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Boston College collection of George William Russell

Collection MS-1993-017: Boston College collection of George William Russell


  • Creation: 1904-1928, undated

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the professional life and work of Irish writer George Russell, who published under the pseudonym "AE." It contains correspondence, manuscripts, artwork, and a photograph. The collection highlights Russell's relationship to other Irish authors through a letter to Rosamond Langbridge and a review of Katharine Tynan's Irish Poems. Also of interest is a photograph of Russell taken in America shortly before his death.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical Note

George William Russell was born in Lurgan, Ulster, Ireland, on April 10, 1867, the youngest of three children of Thomas Elias Russell, a bookkeeper, and Marianne Armstrong.

In 1878 the family moved to Dublin, where Russell attended evening classes at the Metropolitan School of Arts. Not long after this he began to experience visions, which affected him greatly and incited his lifelong obsession with the supernatural, in particular the practice of theosophy invented by Madame Blavatsky. He felt strongly that Ireland’s future lay in a spiritual return to its old gods.

Russell began attending Rathmines College in 1882, but withdrew in 1887 to devote himself to the study of meditation and spirituality. When Russell met W. B. Yeats during his college years, they quickly bonded over their shared interests in mysticism, literature, and art. Their friendship influenced the work of both greatly, and Russell later served as the inspiration for the character Michael Robartes in Yeats’s book of poetry, Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921).

In 1890 Russell began working as a clerk and joined the Theosophical Society. A year later he moved into The Household, a community of theosophists. The Household produced The Irish Theosophists journal in which Russell published regularly under the pseudonym "AE." He also published his first collection of poetry, Homeward: Songs by the Way, during this period.

After leaving The Household in 1897, Russell married English theosophist Violet North. They had two sons who survived to adulthood: Bryan (born 1899) and Diarmuid Conor (born 1902). Also in 1897 Russell began working for the Irish Agricultural Organization Society. He became the editor of its journal, The Irish Homestead, in 1905. Over the course of the next twenty years, Russell published extensively, including Collected Poems (1913), the poem inspired by the Easter Rising called "Salutation" (1917), and The Candle of Vision (1918), a philosophical work that blended his interest in mysticism with Celtic myth and modern Irish identity.

During the Irish Civil War, Russell supported independence, but as a pacifist was opposed to the violence on both sides. In 1922 he was offered a seat in the Senate but refused it; instead, he became the editor of The Irish Statesman, which he headed until it closed in 1930.

Russell's wife Violet was diagnosed with cancer in 1930; so, he went on a lecture tour of America to raise money for her medical care, but she died in 1932. He returned to America in 1934 to advise the United States Secretary of Agriculture on rural cooperation for the New Deal, but his visit was cut short due to his own illness. Russell was eventually diagnosed with stomach cancer and died on July 17, 1935 at a nursing home in Bournemouth, England.


Allen, Nicholas. "Russell, George William (‘Æ’)." Dictionary of Irish Biography, edited by James McGuire, James Quinn. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Kuch, Peter R. “Russell, George William (1867–1935).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, United Kingdrom: Oxford University Press, 2004.


1.5 Linear Feet (3 containers)

Language of Materials



This collection documents the professional life and work of Irish writer George Russell, who published under the name "AE." It contains correspondence, manuscripts, artwork, and a photograph.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged into three series: I. Correspondence, II. Manuscripts, and III. Graphic materials. Materials are arranged alphabetically.


Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time.

  • Photostats of materials held in the James Brendan Connolly collection at Colby College.
Boston College Collection of George William Russell
1904-1928, undated
Annalisa Moretti
March 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States