Latin Poetry - R. Y. Tyrrell

R. Y. Tyrrell


R.Y. Tyrrell (1844-1914)

Robert Yelverton Tyrrell was born in Ballingarry, County Tipperary, Ireland, on 21 January 1844. He was the youngest son of Reverend Henry Tyrrell and Elizabeth Shea. Reverend Henry Tyrrell died of cholera, when Robert was only five years old. The name Yelverton comes from his godmother, a “Miss Yelverton of County Kildare", according to biographer W.B. Stanford [p.7].

Robert studied the classics at Trinity College, in Dublin. He became a professor in 1871, and he first started teaching Latin, then Greek and, finally, ancient history.

Robert married Ada Shaw on 1 August 1874 in London, England. There are indications that they may have had six children, three daughters and three sons, but we have only found documented evidence of four: Deena Tyrrell (Hanson), Ada Tyrrell (Thompson), Phyllis Maud Tyrrell, and Robert L. Tyrrell. Deena's birth was announced in the The Belfast Newsletter on 2 February 1877. It reads:

<9>TYRRELL- January 31, at 34 Waterloo Road, Dublin, the wife of Robert Y. Tyrrell, F.T.C.D. [Fellow of Trinity College Dublin], of a daughter.

In the 1881-1882 Annual Report of the Commissioners of Education, in Ireland, it was announced that Robert, Fellow of Trinity College, had been appointed Commissioner, alongside a Mr. Pigot.

In 1893, Robert went to the United States and gave a series on Latin Poetry. The majority of the lectures were given at John Hopkin's University and these lectures were published in 1895 as Latin Poetry; lectures delivered in 1893 on the Percy Turnbull Memorial Foundation in the Johns Hopkins University. In UPEI's Provenance collection, this books contains a personal letter written by Robert to W. MacNeile Dixon, pasted in the front cover. The letter, on Trinity College letterhead (House 4 Trinity College, Dublin), was dated May 8, and reads as follows:

My dear W. Dixon,

I send back ? with a few additions, but if you did not think of reprinting it let it go as it is. I don't know L'd Balfour, but I used to know Sir Henry Craik. If you let me know where I should address him I will write to him. I should be very glad to have a hand (if I could) in transferring to a sphere of wider influence and greater emolument.

I hope you will come and see us whenever you visit Dublin.


RY Tyrrell

W.B. Stanford's article on Robert includes a personal description of the man: “Tyrrell [was], ironical, self-depreciatory, persuasive, generous in praising others, keeping safely within the limits of his own intellectual scope, [and] concerned more with style than with ideas" [p.16]. Stanford also notes that, “Tyrrell was very popular with the students. They had an affectionate admiration for him..." [p.16].

One of Robert's students was Oscar Wilde, and he spoke highly of his professor, stating, ,“I got my love of the Greek ideal, and my intimate knowledge of the language, from Mahaffy and Tyrrell; they were Trinity to me... Tyrrell was very kind to me- intensely sympathetic and crammed with knowledge. If he had known less he would have been a poet." (Harris, 29).

In the 1911 Census, Robert, Ada and two of their adult children, Deena and Robert, were living in Dublin with three female servants.

Robert was one of the original Fellows of the British Academy. He died on 20 September 1914, in Dublin, Ireland.


1911 National Census of Ireland. The National Archives of Ireland. accessed 14 June 2018.

The Belfast Newsletter. Belfast, Northern Ireland. Periodicals & Newspapers, Irish & Reference. Linen Hall Library, Belfast, Northern Ireland. 2 February 1877, p.1.

Education (Ireland). Annual Report of the Commissioners of Education in Ireland for the Year 1881-1882. (Dublin: Alex Thom & Co., 1882), 3.

Harris, Frank. Oscar Wilde. His Life and Confessions, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2007.

Stanford, W.B. “Robert Yelverton Tyrrell.” Hermathena, no.125 (Winter 1978):7-21.

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