R. N. D. Wilson

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
1899-1946; b. Coleraine, author of The Holy Wells of Orris and Other Poems (1927); anthologised in Oxford Book of Irish Verse (1958); protracted illness, during which he was befriended by John Hewitt and others; d. Coleraine hospital; see also his verses, under Kevin O’Higgins.

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Commentary
John Hewitt, ‘R. N. D. Wilson: An Obituary’, in The Dublin Magazine, 28, 2 (April-Jun. 1953), pp.54-5, writes that the well-made poems in the Irish mode ‘were from the hand of an Ulsterman of a generation not too distant from my own who had shed the harshness and stridency and bleakness which I then thought made up the Ulster character; they wre the kind of verses I dreamed and despaired of writing myself […] I know see their obvious indebtedness ot Campbell, to Colum, to Yeats; so much so tha they seem less to have been written by a man than by a literary movement’; further describes him as a ‘small dark man with something of the appearance of a little bird full-chested with song’.

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Terence Brown, Northern Voices: Poets from Ulster (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1975), characterises his manner as ‘fake Gaelic religiosity’, but also refers to a moving memorial poem on his friend John Lyle Donaghy, “Elegy in a Presbyterian Burying-ground”. (p.129.)

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, 247 [fails to provide note for R. N. D Wilson, the subject of a passing remark in Beckett’s ‘Recent Irish Poetry’ (1944)].

John Montague, ed., Faber Book of Irish Verse (1974), selects “Elegy in a Presbyterian Burying-ground”.

Hyland Books (Cat. 219/Oct. 1995), lists The Holy Wells of Orris and Other Poems (1927), signed copy to fellow Ulster poet ‘w. McC. C. Stewart.

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Notes
W. B. Yeats held The Holy Wells of Orris in his personal library, with a copy of letter from Wilson dated 17 Dec. 1937 [2 sheets]. (See Yeats papers, NLI, Dublin.)

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