G[eorge] F[rancis] Savage Armstrong


Life
1845-1906 [George Savage Armstrong ]; b. 5 May, Co. Down; Prof. of English and History, Queen’s College, Cork; contender for laureateship after Tennyson; edited the poems of his gifted younger brother Edmund Armstrong (d.1865); he wrote extensively on his mother’s family, the Savages of the Ards Peninsula, and received a DLitt from QUB (1891)
 
S. Shannon Millis lectured on Armstrong to the Irish Literary Society on 30 March 1920; Yeats countered his lecture on “The Two Irelands” and drove him from the hall with his defence of the Celtic Movement; the Austin Clarke classed him with D. F. McCarthy, Dowden and others as part of the ‘Irish Tennysonian School’. CAB ODNB PI DBIV DIL MKA OCIL

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Works
  • Poems (London: E. Moxon 1869), vii. 155pp.;
  • Poems: Lyrical and Dramatic [new edn.] (London: Moxon 1873), and Do., 3rd edn. [new edn.] (1873; 3rd edn. [Longmans] 1892), viii. 340pp.;
  • Ugone: A Tragedy (London: E. Moxon 1870); The Tragedy of Israel, 3 vols. (London: Longmans 1872-1876);
  • A Garland from Greece (London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1882), 360pp.;
  • Stories of Wicklow (London: Longmans 1886; 3 edns.), xii, 431pp.;
  • ed., Ancient and Noble Line of the Savages of Ards (1888);
  • Victoria Regina et Imperatrix (London: Longmans 1887);
  • Mephistopheles in Broadcloth (London: Longmans 1888);
  • One in the Infinite (London: Longmans 1891);
  • Queen Empress and Empire 1837-1897 (Belfast: W. Ward 1897);
  • Ballads of Down (London: Longmans 1901);
  • A Genealogical History of the Savage Family in Ulster (1906);
Collected
S. Shannan Millin, ed., Poems, National and International, A Selection (Dublin: Ponsonby 1917).
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Bibliographical details
S[amuel] Shannon Millin’s posthumous edition of Armstrong, Poems: National and International, Selected from the Writings of G. F. Savage-Armstrong [...] (Dublin: Ponsonby 1917 [printed by W. & G. Baird, Belfast]; 2nd edn. 1919), 88pp., ill. [7 pls., ports.; 23cm] - ‘[d]edicated to Lieu-Col. Francis S. N. Savage-Armstrong and Maj. William H. K. Redmond and all other brave Irishmen. The volume includes a copy of a letter to John Redmond from Powerscourt ‘with condolences at the death of William Redmond, his brother, 7 June 1917’; also a ‘last message’ from William Redmond (Irish Life, 14 May 1917), calling for Irishmen to join the Irish Divisions after the entry of America into the war; cites the poem “The Poet’s Address to his Mother”, and contains photograph of the poet’s home, Beech Hurst, Bray during 1891-1905.

Introduction: S. Shannon Millin. [With plates, including a portrait.] / [by Savage-Armstrong, George Francis]. 1917.

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Commentary
W. B. Yeats, Autobiographies (London: Macmillan & Co. 1955), pp.409-10: ‘Then I wrote about “A great battle with George Armstrong” (Professor of Literature at Cork; author of a trilogy, Saul, David, Solomon). [...] He lectured on The Two Irelands, or Ireland in Literature, and his whole lecture was an attack on the “Celtic Movement”, full of insinuations about conspiracies to prevent his success as a poet, to keep him out of anthologies, &c. I replied with a great deal of fierceness, described the barrenness of the so-called intellect of Ireland, told him that all the cleverest young men were leaving him and coming to us. I then attacked his scholarship and showed [410] that his knowledge of Irish things was of the most obsolete kind. I believe I was unanswerable. At any rate, Armstrong made no attempt to reply, but excused himself because of the lateness of the hour, which was weak as he had brought the contest upon himself, and made the hour late by speaking for two hours. Father Barry, who was in the chair, said afterwards, “Thank you for your speech. I agree with almost every word of it.” I was glad of this, as it was probably the fiercest the Society had every heard.’

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S. Shannon Millin [sic], Irish Book Lover Vol. XI, No. 10 (May 1920) reports S. Shannon Millin remarks on Armstrong in an address to The Irish Literary Society [about the poet] given on 30 March 1920: ‘No other Irish poet has regarded nature with such enthusiastic admirations.’ (IBL, May 1920, p.115.)

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Austen Clarke, ‘Gaelic Ireland Rediscovered’, in Irish Poets in English, ed. Seán Lucy (Dublin: Mercier 1972), writes: ‘George Armstrong, Denis Florence McCarthy, Edward Dowden, T. C. Irwin, and others belong to what might be called the Irish Tennysonian School.’ (p.31.)

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References
Dictionary of National Biography, bio-dates 1845-1906; poet, br. Edmund John Armstrong, published verse incl. Poems Lyrical and Dramatic (1869) and Stories of Wicklow (1886); Queen’s College Cork, Prof. of History and English Lit., 1870-1905; DLitt, QUB, 1891.

Peter Kavanagh, The Irish Theatre: Being a History of the Drama in Ireland from the Earliest Period up to the Present Day (Tralee: Kerryman 1946), George Francis Armstrong, 1845-1906; Ugone, 5 act tragedy (1870); The Tragedy of Israel in three parts, King Saul (1872), King David (1874), and King Solomon (1876).

John Cooke, ed., Dublin Book of Irish Verse 1728-1909 (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1909), gives “Glens of Wicklow”; “Lugnaquillia”; “Home-Longings”; “Silence”; “Summer Rhyme”; “Helen’s Tower (65).

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Justin McCarthy, Irish Literature (Washington: Catholic University of America 1904), gives poems incl. “The Scalp”.

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Library catalogues
British Library holds Ballads of Down (1901); One in the Infinite (1891); Garland for Greece (1892); Poems (1869), vii, 155pp.; Poems Lyrical and Dramatic, new edn. (1873; 3rd edn. 1892), viii, 340pp.; Queen Empress and Empire 1837-1897 (1886), verse; Stories of Wicklow (1886 & 3 edns.), verse, xii, 431pp.; Victoria Regina (1887); S. Shannan Millin, ed., Poems National and International: a selection (Ponsonby, Dublin 1917).

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Belfast Public Library holds Ballads of Down (1901); Mephistopheles in Broadcloth (1892); One in the Infinitive (1891); Poems, Lyrical and Dramatic (1892); Poems, National and International (1919); Queen-Empress and Empire 1837-1897 (1897); Stories of Wicklow (1892); Ugone, A Tragedy (1892). Also ed., A Genealogical History of the Savage Family in Ulster (1906), and ed., Savages of Ards (1888).

Linen Hall Library, Belfast, holds Ancient and Noble Line of the Savages of Ards (1888); Mulganey MSS.

COPAC lists George Savage Armstrong, A Garland from Greece (London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1882), [2],360,[2],11,[3]pp. under Samuel Ferguson

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Notes
T. W. Rolleston: Rolleston could find ‘no influence of the Celtic literary tradition’ in Armstrong’s work but thought him the most important poet ‘outside the Celtic tradition since the time when Ferguson and Mangan began to lead the waters from that ancient source into the channels of modern Irish verse.’ (Q. source.)

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