Writer Profile: Bram Stoker
Writer Profiles / 18/07/2019

Dates: b. 1847, d. 1912 Literary Movement: Dark romanticism Famous Works: Dracula   Profile: While many of us know Bram Stoker as the mastermind behind the modern iteration of the vampire, in his life, he was better known as the personal assistant of actor Sir Henry Irving. He was also the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London. Though Stoker had a diverse set of interests and gifts, his contribution to the Irish literary tradition is important.   Born in 1847, Stoker came into the world in Clontarf on the northside of Dublin, Ireland. The third of seven children, he was bedridden with unknown illness for much of his childhood, only making a full recovery when he began school at the age of seven. Stoker did not develop any further serious illnesses and excelled as an athlete at Trinity College, Dublin, which he attended from 1864 to 1870. He graduated with a BA in 1870 and completed his MA in 1875. He was the auditor of the College Historical Society and president of the University Philosophical Society, where he published his first paper, Sensationalism in Fiction and Society.   Stoker’s interest in theater grew out of his BA education,…

Writer Profile: Maria Edgeworth
Writer Profiles / 26/06/2019

Dates: b. 1768, d. 1848 Literary Movement: Realism, early Romanticism, Famous Works: Practical Education, Belinda, Leonora, Helen   Profile: While Maria Edgeworth doesn’t always get the recognition she deserves, she is noted as having been a significant figure in the evolution of the novel in Europe. Though she was born in England, Edgeworth moved to Ireland as a child. She received home-schooling from her father and excelled in law, politics, literature, and other subjects. After receiving her primary education, Edgeworth became her father’s assistant in managing the family estate.   As a young woman, Maria and her family toured the English midlands, then traveled to the continent—specifically, Brussels and France. She met Lord Byron and Humphry Davy, then entered into a long correspondence with Sir Walter Scott. These experiences helped Edgeworth develop her own set of politics, which she explored at length in her books. She worked several positions—as an editor, as a relief worker for famine-stricken Irish peasants, and an unofficial advisor to William Rowan Hamilton.   Edgeworth was one of the first realist writers in children’s literature and was a significant figure in the evolution of the novel. Edgeworth was also among the few authors who truly espoused…

Writer Profile: Jonathan Swift
Writer Profiles / 18/09/2018

Dates: b. 1667, d. 1745 Literary Movement: Satire Famous Works: A Modest Proposal, A Tale of a Tub, Gulliver’s Travels   Profile: Jonathan Swift is regarded as the foremost prose satirist in the English language. During his life, he worked as an Anglo-Irish satirist, an essayist, and a political pamphleteer—for both the Whigs and the Tories. He was a poet, a cleric, and a startlingly prolific writer. Much of his work was originally published under one of his many pseudonyms: Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff, M.B. Drapier, and Simon Wagstaff, Esq. A master of both Horatian and Juvenalian satire, Swift was known for his deadpan, ironic writing style.   Swift was born in Dublin in 1667. He learned to read the Bible at an early age and was cared for primarily by his nurse and uncle. He attended Dublin University in 1682, and his four-year course follow a curriculum largely set in the Middle Ages. Lectures were dominated by Aristotelian logic and philosophy. Debate was a basic skill taught to all students, and they were expected to be able to argue both sides of any argument or topic. Swift himself was an above-average student, but he was not exceptional. He was…

Writer Profile: Oscar Wilde
Writer Profiles / 29/06/2018

Dates: b. 1854, d. 1900 Literary Movement: Victorian aestheticism Famous Works: The Importance of Being Earnest   Profile: Born Oscar Fingal O’Hahertie Wils Wilde, Oscar Wild was an Irish poet and playwright. He was born in Dublin, Ireland to Sir William Wilde and Jane Wilde and baptized as an infant in St. Mark’s Church. Until he was nine, Oscar Wilde was educated at home—a French bonne and a German governess taught him their languages. He then attended Portora Royal School, summering in Cong, County Mayo. Wilde left Portora to study classics at Trinity College, Dublin under a royal scholarship. Here, he became interested in Greek literature, working with J.P. Mahaffy on the book Social Life in Greece. Wilde also became an established member of the University Philosophical Society, where he discussed contemporary topics like Rossetti and Swinburne.   Wilde then left for Magdalen College at Oxford, where he became known for his role in the aesthetic and decadent movements. He decorated his rooms with peacock feathers, lilies, sunflowers, and blue china, wearing his hair long and openly scorning what he believed to be “manly” sports. Wilde centered his philosophy and aesthetics on the ideas and teaching of John Ruskin and…

Writer Profile: Seamus Heaney
Writer Profiles / 22/06/2018

Dates: b. 1939, d. 2013 Literary Movement: Modernism Famous Works: Death of a Naturalist, North, Field Work, The Spirit Level   Profile: A native of Northern Ireland, Seamus Heaney was raised in County Derry, Ireland. His family moved to Bellaghy, where he attended Anahorish Primary School. At age twelve, Heaney won a scholarship to St. Columb’s College, a Roman Catholic boarding school in Derry. Heaney’s younger brother, Christopher, was killed in an accident while Heaney was studying at St. Columb’s; the death greatly affected the young man.   In 1957, Heaney enrolled at Queen’s University Belfast to study English Literature and Language. Here, he found a copy of Ted Hughes’s Lupercal, which inspired him to try his hand at poetry. After graduating in 1961 with honors, he went on to St. Thomas’ secondary Intermediate School. Here, Heaney was introduced to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh, and with the help of school headmaster Michael McLaverty, he began to publish his own work. In 1966, Heaney published his first major volume of poetry, entitled Death of a Naturalist. The collection was met with critical acclaim and won several awards. It remains Heaney’s most popular publication.   As a poety from Northern Ireland,…

Writer Profile: William Butler Yeats
Writer Profiles / 26/05/2018

Dates: b. 1865, d. 1939 Literary Movement: Late Victorian, Early Modernism Famous Works: The Tower, The Green Helmet, The Winding Stair   Profile: William Butler Yeats was born at Sandymount in County Dublin, Ireland to John Butler Yeats and Susan Mary Pollexfen. Yeats was raised as a member of the Protestant Ascendancy in a time when Ireland was experiencing a nationalist revival; this informed Yeats’ outlook on his heritage for most of his life. Shortly after his birth, the Yeats family moved to England, yet Pollexfen read and told Irish folktales to Yeats and his siblings for the duration of their childhood. In 1877, Yeats enrolled in the Godolphin school but did not distinguish himself academically. He was, apparently, a very poor speller. Yeats later returned to Ireland, enrolling in Dublin’s Erasmus Smith High School. Yeats began writing poetry, and, in 1885, the Dublin University Review published his first poems. William then attended the Metropolitan School of Art.   Yeats’ early work drew heavily on English Romanticism—particularly the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley—and the 16th century poet and writer Edmund Spenser. Yeats then turned to Irish mythology and folklore, then to the bombastic writing of William Blake. This was likely…

Writer Profile: Edna O’Brien
Writer Profiles / 13/05/2018

Dates: b. 1930 Literary Movement: Realism Famous Works: Girl with Green Eyes, August Is a Wicked Month, The Country Girl   Profile: Edna O’Brien is a renowned Irish novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet, and short story writer. She was born in 1930 at Tuamgraney, County Clare, Ireland. O’Brien has described her mother as a strong, controlling woman who emigrated temporarily to America. She worked for some time as a maid in Brooklyn, New York, then returned to Ireland to raise her family. That family was strict, and religious, and Edna O’Brien was the youngest child. She was educated from 1941 to 1946 by the Sisters of Mercy, later describing the experience as “suffocating.”   In 1950, O’Brien achieved her pharmacy license. While working, she read and became obsessed with writers such as Tolstoy, Thackeray, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Four years later, she married the Irish writer Ernest Gebler, against her parents’ wishes, and moved to London. The couple had two sons, but the marriage was dissolved in 1964. While in London, O’Brien began to read James Joyce, providing herself with a direction if she were to begin writing herself. She began to work for Hutchinson, a local publisher, where she was…