Robert Dwyer Joyce

Taken from The Cabinet of Irish Literature, Volume 4, edited by T. P. O'Connor

Robert Dwyer Joyce, brother of the preceding (Patrick Weston Joyce), was born in 1830, in the village of Glenosheen, county Limerick. He entered the service of the Commissioners of National Education. In 1857 he became a student at the Queen's College, Cork, graduated with science honours, and took the degree of M.D. in 1865.

In the following year he emigrated to the United States, and settled in Boston, where he still resides. The Irish population had been already familiar with his name through his writings in the National press; and from the year of his arrival to the present day he has had an extensive and lucrative practice as a medical man. During his residence in Cork he had been a frequent contributor to the poetical columns of the Nation, and he had also written a number of articles on Irish literature in several other periodicals.

Dr. Joyce's first book was a volume of Ballads, Romances, and Songs. This was published in Dublin in 1861, and is the only one of his works which has been brought out in Ireland. In 1868 appeared his Legends of the Wars in Ireland, a number of prose stories, founded on traditions preserved by the peasantry of the northern counties of Ireland. This was followed in 1871 by another volume of the same kind, Irish Fireside Tales. His next work, Ballads of Irish Chivalry (1872), includes most of the pieces in his first work, but contains many others of greater power, the results of more careful elaboration and of a more mature judgment. In 1876 appeared the finest and most successful of his poems. This is Deirdrè, a free poetical version of one of the old romances of Ireland, The Fate of the Children of Usna. The story is told in heroic rhyming verse, and the character of Deirdrè, the heroine, is one of the most beautiful and most attractive in the poetic literature of our country. The poem was at once received with unanimous eulogy in America, and the judgment of critical periodicals in England and Ireland have fully confirmed the favourable verdict.

Dr. Joyce's latest work—Blanid—published in 1879, is not yet well known in Europe, but it is fully equal in merit to Deirdrè. The author has pursued the same plan of weaving into a poetic story a tragedy of real life in the old days. The period described is the first century of the Christian era, when the Red Branch Knights flourished; and the basis of the tale is an ancient Irish tragedy, the death of the great champion Curoi, king of South Munster, and of his captive, the "bloom-bright Blanid." The poem bears some resemblance in its construction to Tennyson's Princess; and the short lyrics which are interspersed contain, like those in the great work of the poet-laureate, beautiful fancies in exquisitely melodious verse.