|George William Russell - Æ|
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
General Editors - Henry Summerfield & Colin Smythe
Every aspect of the Irish Renaissance - literary, artistic, political, and economic - is indebted to A.E.. Although W.B.Yeats was a greater poet, J.M. Synge a greater dramatist, and Jack B. Yeats a greater painter, none of A.E.s fellow countrymen could rival his versatility or match his spiritual stature. He is often remembered as a poet and as one of those true mystics who have sought by practical endeavours to bring some touch of the spiritual perfection they beheld into the life of this world. A.E. lived up to the word of power he gave to the novelist L.A.G.Strong - Seek on earth what you have found in heaven. George William Russell (1867-1935) - A.E. - was seer, poet, painter, co-operator, political thinker, journalist, editor, public speaker, and the conscience of the Irish nation. His importance in the literary, political, and economic life of modern Ireland and in the intellectual life of the West has been sadly underrated. Some of his more picturesque but less substantial contemporaries have unfairly overshadowed him, and his works growing increasingly rare, are almost inaccessible to the student, scholar and general reader.
This collected edition plans to bring together selections from his writings in The Irish Homestead and The Irish Statesman and all his available writings on mystical subjects, art, literature, politics, society, and nationhood, his poetry, a new and enlarged selection of his letters, a collection of reproductions of his paintings, a revised edition of Alan Denson's bibliography, and a general index to the edition.
This edition is limited to not more than 1000 copies of each volume. It is uniformly bound in dark blue cloth - A.E.s preferred colour - using a demi octavo page size.
Edited and selected by Henry Summerfield.
Vol. 1: 0-901072-41-9 1979 £30.00 1979
Vol. 2: 0-901072-42-7 1979 £30.00
The pair : 0-901072-96-6 1979 £60.00
A selection from the period A.E. edited The Irish Statesman 1920-30: a similar volume to the first volume in this series.
This volume contains A.E.'s four major works, The Avatars (1933), The Candle of Vision (1918), The Interpreters (1922), and Song and its Fountains (1932), together with his letters and other prose contributions to Dana, Ethical Echo, The Internationalist, The Irish Theosophist, Lucifer, and Ourselves, W.Y. Evans Wentz's interview with A.E. in The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, A.E.'s first independent publication, To the Fellows of the Theosophical Society, his introduction to City Without Walls, and many other spiritual books, reviews and his hitherto unpublished story The Return.
This volume includes AE's articles on John Butler Yeats the elder, Jack B.Yeats, John Hughes and Nathaniel Hone, An Artist of GA.E.lic Ireland, and the general articles, The Post-Impressionists: Art and Barbarism, The Spiritual Influence of Art, Art in Ireland, and Leading Figures in Modern Irish Art. His literary writings include his plays Deirdre, Britannia-Rule-the-Waves, and the unpublished The Hon. Enid Marjoribanks,M.P., articles including The Dramatic Treatment of Legend, The Character of Heroic Literature, Literary Ideals in Ireland, Nationality and Cosmopolitanism in Literature, Art and Literature, The Censorship in Ireland, The Poet and his Psyche, The Sunset of Fantasy, his address to the American-Irish Historical Society in 1928, reviews, and the prefaces that he wrote for books by Shan F.Bullock, Oliver St.John Gogarty, Irene Haugh, F.R.Higgins, H.A.Law, Hugh MacDiarmid, Frank O'Connor, Joseph O'Neill, Katharine Tynan, and some of his letters to The Irish Times.
To be edited by Alan Denson, this contains all A.E.s poetry between Homeward, Songs by the Way (1894) to The House of the Titans (1934), together with a representative selection from uncollected or hitherto unpublished poems, together with an introductory summary of A.E.s poems, and indexes of titles and of first lines.
Introduced by A. Norman Jeffares, it
includes The Application of Co-operation in the
Congested Districts, Building a Rural
Civilisation, The Building up of a Rural
Civilisation, Conditions of an Irish
Settlement, Conscription for Ireland, Controversy
in Ireland, Co-operation and Nationality, The
Co-operative Commonwealth, Co-operative
Credit, The Co-operative Movement,
The Crime and the Punishment, The
Department and the I.A.O.S., The Dublin Strike, The
Economics of Ireland and the Policy of the British
Government, How to Protect Ourselves from the
Peace which Threatens Us, Ideals of the New
Rural Society, The Inner and the Outer Ireland,
Ireland and the Empire at the Court of Conscience, Ireland
and Tariff Reform, Ireland Past and Future, Irish
Anticipations, An Irish Poet on American
Agriculture, Is American Dollar-bound?,
Lessons of Revolution, The National Being,
Nationalism and Imperialism, The New
Nation, The Other Irish Question,
The Philosophy of Rural Civilisation, The
Rt.Hon.Horace Plunkett, A Poet to the
Farmers, Roger Casement(previously
unpublished), The Rural Community, The
Self-Supporting Community, The Spiritual
Conflict, Sun and Wu, Thoughts for a
Convention, Twenty Five Years of Irish
Nationality, Ulster, To Ulster in
Ireland, What About Tomorrow?.
Edited by Alan Denson. The first edition of this book was rather shorter than the editor's original selection. This edition contains the letters that were omitted from the first edition, together with additional letters since found by, or brought to the notice, of the editor.
A representative collection of A.E.s paintings in colour and black and white, together with a long introduction by Marian Burleigh Motley, in which the subject-matter of many important works of the 1890s and early 1900s is elucidated by reference to theosophical writings and Celtic myths known to A.E., so that his unique contribution to the pictorial side of the Irish Literary Renaissance is made clear for the first time.
An updated edition of Denson's 1961
bibliography, enlarged to contain the contents of each book,
together with the general index.
THAT MYRIAD-MINDED MAN - A.E.
0-900675-69-1 xiv, 354 pages + 16 pages illustrations 1975
Presently out of print, but we are considering a reprint
A.E. AND HIS PAINTINGS 1
(Prepared for an Oriel Gallery (Dublin) catalogue in 1989, but used only in part.)
Archbishop Gregg referred to George William Russell (1867-1935) - known to so many people as A.E. - as that myriad-mind man. It is therefore not surprising that different people remember him for various aspects of his work - as poet, mystic, playwright, evangelist for the co-operative movement, journalist, editor, critic and artist.
Russell was born in Lurgan, County Armagh, his family moving to Dublin when he was eleven. He obtained his first permanent job in 1890, working at Pyms store in Dublin, having probably rejected for moral reasons the chance of working with his father and brother in the Phoenix Brewery.2 By the end of the century he was working full-time for Sir Horace Plunkett's Irish Agricultural Organisation Society (IAOS), first as a missionary convincing farmers throughout Ireland of the benefits of co-operation, then as editor first of The Irish Homestead, and later of its successor, The Irish Statesman, until its demise in 1930, when he was sixty-three.
Many of his readers knew little of this practical side, thinking of him only as the author of mystical poetry and of works in which he tried to open, as far as he was able, the door to those other realms - The Candle of Vision, Song and Its Fountains, The Avatars, The Interpreters, as well as Imaginations and Reveries, virtually all of which republished in one volume, The Descent of the Gods in 1988.3 But how many outside Dublin and those who knew him personally knew him as a painter? Admittedly, a few of his pictures were reproduced in various journals, but being in monochrome they were not memorable.4
After leaving school in 1884, George Russell went to Dublin's Metropolitan School of Art where he first met W.B.Yeats, who became his friend and later his rival - the antagonism that unites dear friends as Russell was to put it later - he had yet to decide to use the pseudonym A.E. (short for Æon, which he originally planned to use). There Russell did not bother to draw the model, preferring to paint imaginary compositions. As Yeats wrote years later: We copied the model laboriously, he would draw without research into the natural form, and call his study Saint John in the Wilderness; but I can remember the almost scared look and the half-whisper of a student, now a successful sculptor, who said, pointing to the modelling of a shoulder, That is too easy, a great deal too easy! For with brush and pencil he was too coherent.5
It was probably in mid 1884 that, in the words of Henry Summerfield's biography, Russell quite suddenly began to experience waking dreams of astonishing power and vividness which seemed to be thrust into his consciousness by a mind which was not his. Images of cosmic happenings and other worlds overwhelmed him with a majesty far removed from anything of which he was aware in his own being. I remember how pure, holy and beautiful these imaginations seemed, A.E. wrote in later years, how they came like crystal water sweeping aside the muddy current of my life....The visible world became like a tapestry blown and stirred by winds behind it. If it would raise but an instant I knew I would be in Paradise.6
A few years later came the miracle that turned him into a seer of visions, as one summer day he lay on Kilmasheogue, one of the hills just south of Dublin, when with great intensity he felt the presence of supernatural beings. Then the heart of the hills was opened to me, and I knew there was no hill for those who were there, and they were unconscious of the ponderous mountains piled above the palaces of light, and the winds were sparkling and diamond clear, yet full of colour as an opal, as they glittered through the valley, and I knew the Golden Age was all about me, and it was we who had been blind to it but that it had never passed away from the world.7
A.E.s and Yeatss
interests in these other worlds led both to Madame
Blavatskys Theosophical Movement, with A.E. later
joining the Dublin group in 3 Upper Ely Place, known as The
Household. Although Yeats was never so closely connected
with the movement as A.E., they collaborated on and jointly
signed a series of murals on the walls of The Household,
which symbolised the journey of the pilgrim soul, which are
still there, treasured by the present owner of the house, Dr
A.E. has been included by some critics among the symbolist painters, grouping him with, and being influenced by Puvis de Chavannes, Osbert, Moreau and Redon, but they painted mythological or biblical figures and images from the unconscious. They have failed to appreciate that most of A.E.'s work does not fit into such categories, for he usually painted what he saw, awake, rarely reproducing dream images. When he went out to the country, these beings were entirely real to him, and as far as he was concerned he was painting their portraits, with human beings being added, probably to give an idea of scale. Thus it is generally incorrect to describe A.E. as a Symbolist - unless one refuses to accept the reality of what he was seeing, and anyone who has studied his writings would be unlikely to do that.
In the 1920s, while W.B.Yeats was a Free State Senator, he was living only two doors away from A.E.'s offices in Plunkett House, the headquarters of the IAOS. At this time, pictures of A.E. rather than by him appeared on other people's walls: the story of how he and Yeats, simultaneously deciding to visit each other had left their respective abodes - A.E. from Plunkett House at No.84, and Yeats from his home at No.82 - missed each other outside No.83, A.E. with his head down looking at the ground, Yeats with head up, observing something higher, is well-known, whether or not it is apocryphal. If it did not happen, it very well could have. And for Isa MacNie - the cartoonist Mac - the chance was too good to miss: she immortalised it in a caricature, Chin-Angles, or How the Poets Passed, which proved so popular that she made a good number of copies to satisfy the demand of eager purchasers, in watercolour or pen and ink, according to the price paid.
In the later years of his life, when he was world-renowned
as an expert on Co-operation, A.E. stated proudly that every
member of the British cabinet had a picture of his on their
walls. Sadly this popularity waned after his death in 1935
to such an extent that in the 1950s it is said that at an
auction on the Dublin Quays, one of his pictures failed to
sell at 2/6d. even with a coal-skuttle added to the
In this 1989 exhibition assembled by the Oriel Gallery to
mark its 21st anniversary, there are examples of various
types of A.E.'s work: the portrait of W.B.Yeats (one of a
number drawn by A.E. in 1897), landscapes, the `descent of
the gods' and the appearance of spiritual beings to amazed
members of humanity - almost always young women - whom they barely seem to be
aware of, visions of sea-spirits. (Oriel's previous
exhibition showed examples of other types of visionary
picture: spirit beings helping a babe,9
and the man before the enthroned spirits.)10
The exhibition also includes one dedicated to Edward Martyn,
showing one of A.E.'s few male observers, a bather on a sea
shore looking at what appears to be a sea spirit, with a
blue flame crowning her head, her long hair spreading out
Occasionally A.E. painted some rather atypical pictures,
such as that of the group in 18th century dress, and because
they are so unlike his usual work they are often ignored or
considered forgeries by all but the most