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George William Russell


George William Russell

The Irish poet, mystic, writer and painter, George William Russell, was a recognized figure in the Irish literary renaissance of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He initially wrote under the pseudonym AEon, but a proofreader's query led him to adopt the pseudonym by which he is known, AE. He was born in Lurgan, County Armagh, on April 10, 1867, and his family moved to Dublin in 1877. There, Russell attended the Metropolitan School of Art where he met Yeats, through whom he was introduced to theosophy. The two poets drifted apart after 1890, by which time Yeats had joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (Russell had misgivings about ritual magic).

Russell worked in a brewery and as a draper's accounts clerk, and eventually became editor of The Irish Homestead (1902-23) and The Irish Statesman (1923-30). The first of his many collections of verse, Homeward: Songs by the Way was published in 1894, and two volumes of collected poems were published in 1913 and 1926. His religious philosophy was expressed most fully in The Candle of Vision of 1918. Originally thought by many to possess a talent comparable to that of Yeats, Russell's work eventually came to be seen as somewhat stunted and facile (though by no means worthless), as it showed little sign of development over time. Russell died of cancer in Bournemouth, England, on July 17, 1935, and his body was returned to Ireland for burial.

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