Selected Poems of James Henry
Death, I’d beg one favor of thee:
Whensoe’er thou’rt pleased to take me
From my weeping Katharine, take me
All at once – I’d have no Farewells
Where the parting is for ever.
Born in Dublin in 1798 and educated at Trinity College, James Henry was a controversially humane doctor, a passionate scholar of Virgilian manuscripts, and a lifelong interrogator of Christianity.
More than a century after James Henry’s death, Christopher Ricks came upon his poems – printed but unpublished – in the Cambridge University Library. Within these volumes Ricks discovered poetry ‘unaffectedly direct, sinewy, seriously comic. And brave.’ Henry’s convictions and his humour, his idiosyncrasies and his courage, come through in work that, Ricks writes, ‘has an integrity, a consistency, for all its engaging diversity of topic and tone’.
With the publication of the Selected Poems of James Henry, the world at large can hear the voice of a remarkable poet.
CHRISTOPHER RICKS is a Professor of the Humanities at Boston University, having previously taught at Oxford, Bristol and Cambridge. He has published books on Milton, Tennyson, Keats, T.S. Eliot and Beckett, as well as two collections of critical essays. He is the editor of The Oxford Book of English Verse (1999). His other works as editor include The Brownings: Letters and Poetry (1970), The New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse (1987), A.E. Housman: Collected Poems and Selected Prose (1988) and The Faber Book of America (1992; with William M. Vance).
JAMES HENRY (1798-1876) Born in Dublin in 1798, the son of a woollen draper, James Henry took a degree in classics in Trinity College before studying medicine. He practiced as a doctor in York Street and Fitzwilliam Square, and was noted for charging a fee of five shillings, rather than the standard guinea fee, which he considered exorbitant.
During his years in practice, Henry wrote various pamphlets on medical subjects, as well as political tracts – including Little Island and Big Island (1841), a study of Ireland’s domination by Britain, and An Account of the Police in the City of Canton (1840), a critique of the newly established Dublin Metropolitan Police.
After receiving a legacy in the 1840s, Henry completely devoted himself to classical study. He spent most of the remainder of his life travelling on foot from one great European library to another collating Virgilian manuscripts. This work resulted in Notes of a Twelve years Voyage of Discovery in the First Six Books of the Eneis (1853) and the five-volume Aeneidea, most of which was published posthumously.
Henry’s wife Anne died in 1849 in Arco, but his daughter Katherine Olivia remained his travelling companion, crossing the Alps with her father at least seventeen times. They eventually returned to Ireland and lived in Dalkey, County Dublin. Henry died on 14 July 1876.