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Russell, George W(illiam) (1867-1935)

Russell, George W(illiam) (1867-1935)

Irish poet, essayist, and mystic, who wrote under the pseudonym "AE." Born April 10, 1867, at Lurgan, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, his family moved to Dublin when he was ten, where he was able to attend Rathmines School. He had a natural talent for painting and attended the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin, where he met William Butler Yeats, who introduced him to Theosophy. At that time, Russell earned his living by working as a clerk and soon began contributing poems and articles to The Irish Theosophist.

Theosophical teachings and the literature of Hindu philosophy opened his mind to heightened consciousness of Celtic myth and nature spirits. He painted visionary pictures of the Irish landscape.

He felt a strange impulse to call one of his paintings "The Birth of Aeon," a Gnostic concept, and signed one of his articles "AEON." A proof reader rendered this as "AE-?" and thereafter Russell used the initials for his poems. In 1894 he allowed some of his poems to be published as a book, Homeward: Songs of the Way, and the response thrust him to the fore of Ireland's literary community. In 1913 the first edition of his collected poems was published.

He also wrote many political articles and became organizer for the Irish Agriculture Organization, successfully combining his mystical visions with everyday practical tasks, in the spirit of the ancient Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, a work which greatly impressed him. He edited the Irish Homestead for the Organization from 1906 to 1923. In 1923 he became the editor of the Irish Statesman in which he tried to steer a moderate course for the newly founded Irish Free States. He gave expression to his political idealism in two novels, The Interpreters (1922) and The Avatars (1932). His major mystical book was The Candle of Vision (1918). His book Song and Its Fountains (1932) developed the mystical meditations of Candle of Vision and spoke of poetry as "oracles breathed from inner to outer being." The Avatars: A Futurist Fantasy (1933) indicated his debt to Hindu philosophy. Russell died July 17, 1935.

Sources:

AE [George Russell]. The Candle of Vision. 1918. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1965.

. Homeward: Songs of the Way. Portland, Maine: T. B. Mosher, 1895.

. The Interpreters. New York: Macmillian, 1922.

. Song and Its Foundations. New York; London, Macmillian, 1932.

de Zirkoff, Boris, comp. "General Bibliography with Selected Biographical Notes." In Collected Writings. Vol XII. by H. P. Blavatsky. Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publishing House,1980.

Denson, Alan. Printed writings of George W. Russell (AE): A Bibliography. London: Northwestern University Press, 1961.

Eglinton, John. A Memoir of AE: George William Russell. London: Macmillian, 1937.

Merchant, Francis. A.E.: An Irish Promethean. Columbia, S.C.: Benedict College Press, 1954.

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Russell, George William

George William Russell, pseud. A. E., 1867–1935, Irish author, b. Lurgan, educated in Dublin. An active member of the Irish nationalist movement, he edited the Irish Homestead (1904–23) and the Irish Statesman (1923–30). He worked with Sir Horace Plunkett for Irish agricultural improvement, and he was also a talented amateur painter and a renowned conversationalist. Russell was one of the major writers in the Irish literary renaissance. His poems and plays are noted for their mystical tone, their delicate melodious style, and their view of humanity's spiritual nature. Among his works are Homeward: Songs by the Way (1894), The Candle of Vision (1918), and Selected Poems (1935).

See his prose collection The Living Torch (ed. by M. Gibbons, 1937); memoir by J. Eglinton (1937).

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Russell, George William

Russell, George William (1867–1935) Irish poet, essayist, journalist, and painter, who wrote under the pen name A. E. A leading figure of the Irish literary renaissance, he published many collections of romantic and often mystical poetry, among them The Divine Vision (1904) and Midsummer Eve (1928). A leading figure of the Irish literary renaissance, he published many collections of romantic and often mystical poetry, among them The Divine Vision (1904) and Midsummer Eve (1928).

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