edited by Cairns Craig
Craig, Cairns (ed) Vita Mea: The Autobiography of Sir Herbert J.C. Grierson, Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press (2013), pp.158 + lxxxviii, ISBN 978-1-85752-002-6
Now available £25
Herbert J. C. Grierson was only 28 when he was appointed Professor of English Literature at the University of Aberdeen in 1895. In the following quarter of a century he established himself as the most distinguished literary critic of his time: first, by the publication in 1912 of his edition of the poetry of the then little acknowledged seventeenth-century English poet John Donne, and subsequently by his influential anthology of
The Metaphysical Poets, published in 1919. Because of Grierson, Donne became one of the defining influences on some of the twentieth-century’s most important poets, and the ‘Metaphysicals’ became the model for many of the most radical developments in modern writing.
Vita Mea is Grierson’s account, written late in his life, of his journey from an evangelical household in Shetland to degrees at Aberdeen and Oxford Universities, to his Professorships at Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and to a time in the 1920s and 30s when he was annually invited to lecture at some of the most distinguished universities in Europe and North America.
Friend and correspondent of W. B. Yeats, Grierson’s work helped shape modern literature in Ireland, in England, in Scotland and, through its influence on Dylan Thomas, in Wales, as well as among poets and critics in North America. In his introduction, Professor Cairns Craig traces the impact of Grierson’s scholarship on the development of twentieth-century poetics and on the emergence of a distinctively modern literary criticism, justifying what T. S. Eliot inscribed in the copy of his
Collected Poems that he presented to Grierson – ‘to whom all English men of letters are indebted’.