The Legends of St. Patrick.

By Aubrey De Vere.

Printed: 1886-1900

Publisher: Cassell & Company Ltd

Dimensions 11 × 15 × 1.5 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 11 x 15 x 1.5

Condition: Very good  (See explanation of ratings)


Item information


Cloth binding. Black lettering with gilt title on front cover.

Saint Patrick (was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, he is the primary patron saint of Ireland, the other patron saints being Brigit of Kildare and Columba. Patrick was never formally canonised, having lived prior to the current laws of the Catholic Church in these matters. Nevertheless, he is venerated as a Saint in the Catholic Church and in the Eastern Orthodox Church, where he is regarded as equal-to-the-apostles and Enlightener of Ireland. He is also regarded as a Saint within the framework of their respective doctrine by the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Churches.

The dates of Patrick’s life cannot be fixed with certainty, but there is general agreement that he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the fifth century. A recent biography on Patrick shows a late fourth-century date for the saint is not impossible. Early medieval tradition credits him with being the first bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, and regards him as the founder of Christianity in Ireland, converting a society practising a form of Celtic polytheism. He has been generally so regarded ever since, despite evidence of some earlier Christian presence in Ireland.

According to the autobiographical Confessio of Patrick, when he was about sixteen, he was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Britain and taken as a slave to Ireland, looking after animals; he lived there for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as a bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

Saint Patrick’s Day is observed on 17 March, the supposed date of his death. It is celebrated inside and outside Ireland as a religious and cultural holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation; it is also a celebration of Ireland itself.

Aubrey Thomas Hunt de Vere was born at Curraghchase House (now in ruins) at Curraghchase, Kilcornan, County Limerick,[2] the third son of Sir Aubrey de Vere, 2nd Baronet (1788–1846) and his wife Mary Spring Rice, daughter of Stephen Edward Rice (d.1831) and Catherine Spring, of Mount Trenchard, Co. Limerick. He was a nephew of Lord Monteagle, a younger brother of Sir Stephen de Vere, 4th Baronet and a cousin of Lucy Knox. His sister Ellen married Robert O’Brien, the brother of William Smith O’Brien. In 1832, his father dropped the original surname ‘Hunt’ by royal licence, assuming the surname ‘de Vere’.

He 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. He was educated privately at home and in 1832 entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he read Kant and Coleridge. Later he visited Oxford, Cambridge, and Rome, and came under the potent influence of John Henry Newman. He was also a close friend of Henry Taylor.

The characteristics of Aubrey de Vere’s poetry are high seriousness and a fine religious enthusiasm. His research in questions of faith led him to the Roman Catholic Church where in 1851 he was received into the Church by Cardinal Manning in Avignon. In many of his poems, notably in the volume of sonnets called St Peters Chains (1888), he made rich additions to devotional verse. For a few years he held a professorship, under Newman, in the Catholic University in Dublin.

In “A Book of Irish Verse,” W. B. Yeats described de Vere’s poetry as having “less architecture than the poetry of Ferguson and Allingham, and more meditation. Indeed, his few but ever memorable successes are enchanted islands in gray seas of stately impersonal reverie and description, which drift by and leave no definite recollection. One needs, perhaps, to perfectly enjoy him, a Dominican habit, a cloister, and a breviary.”

He also visited the Lake Country of England, and stayed under Wordsworth’s roof, which he called the greatest honour of his life. His veneration for Wordsworth was singularly shown in later life, when he never omitted a yearly pilgrimage to the grave of that poet until advanced age made the journey impossible.

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. According to Helen Grace Smith, he was one of the most profoundly intellectual poets of his time. His census return for 1901 lists his profession as ‘Author.’

He died at Curraghchase in 1902, at the age of eighty-eight. As he never married, the name of de Vere at his death became extinct for the second time and was assumed by his nephew.

His best-known works are: in verse, The Sisters (1861); The Infant Bridal (1864); Irish Odes (1869); Legends of St Patrick (1872); and Legends of the Saxon Saints (1879); and in prose, Essays Chiefly on Poetry (1887); and Essays Chiefly Literary and Ethical (1889). He also wrote a picturesque volume of travel-sketches, and two dramas in verse, Alexander the Great (1874); and St Thomas of Canterbury (1876). According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, both of these dramas, “though they contain fine passages, suffer from diffuseness and a lack of dramatic spirit.” One of his best remembered poem is Inisfail while two of his historical poems used to be on the Junior Cycle English syllabus, The March to Kinsale and The Ballad of Athlone.

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