and the Changing Ireland, edited by Peter Connolly. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1982. Evangelicalism is examined as the background to Æ’s career. His father made Æ aware of the power of conversion, which occurred away from Evangelicalism to Theosophy for him. He helped to establish Theosophy as a sect similar in status to that of a Protestant Evangelical group. Includes notes and an index.Summerfield, Henry. That Myriad-Minded Man: A Biography of George William Russell, “A. E.,” 1867-1935. Gerrards Cross, Bucks, Ireland: Colin Smythe, 1975. Chapter 1 explains Russell’s mysticism. His nationalism is then examined. Chapter 4 focuses on farm interests, and the following chapter describes his journalism from 1905 to 1914. Russell’s pacifism is then posed against the violence of war in two chapters, and a final chapter covers his last years. Complemented by illustrations, notes, and an index.
Categories: Authors