Austin Clarke Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Augustine Joseph Clarke was born in Dublin, Ireland, on May 9, 1896. His parents, Augustine Clarke and Ellen Patten Browne Clarke, produced twelve children; three daughters and one son, Austin, survived. The young Clarke was educated at Belvedere College (1903-1912) and then at University College of the National University of Ireland on a three-year scholarship of forty pounds a year. At University College, Clarke studied with such prominent figures in Irish literary life as Douglas Hyde and Thomas MacDonagh, and he read Yeats, George Russell (Æ), George Moore, and other English and Anglo-Irish writers. Clarke began to immerse himself in Irish culture and the Celtic Twilight and to explore the literary movements of the time.

Clarke received his bachelor of arts degree with first class honors in English language and literature in 1916, the year of the Easter Rising, and the next year, his master of arts degree, again with first class honors in English. He was then appointed assistant lecturer in English at University College, to replace his teacher, MacDonagh, who had been executed by the British after the Easter Rising.

Clarke published his first significant poem, The Vengeance of Fionn, an epic in the Irish mythic tradition, in 1917. The poem was much praised and Clarke was hailed as a “new Yeats.” For the next several years, Clarke devoted himself to the study of Gaelic prosody and Irish myth and folklore. In 1920, Clarke married for the first time, but the marriage was to last only ten days. He married again in 1930. In 1921, he was appointed assistant examiner in matriculation, National University of Ireland, a post he held until 1970.

By the mid-1920’s, Clarke had shifted his attention away from early Irish themes and had turned instead to the...

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(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Austin Clarke was born into a large, middle-class, Catholic, Dublin family on May 9, 1896. He was educated by the Jesuits at Belvedere College and earned a B.A. and an M.A. in English literature from University College, Dublin, in 1916 and 1917, and he was appointed assistant lecturer there in 1917. In his formative years, he was heavily impressed by the Irish Literary Revival, especially Douglas Hyde’s Gaelic League and Yeats’s Abbey Theatre, and his political imagination was fired by the Easter Rising of 1916. In 1920, following a brief civil marriage to Geraldine Cummins, he was dismissed from his university post; shortly thereafter, he emigrated to London and began to write his epic poems on heroic subjects drawn from the ancient literature of Ireland.

In 1930, Clarke married Nora Walker, with whom he had three sons, and between 1929 and 1938, he wrote a number of verse plays and two novels—both banned in Ireland—before returning permanently to Ireland in 1937. Since in his creative career and national literary allegiance he was from the beginning a disciple of Yeats, he was sorely disappointed to be omitted from The Oxford Book of Modern Verse that Yeats edited in 1936. Nevertheless, with the publication of Night and Morning, Clarke began a new and public phase in his creative career: The following year, he began his regular broadcasts on poetry on Radio Éireann and started to write book reviews for The Irish...

(The entire section is 431 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Austin Clarke is commonly acknowledged as the best Irish poet writing in English in the years between William Butler Yeats and Seamus Heaney. Although Clarke was born only about thirty years after Yeats, his career was at its strongest in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Born and raised in Dublin, Clarke attended Belvedere College (1903-1913) and then University College, Dublin, on a scholarship. There he was a student of Thomas MacDonagh, a lecturer in English literature who was executed after the Easter Rebellion in 1916. Clarke’s father Augustine was a local government official; his mother, Ellen Patten Browne, a devout Catholic, was a great influence on her son’s writing. In 1917 Clarke succeeded MacDonagh in the college, but his contract was not renewed when college officials learned that Clarke had married outside the Catholic church. Ironically, the marriage lasted only about a year. The strictness of the rules of the Church was a favorite topic in Clarke’s poetry, as were the lives and habits of the Irish themselves. His earliest books of poetry, published in 1917, 1921, and 1925, show his gift for bringing the rhythms and patterns of the Gaelic language into English poetry, a talent which gave him a lasting influence on later poets.

Clarke moved to London in 1921 to find work. He became a book reviewer for newspapers and magazines and continued to write poetry. He also began writing verse plays, which Yeats had made popular, and novels on Irish themes. Clarke was especially...

(The entire section is 621 words.)